The turtles are coming… Robot Turtles to be exact! I’m beyond thrilled to share ThinkFun’s latest game designed to teach coding literacy and early programming skills to preschoolers.
The daughter of a programmer, I grew up sitting on dad’s lap playing Logo, so it’s no surprise this game hits particularly close to my heart (See Exhibit A below!)
Me, age 2, coding like a boss!
For those unfamiliar with this board game sensation, here’s a quick history. Released last year on Kickstarter, Robot Turtles is a board game created by Dan Shapiro, a programmer dad who wanted to share his love of coding with his 4 year old twins.
Playing on the Logo programming language, this clever game captured the enthusiasm of thousands… the inventor’s goal of $25,000 was quickly met, and the project closed with over $630,000 in funding, the must backed game in Kickstarter history!
When funding closed, the turtle frenzy was in full swing. Learning that no additional games were planned after the initial print run for Kickstarter backers, ThinkFun reached out to the inventor to share our excitement about continuing the Turtle movement – and we were thrilled to work out an arrangement to bring the game into the ThinkFun family!
Here’s a fantastic video introducing Dan and showing the game in action:
ThinkFun made a few modifications to Dan’s phenomenal game, including improvements to the instructions, storage box, and card design. While the game doesn’t ship until June, ThinkFun is accepting pre-orders now and including an expansion pack with new challenges and ways to extend the fun and learning!
As a child, there was nothing better than spending an afternoon sitting on my dad’s lap and playing on our (gigantic!) desktop terminal. He shared his love of programming, I got to control the actions of the little Turtle and get special time with dad. To me, Robot Turtles represents the opportunity for families to share that same learning and bonding experience – in a board game!
We love seeing our games inspiring thinkers all over the globe… these photos from our distributor in Indonesia show Rush Hour in schools, stores, and in the hands of teachers!
Check out this Rush Hour competition! Pretty sweet trophies huh!?
First up, Amanda Palmer’s 2013 talk The Art of Asking. This was one of my favorites at last year’s conference, and I was thrilled when a colleague suggested it for this week’s gathering. In her moving talk, Palmer explores the relationship between fans and performers, and shares her belief that artists should allow fans to pay for content rather than force them.
“I firmly believe in music being as free as possible. Unlocked. Shared and spread. In order for artists to survive and create, their audiences need to step up and directly support them.”
Palmer talks about passing the hat, couch surfing, and giving it all away, with themes of trust, honesty, and fear woven throughout. Not sure I’ll ever look at a human statue the same way.
Next up: Doodling – a topic near and dear to my heart. Anyone who has ever sat next to me in a meeting can attest to the fact that my margins are rarely empty. Fish tend to swim between the lines, and dates often morph into galaxies. As a kindergartner, I took the non-nap option and doodled during rest time – and to this day there’s something calming and grounding about my pen moving that helps me listen more clearly and process information.
There’s a stigma of “spacing out” that doodlers like me know well, which is why Sunni Brown’s 2011 talk, Doodlers, Unite! was such a welcome perspective! Fortunately, I work at a company that encourages my doodles – and I was thrilled to receive this book from our founder earlier this week!
“Our culture is so intensely focused on verbal communications, that we’re almost blinded to the value of doodling… Doodling has a profound impact on the way that we can process information and the way that we can solve problems.”
Any other doodlers out there?! I’d love to see your thinking and hear how you use it as a tool – tweet me your doodles (@charlottefixler) if you don’t mind sharing!
Hard to believe we’ve gone this long without watching this fantastic talk on gaming!
Echoing her book Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal shares ways that powerful game mechanics can be used to harness – and solve – real world problems. We talk often about the power of play to improve lives, sharpen thinking skills, and boost brain power – McGonigal’s work elevates this further to show how digital games can unify global problem solving around the most critical of issues facing our future.
Exciting news here at ThinkFun! The 2014 Toy of the Year (TOTY) finalists were just announced – and we have THREE nominees! We are over the moon about these nominations… and we need your help!
TOTY awards are determined in large part by online voting – can you spare 3 clicks?!
The 3 Nominees (with links to vote) are:
Laser Maze – Innovative Toy of the Year
WordARound – Game of the Year
Laser Maze – Specialty Toy of the Year
As an added bonus, all voters are eligible to win a fabulous prize pack! HUGE thanks for your vote and for your continued support of ThinkFun!
