Monday, November 30, 2009

Exploring this new Planet

I spent some of the wee hours of the Thanksgiving break actually playing LittleBigPlanet for the first time.  (I have a son who is too young for TV, so gaming was restricted to after his bedtime.)  I definitely get what all the fuss is about!  The beautiful graphics have a depth my partner described as "the opposite of the Wii." The personalization was reminiscent of Second Life, without being nearly as flexible of course.  And the game play was not unlike the Atari video games of my youth, with a lot of jumping around, picking up glowing prizes, and avoiding dangerous pits.

The game does a nice job of walking the newbie through the basic skills and concepts, gradually ramping up the challenges to dexterity and problem-solving.  After completing the first three story levels a whole new world of user-created community levels opened up before me, as well as an area of blank canvas for me to create my own levels!

Press releases

I thought folks might be interested to see the official press releases from the White House and the MacArthur Foundation about last week's launch of National Lab Day and the Educate to Innovate program, of which the Digital Media and Learning Competition is a part.

They are excerpted below. Click the links in the previous paragraph to read the full document.

Speaking to key leaders of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) community and local students, President Obama announced a series of high-powered partnerships involving leading companies, foundations, non-profits, and science and engineering societies dedicated to motivating and inspiring young people across America to excel in science and math.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You have lots of questions and we'll have lots of answers!

We are thrilled that yesterday's announcement has generated so much excitement and that word is traveling fast through the blogosphere (you can keep track of our coverage by monitoring our Delicious account).

We know that many of you have questions. Here at headquarters we are putting the final touches on this year's shiny new (and President Obama endorsed!) Competition.  Details and more information will be forthcoming December 14th, including information about when the Competition will actually open, the application structure, materials, deadlines, FAQs, etc.

Stay tuned to this blog, follow us on Twitter, or join the Competition list-serv for all the latest details!

Elmo and friends enlisted in STEM education

One of the first public hints about this year's competition theme was this story in yesterday's New York Times.

To improve science and mathematics education for American children, the White House is recruiting Elmo and Big Bird, video game programmers and thousands of scientists.

President Obama will announce a campaign Monday to enlist companies and nonprofit groups to spend money, time and volunteer effort to encourage students, especially in middle and high school, to pursue science, technology, engineering and math, officials say.

The campaign, called Educate to Innovate, will focus mainly on activities outside the classroom.
Science and engineering societies are promising to provide volunteers to work with students in the classroom, culminating in a National Lab Day in May.

The MacArthur Foundation and technology industry organizations are giving out prizes in a contest to develop video games that teach science and math.
“We’re finding extraordinary engagement with games,” said Connie Yowell, director of education for MacArthur. If the engagement is combined with a science curriculum, she said, “then I think we have a very powerful approach.”

- White House Pushes Science and Math Education, Nov 22, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting to know LittleBigPlanet

Ruby G
Working for HASTAC has it's perks. Today's Presidential announcement about National Lab Day was the culmination of several frantic months of percolating, planning, wondering, worrying, creating, and kvetching. And it was all worthwhile to see the big public launch of this incredible strategic initiative to improve education and address global challenges.
One of the interesting aspects of this year's Digital Media and Learning Competition is that it includes a partnership with Sony to create "levels" in their PS3 game LittleBigPlanet that incorporate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning. So, dutiful New Media "expert" (ha ha) that I am, I have started to research the game. Not surprisingly, Wikipedia is a definitive resource.  I also found a site where users can create their own avatars (known as "Sackboys") for the game.  Seen at right is my very own Sackgirl! Cick on it to make your own.
There's more over on BoingBoing today about National Lab Day and on the unique art of LittleBigPlanet (a sample of which is below).