Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Debbie Sterling, the founder of GoldieBlox, launched one of the most impressive Kickstarter campaigns that I've seen so far ... which was very successful ... to move her Goldie Blox project from prototype into production.

GoldieBlox consist of a construction kit, an app and a book. In the book set the girls can read a short story about the main character Goldie and her friends and whatever problems they might be facing. According to Debbie, this combination gives engineering a female touch.

Read more about Debbie Stirling and GoldieBlox:  Ms.blog article

Here's another YouTube clip regarding the successful Kickstarter

Monday, September 24, 2012

Envisioning Ed Tech Future

I really liked this visualization created by the design for learning experts TFE Research and emerging technology strategist Michell Zappa that was posted on Envisioningtech.com.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

NASA adopts new model to launch educational games

Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post

“There are more higher-end gaming projects going on at NASA than ever before,” Laughlin said. “Very few people are looking to textbooks to get students inspired anymore.”

But as the agency grapples with persistent education budget cuts, NASA is experimenting with new business models to fund upcoming projects.

When Laughlin first started working for NASA 10 years ago, the agency’s approach to gaming was very straightforward: NASA solicited proposals for educational ventures and then picked a handful of projects to fund every year.

But once budget cuts began rippling through the agency, finding the funding for NASA’s own projects, much less outside proposals, became much more difficult.

“We had to turn that model around,” Laughlin said. “We said, ‘Okay, we want to do something specific — we want to make this kind of game, and we want you to fund it.’ ”

There are some downsides to this commercial approach, Laughlin said. Universities and other research institutions that relied on NASA grants to do their work were completely out of the running. Instead, the model shifted toward big-name developers who could finance the project from start to finish.

In the long run, though, Laughlin said it may be for the best. The new model forces developers to think in terms of continued profit and visibility.

Read the article here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Microsoft Office 365

Starting today, Microsoft Office 365 for education is available, providing productivity, communications and collaboration experiences to schools at no cost. Office 365 for education is a cloud-based suite that includes the familiar Microsoft Office desktop applications, as well as Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online and Microsoft Lync Online. It provides educators with tools to create anytime, anywhere* learning opportunities across multiple devices in addition to email, calendars, Microsoft Office Web Apps, video and online meetings plus advanced document creation features for curriculum planning and student projects.

“It’s important we have a consistent toolset across the district so people can work together effectively. With Office 365 everything from the features and functions in the applications to the way the toolbars look exactly the same no matter where or how it’s being accessed, helps improve both teacher and student productivity,” said John Williams, executive director, Technology and Information Services, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. “This consistency, combined with the collaboration capabilities of Office 365, will be essential in supporting the blended learning environment we’re striving for across our district.”

“After extensive research, we chose Office 365 for education because it allows us to leverage the benefits of cloud-based services while readily meeting our security and accessibility requirements for email and calendar support. The shift to the cloud allows us to focus more directly on our core missions related to education, research and outreach,” said Ted Dodds, chief information officer, Cornell University.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Badges ... Good, Bad, Ugly?

As a follow-up to my earlier post on the badges movement, here's an Education Week article by Katie Ash  "Digital Badges".

Here article reports some points raised by skeptics.  I found one of those mentioned to be particularly noteworthy, in that she reports that Henry Jenkins (USC) thinks that badges "run the risk of contributing to the "gamification" of education.  Further, she says:

"[Gamification] is a system which does not trust the power of intrinsic motivation and feels the need to add a layer of extrinsic motivation," says Jenkins, who was interviewed by email. "Some forms of gamification rely so heavily on points schemes that there is far less effort to make the activities meaningful in and of themselves."

Already, many students are caught up in such a conception of education, he says, with high-achieving students focusing more on receiving high grades—or a multitude of badges—than the learning itself.

"I worry that badges can become just another points system … [that] undercuts the motivational structures," he says.

And when it comes to informal learning, part of what makes such learning unique, he says, is precisely the lack of hierarchical structure and formalization that badges threaten to impose.

"Too quick a move towards badges runs the risk of destroying the complex but fragile ecosystem within which participatory learning thrives," Jenkins says. Providing adult validation for student achievements through digital badges in places where that validation did not previously play a role could turn some students off, he says.