(Voting ends Jan. 13th.)
Our Customer Service Mailbag (sounds more important than email account!) got a serious gem recently! The letter below comes from a teacher who has amazing things to say about using ThinkFun games in the classroom…
To Whom It May Concern,
I just wanted to express my satisfaction with your company. I am a high school math teacher, and I see students of all types have trouble with basic problem solving skills every day. These students are actually quite good at math most of the time, but they struggle with logical thinking and deductive reasoning. Your games are not only fun for the students, but let them develop those deductive reasoning skills no matter what skill level they are at. Each game is well thought out and unique that it keeps the students interest. My students love to try different challenges in their free time on each of the games.
Might I add, that if it were not for the durability and prices of the games, I would not have them in the first place. I found your website helpful and easy to order. I appreciate your support and helping students in schools, especially the Teacher discount code. Without the discount and the great value compared to other companies games, I may not have had the opportunity to purchase what I have. The games are built strong and not “cheap” so they last and aren’t easily broken. I like the bags that help contain the pieces, and the rings on the card decks help keep cards from turning up missing. Overall such a great value for teachers who have little money to spend on their classrooms in the first place.
I have placed several orders over the last few weeks trying to get a “class set” of games. I need a few more as I have about 25 students at any given time, but I am seriously considering doing a Logical Thinking unit with your games and some logic puzzles and such with my pre-algebra class. I need to figure our a way to grade that, and I will put good use to your free games and activities as well. Anything I can do with them to help them think about reasonable answers and logic will help.
I just wanted you and your company to know what kind of impact you are making in schools and individual students. I wish I would had discovered you sooner. As a teacher, I like to know what impact I have on students as that is the drive that keeps me doing what I do well. I thought you might like to hear that your games and brainteasers are very beneficial in a classroom, even for high school students. Thank You! Keep up the good work, and please continue supporting teachers and students across the country!
Southern Boone County Schools Math Teacher
Are you an educator who uses games to teach?! I’d love to hear your story – please share!
Also, on the discount referenced in this letter, Teachers save 20% with offer code:TEACHERS on the ThinkFun website! Feel free to share with friends who use games to teach!
Turning the crowd into a powerful new force for positive social change.
BigLeap, the world’s first crowd-funding prize and reward network for social good, is excited to announce that its first Challenge has passed its funding milestone and is moving into its competition phase.
BigLeap’s first challenge is championed by Professor Silvia Bunge, a neuroscience and childhood learning expert at U.C. Berkeley, and Bill Ritchie, the CEO of ThinkFun games. The challenge will give children everywhere access to fun, social, interactive games designed to engage the brain circuitry that supports reasoning.”Neuroscience research shows that what we do on a daily basis influences how our brains function, and behavioral studies in children suggest that the right kind of play is more than just fun—it can actually improve reasoning skills. Putting these two lines of research together, we believe that, over time, practice with mentally challenging games can strengthen the brain network that
supports reasoning,” says Bunge.“We are at the cusp of a real revolution in how we define play,” adds Ritchie. “We are incredibly excited to have passed the first stage of our BigLeap Challenge. As a result we now have a $10,000 prize pool to get the best minds across the country thinking about creative new game programs that can do exactly what Silvia describes.”Competitors to the Challenge will be asked to submit their ideas for a game that teaches critical thinking skills, can be made usi
ng common or low-cost items, and incorporates one or more of the following:
- Improves Executive Function – Stresses working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, and problem solving as well as planning and execution.
- Promotes physical activity – Requires physical activity and movement while stimulating the mind.
- Fosters teamwork – Brings people together to inspire teamwork and creative problem solving.
- Is designed for tournament play – Challenges critical thinking, problem solving or math skills while elegantly balancing different skill levels in players.
