September 9 2016 edition

In this week’s newsletter: Nurturing a Kindergarten mindset, an amazing “SECRET” museum game, England’s national computing curriculum progress, Grace Hopper honored by the US Naval Academy, the EpiPen Tycoon game, and an amazing 4th grade teacher’s welcome rap!

Thanks to Justin Berenbaum, Dargan Frierson, Gaurav Mathur, Sheri Rubin, Russ Shilling, and Greg Sommers for contributions to this issue! You can send us your news and favorites by replying back to this newsletter or using the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

Play-based LearningThis article in the Atlantic really took our interest this week: “What if High School Were More Like Kindergarten?” We find ourselves frequently talking about making learning more fun. This author visited a Kindergarten class in Finland and ruminates on the experiences of her own classroom and children. Couldn’t we all use a little more Kindergarten mindset in our lives?

Former educator Amy Brown makes the case for virtual reality in the classroom, highlighting Gear VR and Google Cardboard, and considering how to best utilize VR for a variety of classroom subjects. But can we create a market for high-quality VR education products, to help accelerate innovation?

The Washington Post looks at VR apps for health and fitness as seen at the VR LA Summer Expo. Bloomberg discusses the use of VR at hospitals as a potential tool for pain management.

Sounds like the Intentional Play Summit in the San Francisco area next month will have a great group of speakers. Check out this EdSurge interview with James Paul Gee, and a Gamasutra Q&A with Jamin Warren, Katherine Isbister, and John Krajewski.

Over the past few years, mainstream games have begun improving their gender inclusivity, adding more female, gay, and transgender characters. The New York Times has a respectful write-up of the progress made. Interested to learn more? Check out Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency video series.

Schell Games' SECRETCan we use games at the museum to increase learning and engagement? Schell Games teamed up with the Children’s Museum of Houston to create a “SECRET” scavenger hunt for kids ages 6 to 12. Looks like fun!

The University of Washington’s EarthGames program designs games to increase awareness of climate change. The program is a collaboration between members of the Center for Creative Conservation and the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and EarthGames’ app Climate Quest won the first national Climate Game Jam.

The Ad Council is collaborating with Games for Change, Zynga, Penny Arcade, Twitch, and others to launch Game for Good, an effort to have an impact on social issues through game playing.

Motherboard covered Galxyz’s game Blue Apprentice, a game that teaches you science and is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. It’s free for teachers! published an infographic from MIND Research Institute on using games to help teach math. Every infographic is better with cute cartoon characters! In a survey of 1000 students, most said they’d rather eat broccoli than do math problems. Hmmm maybe there’s a future for broccoli-based math games after all.

Coding and Making

Keep Calm and Carry on CodingIt’s been two years since the launch of the National Computing Curriculum in England. How has the rollout gone? As CS for All continues to grow in the U.S., we can learn a lot from the experiences of English educators. This roundtable piece on Academy Today UK gives great insight. Go check out some of the great resources that have been developed: the Computing At School community website is amazing, the Barefoot Programme supports primary school educators, QuickStart Computing is a PD toolkit for primary and secondary schools, and CAS Tenderfoot has PD resources for upper-level educators. Wow! Here’s an example QuickStart video that introduces the concept of algorithms using pizza.

Flying under the radar at Apple’s September 7 press conference: the Everyone Can Code initiative, which the company first discussed in June. This Apple initiative will support 114 ConnectED schools, donating Macs and iPads for 4500 teachers, and iPads for more than 50,000 students. Woah! Swift Playgrounds is also a part of this effort. Press conference video.

Congratulations to Raspberry Pi Foundation on their 10 millionth unit sold! Who would have thought back in 2012 that the world would fall so in love with the tiny computer.

Are you looking for accessible tools for game development? For a limited time only, you can get GameMaker Studio Pro plus export modules and a ton of sample code for just $15 via Humble Bundle. Check it out… but do it quickly before the bundle is over!

Grace Hopper at DeskThe US Naval Academy announced that its new cybersecurity building will be named after Rear Admiral Grace Hopper! Grace Hopper was an early computing pioneer who worked on the Harvard Mark I, invented the term “debugging”, created the first compiler, and helped define the COBOL programming language. She is an inspiration to many, many computing professionals. Watch her David Letterman interview.