"There is a value in helping these youths find ways to value what they are doing as intellectual pursuits, and there is a value in seeking to validate these experiences and help them learn how to mobilize that knowledge as they learn to work through the formal structures that exert power over their lives," says Jenkins. "But making badges too central to the process may alienate them before they have a chance to exert ownership over the knowledge they are acquiring."
I was surprised by such a broad-brushed statement in asserting that "gamification" is a system which does not trust the power of intrinsic motivation and feels the need to add a layer of extrinsic motivation.  My sense is that you'd have a hard time finding any ten people that would agree on a single description of "gamification" as any kind of codified system.

Since I don't yet have any direct experience with badges, I'm very curious to hear/read what is happening with this movement and what early adopters and researchers are reporting.

How about you?  Do you have any direct experience with and/or opinions about the badge movement?

Monday, June 25, 2012


Last week, at the NSF DR K-12 PI Conference, I was chatting with Dr Gerhard Salinger, NSF Program Director, who asked me if I was familiar with the 'maker movement' ... I wasn't, and he gave me some suggestions about finding out more about this movement that was so closely connected to the physical modeling aspect of the SMTE research project that we're working on ...

This CNN segment is a quick teaser:

PBS News Hour did a segment on the Maker Movement called Can DIY Movement Fix a Crisis in U.S. Science Education?

Checkout the Make blog, magazine, videos, projects, and forum!

Monday, June 18, 2012

MdBioSphere Serious Game Platform for STEM Learning

 MdBio Foundation, Inc. today announced it will provide science teachers and students nationwide with an innovative and immersive educational video game platform free of charge beginning in 2013. The online platform, called MdBioSphere™, seeks to advance student comprehension in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and revitalize student interest in science-related careers through the use of innovative gaming technology. The serious game is being developed by Hunt Valley, Md.-based BreakAway, Ltd., and will be previewed at the BIO International Convention (June 18-21, 2012, Booth 0753 in the Maryland Pavilion) in Boston.

"The Foundation believes that creating a globally-competitive U.S. workforce begins in the classroom," said J.J. Finkelstein, chairman of the MdBio Foundation. "The MdBioSphere platform, which will be the first serious game platform to be mapped to the new U.S. science education standards, can be a breakthrough application that helps inspire the next generation of scientists that America needs if we are to compete in the 21st century. The MdBioSphere platform merges the captivating elements of online gaming with educationally-driven STEM curricula to deliver an exciting classroom experience that enriches both students and teachers."

The first MdBioSphere game will be "Survival!," which will let students explore the building blocks of life science, including heredity, DNA structure and genetic code. Students create their own living creature by selecting different mates and genetic traits that must survive a virtual world by finding food, building shelter and defending against predators. Game play challenges and reinforces student knowledge to ensure retention of critical life science curricula.

"Serious games and simulations are some of the most innovative tools available to educators today," said Douglas Whatley, CEO and founder of BreakAway. "As a pioneer in the serious games market, BreakAway harnesses the power of game technology to transform the way people work, learn and live their lives. By creating powerful learning tools, like MdBioSphere, students are exposed to content in an engaging format and become empowered learners. BreakAway is excited to work with the MdBio Foundation in support of its vision for enhancing middle and high school bioscience education and awareness."

"Troubling signs" in Science EducationThere is growing consensus that science education in the United States has failed to keep pace with other developing countries. The President's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology warned of "troubling signs" in a 2010 report, stating that "despite our historical record of achievement, the United States now lags behind other nations in STEM education at the elementary and secondary levels. International comparisons of our students' performance in science and mathematics consistently place the United States in the middle of the pack or lower. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders show proficiency in mathematics and science." In the Foundation's home state of Maryland, nearly two-thirds of eighth graders are not proficient in science, according to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

How Serious Gaming Can HelpIn its 2012 report on higher education technology trends, the New Media Consortium believes it is just two-three years before there will be widespread adoption of game-based learning. Studies show serious games can improve student performance in the classroom. Serious game-play can deliver a 40 percent increase in learning improvements when compared to traditional lecture programs, according to a 2009 study published in Science Magazine by the Kaufman Foundation. Serious games allow the student to engage in inductive learning -- or learning by example -- so that the student uses modern technology to think differently and solve real world problems. The expectation will be to improve science learning outcomes and assessment scores while stimulating student interest in science topics and careers. Serious games are increasingly used by top U.S. employers, including IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton and Cisco, for product development and public awareness.