“Sometimes, the best solution for a problem comes from the people you would never think to ask,” says Victor Cho, co-founder of BigLeap. “We fundamentally believe that there are tens of thousands of people, probably even more, around the world who have a passion for children’s education, know how to keep young students engaged, and could come up with a compelling new game program for this competition. Our site simply enables advocates like Bill and Silvia to create the incentive to bring those people forward to create meaningful impact.”The competition formally kicks off on November 2nd, 2013 and will run through December 2nd, 2013. New competitors can join the Challenge at any time up until the submission window. Winners will be selected and announced on December 16, 2013 after a two week judging period that includes both education and gaming experts as well as real-world feedback from school children. The winning concepts will be made available, free of charge, to the world via electronic download. $10,000 in total prizes will be awarded, made up of a $5,000 first prize, $2,000 second prize, and three $1,000 runner-up prizes.For full details on this Challenge and to register to compete please visit: http://www.BigLeap.org/games.ABOUT BIGLEAP.ORG
BigLeap is the world’s first crowd-funding prize and reward network that enables anyone to drive social change through competition-based challenges. The BigLeap platform connects passionate advocates of social issues with the funding and resources needed to solve them in innovative new ways. Unlike other crowd-funding sites or traditional nonprofits, BigLeap only distributes a reward or prize when a challenge has been successfully solved. Because contributors can opt to get their money back if a challenge isn’t solved they are effectively guaranteed that their support dollars will have an impact.
This month’s TED Talk Friday features fantastic talks on two topics that are always easy to relate to: sleep and stress!
First up, circadian neuroscientist Russell Foster’s 2013 talk “Why Do We Sleep?” In his talk, Russell introduces theories about why we sleep – and busts up myths about how much sleep we actually need!
Next, we dug into the topic of stress with a fantastic TEDGlobal talk by Psychologist Kelly McGonigal, “How to Make Stress Your Friend.” While we typically think of stress as the enemy, something to be fought and tamed, this talk urges us instead to see stress as a positive.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one, do you see ways you could benefit by embracing stress?
Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing a new playground built in our local DC community… in under 6 HOURS!
I have long admired the nonprofit organization KaBOOM! and their commitment to improving communities by building safe play spaces, so I was thrilled when ThinkFun began exploring ways to bring more fun and games to their site builds! Over the summer, our team worked with KaBOOM! to develop several large-scale thinking games to engage kids (and keep eager footprints off the freshly-poured concrete!) as their new playgrounds were built. These giant games have been part of several playground builds all over the country, and I was thrilled to finally have a local event to attend and see them in action.
Watching the playground take shape was a powerful experience. Fueled by the beat of an on-site DJ, energetic dance breaks, and visits from Wizards and Capitals players, cheerleaders, and mascots, the community came together to bring PLAY to these excited students at Eagle Academy Public Charter School. Here are some highlights from this amazing event:
These first, second, and third graders had a blast with ThinkFun’s Human Hoppers challenge! Check out their problem solving powers in action!
Andrea wears a Fitbit. She began taking it seriously when our son Sam became her online coach and cheerleader and started tracking her progress through the Fitbit app. Once she discovered that she could set goals and earn badges for “step milestones” she got really into it. She’s walking more now, she keeps track of how much exercise she’s getting, and she feels great about it—because she’s connected to Sam and because staying fit has become somewhat of a game for her.
Andrea wears a Fitbit.
This isn’t just happening to Andrea, it’s everywhere! It’s called “gamification.” Gamification is the process of using game mechanics to shape human behavior in prescribed ways. Jane McGonigal gave a TED Talk where she described her game called Super Better, her talk has pretty much become the unofficial gamification movement anthem. Here is a link to the talk, it is definitely worth watching.
Jane McGonigal talks at TED about gamification
And then there’s the example of Foldit–the “solve puzzles for science” crowdsourcing experiment that encourages gamers to play a game of folding proteins with the larger goal of making scientific advances. Just like other online games, Foldit includes various game mechanics—such as leaderboards–to reward and motivate players.
With this new gamification movement afoot, I’ve been thinking a lot about what this means for the toy and game industry. One would think that this would be a revolution of sorts in the industry. People are finally viewing games as having some higher purpose. They can help you to reach a goal, make you smarter, a better friend or citizen or keep you on track with your exercise routine or diet.
I am not seeing as much as I would expect to from our industry. What is your perspective? I welcome your thoughts and I would love to learn more about what’s actually out there.
Please share any examples of creative and successful Gamification style programs that are being used for kids. Just “reply” to this post, give a short description of the program and include a link so that everyone can find it for themselves. With a little luck we’ll end up with a long string of creative ideas that leads to a bigger conversation.
Take a peek at some of the examples we’ve already collected here.