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TED Talk Friday: Sleep and Stress

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?

Community in Action: KaBOOM! Playground Build

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.

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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:

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These first, second, and third graders had a blast with ThinkFun’s Human Hoppers challenge! Check out their problem solving powers in action!

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Greetings Friends – Please Help Me Find Good Gamification and Project Based Learning Examples

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.

fitbit1 Greetings Friends – Please Help Me Find Good Gamification and Project Based Learning Examples

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 mcg Greetings Friends – Please Help Me Find Good Gamification and Project Based Learning Examples

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.

foldit Greetings Friends – Please Help Me Find Good Gamification and Project Based Learning Examples

Foldit

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.

ThinkFun’s CEO Champions a BigLeap Challenge for Games to Make Kids Smarter!

From Marketwired – Aug 20, 2013:

sylvia and bill ThinkFuns CEO Champions a BigLeap Challenge for Games to Make Kids Smarter!

BigLeap Launches First Crowd-Funding Challenge Platform for Social Good: First Challenge Aims to Give Children Everywhere Access to Free Games That Can Actually Make Them Smarter

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – BigLeap, the world’s first crowd-funding prize and reward network that allows passionate advocates to drive social change via competition-based challenges, today launched its first challenge: to make education more accessible.

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 free games designed to improve their brain power by helping to develop their reasoning and logic skills via simple, interactive game play.

 

ThinkFun’s mission has always focused on bringing mind challenging games to children everywhere, and this challenge is an exciting new way to ensure these brain building games reach even more communities. Read more on Bill’s involvement in this challenge and find out how to get involved here!

Spread some Sunshine!

One look at sweet little Sunny and you can’t help but grin! Want proof? Check out these adorable little munchkins playing Hello Sunshine – and just TRY not to crack a smile… impossible!

In an effort to spread more Sunshine, I had some fun creating some Sunny-inspired gear for our youngest players and their parents… perfect gifts for playful little ones!

You Are My... Spread some Sunshine!Morning sunshine Spread some Sunshine!

Have ideas for other fun game-themed apparel? I’d love to hear them!

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TED Talk Friday: World Peace… and a catchy jingle!

This month’s TED Talk Friday featured Ariana Huffington’s 2011 TED Talk of the Year.

JohnHunter WorldPeaceGame 2 March 2011 TED Talk Friday: World Peace... and a catchy jingle!

John Hunter, whose work I shared in this post after the 2011 conference, defines inspirational mentorship in my mind. His approach to teaching children about complex world problems through active engagement, and ceding control, is just amazing to see unfold.

Here’s John Hunter’s talk “Teaching with the World Peace Game

This year’s highlight of the TED Ads Worth Spreading campaign had everyone at TEDActive bopping along… it’s incredibly catchy- in a hysterically morbid kind of way!

Enjoy Dumb Ways to Die!

Brain Fitness games keep older brains sharp!

I’m thrilled to share our new line of Brain Fitness games: Solitaire Chess, Rush Hour, and Chocolate Fix!

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These brain-boosting games are designed to strengthen mental muscles through play – and you can bet my playful grandma has already got a set!

These three games were created in partnership with fantastic volunteer testers from the ThinkFun community and AARP who gave feedback on everything from packaging to piece design to challenge progression. Industrial designers shared ergonomic pieces designed for larger hands, and testers voted for their favorites and shared great ideas about modifications and preferred game storage. Below is an example of insight from an early survey that led to the tagline “Cross Train Your Brain” on the package front!

Capture Brain Fitness games keep older brains sharp!

We spent several months working with these testers, sharing new ideas, testing play patterns, and refining these new offerings to ensure they were both a fun and challenging experience!

Testers shared some fantastic feedback after a month of playing…

“I plan ahead more. I think of the outcome before hastily acting.”

“I play bridge and find it easier to remember which cards were played!”

“Gets your brain thinking! Challenging, stimulating and fun all in one.”

“I plan to play these for a long time!”

Increasingly we are hearing about the importance of keeping our brains nimble and strong as we age.  With so many companies offering digital training games, we are very proud to present quality hands-on thinking games that engage players both on a tactile and mental level. These three classic ThinkFun games, Rush Hour, Chocolate Fix, and Solitaire Chess, have long been celebrated for pushing players to think harder and challenge themselves, and we are thrilled to present them now for an older audience!

Do you play brain games to keep your mind sharp? What are your favorites?

ThinkFun Sponsors Design for Change Prize

The following guest post is shared by Sanjli Gidwaney, the Country Coordinator for the incredible Design for Change USA organization!

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The Design for Change USA (DFC USA) team is pleased to announce the students of Crazy Horse School from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, as the winners of DFC USA 2013! Their winning entry, Combating High Dropout Rates, has inspired people around the world. The students have received $500 worth of ThinkFun games, in recognition of their efforts!

The natural partnership between DFC and Think Fun is rooted in the belief that children learn best when they’re having fun. It is through critical thinking and team building skills learned during games and real world problem solving, which enable students to become better leaders and change makers of the future. DFC is incredibly thankful for the support of ThinkFun, and we are so excited that our student winners will benefit from $500 worth of ThinkFun games this year!

DFC kids ThinkFun Sponsors Design for Change Prize

2013 Design for Change USA Winning Team!

To learn more about Design for Change and the winning team, keep reading!

Design for Change is the largest global movement designed to give young people an opportunity to express their own ideas for a better world and to put them into action. Design for Change is a framework of design thinking principles such as Feel, Imagine, Do, Share, with supporting templates, exercises and a robust curriculum designed by Stanford Design School, IDEO, and Harvard’s Good Work Team. This year, Design for Change (DFC) reaches 40 countries and hundreds of thousands of youth, teachers, parents, and educators around the world.

How did the winning students impact their community?
The Lakota reservation in South Dakota faces a number of challenges including a limited number of healthy activities available for youth, 90% unemployment rate, a feeling of hopelessness and frequent substance abuse, and many students dropout before high school graduation.  In an effort to address this challenge, the students of Crazy Horse School used the DFC framework to host a community event, centered on activities such as sports tournaments, talent shows, a community dinner, and Lakota beading and quillwork.  In doing so, they believe they can restore a new sense of hope on the reservation, bringing the community together to discuss important issues.  They will use this event to show their classmates, how to replace unhealthy youth pastimes with exciting and fun activities in hopes of keeping them on track to graduate.

DFC kids2 ThinkFun Sponsors Design for Change Prize

How can I help?
The DFC USA team is raising funds to send three students and two teachers from the Crazy Horse School, to the ‘Be the Change’ Conference in India in September 2013.  To learn more, visit: designforchange.us/donate. Please help us spread the word!

Learn more about the DFC movement by checking out dfcworld.com

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TED Talk Friday: The Puzzle of Motivation

August’s TED Talk featured one of my favorite authors – Daniel Pink – in his 2009 TEDGlobal talk The Power of Motivation.

In this powerful talk, Pink challenges traditional notions of what motivates people. Pink shares ways that typical go-to solutions like bonuses and contingent motivators often don’t work or – in some cases – do harm. 21st century tasks require managers to think and incent differently, and Pink’s talk provides a thoughtful springboard to these important shifts.

What motivates you in your work?