About MdBio Foundation: The MdBio Foundation is a private 501(c)3 charitable organization that provides and supports bioscience awareness, education and workforce development in Maryland. It has been instrumental in providing companies with business development and information services in addition to education and workforce development programs. Its signature program, the MdBioLab, is a state-of-the-art mobile laboratory that travels to Maryland high schools each year providing students with a unique bioscience laboratory experience. The Foundation is an affiliate of the Tech Council of Maryland.

Technology Digital
Brad Wills

Thursday, May 10, 2012

National Survey of Educators Using Digital Game-Based Learning in the Classroom

The first national survey of teachers who are using digital games as part of their students' instruction, released today by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, found that digital games are becoming a consistent and valuable part of classroom activities. Fifty percent of teachers of grades K-8 reported they are using digital games with their students two or more days a week, with 18 percent using them daily.

The survey, Teacher Attitudes about Digital Games in the Classroom, conducted in collaboration with and support from BrainPOP®, was released at The NewSchools Venture Fund-Aspen Institute Summit in San Francisco. An accompanying series of video case studies of teachers who are using digital games in the classroom was also previewed.

For me, one of the most interesting (and encouraging) findings from the teachers surveyed was:

32% use games 2-4 days per week, 18% use them every day!  WOW!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

STEM A+ Scholarship Program at Bakersfield College

 The National Science Foundation has awarded Bakersfield College $552,000 to develop the STEM A+PLUS (Action, Persistence, Leadership, Understanding, and Success) Scholarships program.

The scholarship program is under the direction of co-principal investigators Wayne Cooper, Rageshwar Kaur Goldberg, Edward Ham, Liz Rozell, and Jose Saldivar, and was made possible by a grant application written by Bakersfield College STEM Program Director Rageshwar Kaur Goldberg.

The program will provide $3,000 per year for three years to participating students, plus another $3,000 in their first semester of transfer to a four-year college or university.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Survival Master Field Test at Alexander Dawson

"Students user video game to explore engineering concepts at Alexander Dawson"
- Las Vegas Review-Journal

It is really terrific to see this recognition for Camille McCue (Survival Master Formal Field Tester) and her work with her students in the field test!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dragon Breeder by Spongelab

Dragon Breeder is a cool way to learn about genetic inheritance as you breed dragon species, complete phenotype missions and meet monstrous creatures in a cloud-hopping sky world! Become the dragon master by breeding all types of dragons.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

STEMware - Zombie Plague

The Partnership for Biotechnology and Genomics Education (PBGE) project on the UC Davis campus involves two related components of secondary education focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) concepts. The components include the development and distribution of innovative 3D virtual reality software and a highly successful laboratory equipment loan program with associated curricula for hands-on instruction in biotechnology for secondary schools.

Their STEMware modules under development includes Zombie Plague - which is in open beta testing now!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Developed by a German consortia, Ludwig is a new physics game on the topic of renewable energies for adventurers aged 11 years and older.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Many thanks to Jason Zalno (Survival Master field tester) for posting a mention about Paul Andersen's TEDx on game-based learning:


Supercool ... especially his thoughts on his three failures ...

I clicked through to his "bozemanscience.com" website and discovered that he has many very cool videos there too:


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dunning-Kruger Effect

Presented in a 1999 paper by Cornell University professor of psychology David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the effect describes how “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” Those who really aren't very good at something overestimate their skill while those who are experts tend to sell themselves short. The reason is that the more skilled you are in a complicated endeavor (the effect is more prominent for difficult, complex tasks), the more you know what you don't know. This effect is increasingly more prominent with greater complexity.

So, this effect would suggest that those with the least knowledge and the lowest level of skill tend to be the most confident. Since people tend to elevate those with the most confidence to leadership, it would seem then that most often any given leadership may not know what they don't know ...

Well, at least we have a label for it ...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adobe announces Unity partnership

Adobe announces an official partnership with Unity Technologies.

Unity added Flash export over a year ago. Speaking to Gamasutra, Adobe's group product marketing manager for gaming solutions, Diana Helander, said the deal would greatly streamline the development process. "We weren't working with [Unity] when they added Flash support," she said, "but this new partnership means that all Unity content will work when exported to Flash Player."