Coding is gaining popularity in China, with the government increasingly stressing the importance of scientific innovation and supporting technology incubators. NBC reports on the Tarena Learning Center in Beijing, which now has 4000 students enrolled after being open just a year. Check out a great Chinese coding site for kids, which highlights Scratch, Logo, LEGO Robotics, Python, JavaScript, Kodu, and more!

Salesforce donated $8.5 million to San Francisco and Oakland schools to help support computer science education. This brings their total donation to an amazing $22.5 million in four years. This reminds me of an article from New America on how STEM grows from local initiatives: it takes both federal leadership and local resources to grow America’s STEM capacity!

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson kicked off the first Governor’s Coding Competition to highlight the state’s computer science education efforts and inspire local students to learn coding. With financial support from Verizon, the competition will award college savings scholarships to members of the top three teams.

Music artist recently visited the San Francisco Apple Store to announce that proceeds from the new version of the Black Eyed Peas’ song Where is the Love will be donated to education programs through his foundation. discussed the importance of making computer science classes available more broadly, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Watch the music video!

CSTA officially released its 2016 computer science standards! (An update to the 2011 version.) Go check them out!


EpiPen TycoonEpiPen Tycoon (Web) – This free game has you take the role of the CEO of Mylan, maker of the EpiPen, an important tool for people suffering from extreme allergies. See how high you can raise the price of EpiPens before your customers revolt!

Science Isn’t Broken (Web) – This article on the difficulty of impartially interpreting data in scientific research has an excellent interactive section. See how many different ways you can get your p-value under 0.05!

OldSF (Web) – Two developers mapped the locations of 13,000 old images from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Shouldn’t every city have a map like this available?

Six! (iOS, Android) – Balance the hexagon as you destroy stacks of Tetris-like pieces below it. Take care not to accidentally throw it over the side! Video.

Lumines: Puzzle & Music (iOS, Android) – The classic PSP music game Lumines comes to your mobile device! Enjoy the same frenetic puzzle gameplay, with great beats. Video.

Human Resource Machine (iOS) – The fun coding game / work simulator is now available for your Apple device! Use a Blockly-style programming language to solve clever puzzles. Video.


Welcome to the 4th GradeWelcome to the 4th Grade – Dwayne Reed is a new teacher in the Chicago area, and created this rap song and music video welcoming his students back to school. Fantastic!

Coding in the Algebra Classroom – In this long EdWeek video, Joshua Kwon of Mariner High School in Everett, Washington, demonstrates how he integrates coding into math class to deepen student understanding of algebra concepts.

Toy Hackers series trailer – GoldieBlox has teamed up with Simone Giertz (queen of lousy robots) and some popular young youtubers to create a show about toys who build toys. Each episode will show the Toy Hackers using creativity, inventiveness, and household objects to engineer their way through their mission!

Next: Economy – Limor Fried – Tim O’Reilly interviews the founder of Adafruit Industries about her business as she gives us a tour of her office.

The Evolution of Stop-Motion – This short video highlights the evolution of stop-motion animation over the past hundred-plus years! You can use stop-motion in your classroom using simple tools. This TED-Ed video and resource list is a great place to start.

The Visual Effects of Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Visual effects house ILM gives you insight into how some of their most impressive special effects shots came together for The Force Awakens.


Digital Kids Summit – Discussing trends, products, and innovation in the kids digital space. San Francisco, CA. September 13-14.
Austin Game Conference – The return of AGC! Highlighting the development of live, participatory games with real-time engagement. Austin, TX. September 21-22.
MINECON 2016 – The huge annual Minecraft event! Anaheim, CA. September 24-25.
GameSoundCon – The leading conference on the art, technology, and business of game audio. Los Angeles, CA. September 27-28.
Digital Media and Learning – Linking scholars and practitioners together for a discussion of theory, study, policy, and practice. Irvine, CA. October 5-7.
Intentional Play Summit – A full-day event on using games for learning and motivation, at the Computer History Museum. Mountain View, CA. October 7.


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