Helander went on to say that the Unity deal was the first of many gaming-focused partnerships, explaining that Adobe wants to spread its wings beyond the browser window towards mobile and beyond.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

IndieCade 2012 Submissions Now Open

The fifth-annual IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games will be held October 4-7, 2012, in Los Angeles. The festival includes a Red Carpet Awards; a must-attend professional conference; the IndieXchange meeting series; an open-to-the-public GameWalk of finalist games; a continuous schedule of big games and night games; and other events. IndieCade is a traditional walking festival that occupies multiple theater, gallery, and restaurant venues and spills into the streets.

About IndieCade:

IndieCade promotes independent game development globally through a series of events highlighting the rich, diverse, artistic, and culturally significant contributions of independent game developers. IndieCade's programs are designed to bring visibility to and facilitate the production of new works within the emerging indie game community. IndieCade was formed by Creative Media Collaborative, an alliance of industry producers and leaders founded in 2005.

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Book - Unity iOS Essentials

I just finished working through Unity iOS Essentials by Robert Wiebe, published by Packt:


I recommend this book as an excellent introduction to Unity development for iOS devices, well suited for Unity developers for the desktop that are taking their first steps in mobile game development for iOS.

The book opens with an emphasis on planning the application, which is a topic that anyone that has created a mobile game can appreciate. The initial three chapters cover comparing iOS device features, iOS mobile concepts in general, and how the Unity toolset is applied within that context. These introductory chapters are replete with advice and best practice specifics regarding what contributes to a successful game product for iOS mobile.

After setting the foundation, the book takes a detailed, step-by-step, project oriented approach in learning to create your first game for iOS devices. This content should be very accessible to any developer that has a good overall knowledge of game development with Unity.

From there, the book enters the more technical aspect of how the iOS application functions in the greater enterprise. This presents something of an unavoidable steep learning curve for developers that are engaging with this for the first time. Again, the book takes a detailed, step-by-step approach and includes many useful tips and suggestions.

Anyone that is interested in this book is probably familiar with the Unity Car Tutorial, and the book uses that resource and the JCar project to take the reader on a very detailed process of creating a physics-based driving game using iOS device features that is really well conceived.

The book does a good job in introducing techniques for optimizing lighting, fx, and shaders for for iOS games – again using step-by-step examples.

Lastly, the book addresses deployment and web-based player management.

To get the most from this book, a developer should have previous experience with Unity, a 3D modeling application, a digital imaging modeling application, and a Max OS X development system for XCode. Given the scope of the book, this is an excellent way to explore a trial use of Unity Pro and Unity iOS.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

White House office studies benefits of video games

From USA Today:

Constance Steinkuehler has been a Senior Policy Analyst at the White House, where she's shaping the Obama administration's policies around games that improve health, education, civic engagement and the environment, among other areas.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Apple's intention really doesn't matter ...

The buzz is that Apple has a new initiative, returning to a strategy from it's earliest days with an intent to dominate the rise of mobile learning in the classroom - and kill the printed textbook and lab packs along the way.

"Apple expected to delve into textbooks" - Washington Post

Apple Is Said to Plan Digital-Textbook Push to Bolster IPad Use in Schools - Bloomberg News

Apple Won't Kill the Textbook, But It Might Kill the Handout - PC Magazine

We like the iPad ... quite a bit. We're certain that the iPad has legs as a tool in the classroom for both teachers and learners. It's beautifully designed, with development tools and a supporting business model and development community that are clearly superior.

But, we don't see Apple as a player in the textbook industry. The risk vs reward is completely skewed ... Apple is about making money ... and textbook publishing is no longer an industry with the kinds of margins that interest companies like Apple.

If Apple does intend their new "Garage Band for Books" to be a tool for teachers to use as primary publishers ... that's unrealistic ... we've seen this exact revolution several times over since the 80's, where the latest tech is going to turn teachers into primary publishers ... and it never does. The reason why is simple ... teaching and publishing are different skillsets ... both are consuming professions, neither can be done casually.

But, even if that is Apple's intention, it doesn't really matter. We think that their "Garage Band for Books" would become powerful in the hands (and iPads) of learners. Garage Band didn't replace Pro Tools, but it has enabled a wave of user generated music ... A similar tool for learners to create and share their own mobile learning artifacts could indeed become a powerful way to amplify the iPad as learning platform.

So, in the end, Apple is successful anyway ... and looks brilliant (again).

Gates Foundation Grant for Ed Arcade & Filament MMOG for STEM

MIT's Education Arcade received a $3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a MMOG for STEM learning. They are working with Filament Games, Madision, WI.