Tag Archives: ThinkFun

Why Our Education System Is So Stuck

blogPic 236x300 Why Our Education System Is So Stuck

Thinking Skills: Sigmund Freud Meets Apple Pie

For years I have been ranting about the American education system, how murky and ill prepared it is to consider new ideas. I gave a TEDx talk about this in 2012: one of my slides was a cartoon I had made to describe how profoundly confused the situation is.

Don’t worry if you don’t get this cartoon… you’re not supposed to. The idea is that it’s an enigma… something so ingrained you’re not sure if you are allowed to think that you don’t understand it.

The biggest thing gnawing at me the past few years has been the “HOW” question… this is such an important topic, how could things have gotten to be this way?

And so I was very happy to find the answer lurking inside an article in last Sunday’s Washington Post, about Bill Gates and the new Common Core education standards.

Says Gates: “The funding, in general, of what works in education… is tiny. It’s the lowest in this field than any field of human endeavor. … As a result, there is a paucity of information about methods of instruction that work.”

So why is it that I’ve had these murky, queasy feelings about education? Because it turns out the American Education system has the lowest R&D funding of any field of human endeavor! This starts to make sense now.

OK then… with this post I’ve dug a little bit into what the problem is. Next look for some solution ideas.

And do read the Washington Post piece. It turns out that Gates is using his millions to rebuild the entire USA education system, makes for a fascinating and revealing read.

Robot Turtles in action

The Gift of Coding

Since ThinkFun announced the launch of Robot Turtles – the board game that teaches coding to preschoolers – some fantastic conversations have emerged about the importance of coding literacy for the very youngest learners. The theme that’s tied these discussions together has, interestingly, been less about the hard skills of coding, and more about the thinking processes that develop organically as young minds are taught to think like a programmer.

Robot Turtles in action The Gift of Coding

I love this quote by game’s inventor Dan Shapiro, who explains that learning to code is like a gift we can give our children:

“There are two types of people in the world. People who think of computers as their masters and people who think of computers as their helpers. The future is going to be written by programmers and read by everyone else. I want to give my kids the gift of being able to express themselves through programming and the power that comes from being able to write software.

It’s not that I want them to be programmers. Being able to program will make them better at whatever they do. Having that skill is like being a great writer, having a love for learning, or having a deep foundation in mathematics. No matter what you do, programming unlocks doors for you, helps you express yourself, and helps you become more successful in anything you decide to do. It’s a gift you can give to your kid.”

rt box 262x300 The Gift of Coding

As we’ve worked through what coding means in the context of game play, it’s become clear that Robot Turtles supports critical thinking skills that go way beyond programming. Through play, children learn how to break a big problem into small steps, make a plan, work backwards, find patterns, and identify and fix “bugs” – these life skills will serve them far beyond game play!

To help clarify the links between playing with Turtles and learning to program, this document breaks down the ways in which this game teaches code – and a heck of a lot more!

 

Robot Turtles are on the way!

I am SO excited to share that the much-anticipated Robot Turtles games are on their way… we’re counting down the weeks until they arrive!  The best-selling board game in Kickstarter history, Robot Turtles is designed to teach coding skills to preschoolers.  Check it out!

Haven’t ordered your copy yet?  Get on it!  All pre-orders receive a *free expansion pack* that features:

  • 12 Pre-set Frog Favorite Cards
  • 32 Bonus Collectible Jewel Tokens
  • 10 Adventure Quests

Order now, and here’s a sneak peek at the package that will be headed your way in June… opening up a box of awesome is a pretty sweet way to kick off the summer!

DSC 0359 300x221 Robot Turtles are on the way!

 

 

 

Turtle Power!

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.

Robot 1900 HiResSpill 300x300 Turtle Power!

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!)

Coding age 2 300x233 Turtle Power!

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!

 rt preorder224px1 Turtle Power!

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!

Vote ThinkFun for Toy of the Year!

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 2014 lm war Vote ThinkFun for Toy of the Year!

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.) 

Logic Games liven up a High School math classroom!

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… 

 Logic Games liven up a High School math 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

Ashland, MO

 

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!

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.

IMG 6145 1024x1024 Community in Action: KaBOOM! Playground Build

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:

IMG 6107 1024x768 Community in Action: KaBOOM! Playground Build

IMG 6088 1024x1024 Community in Action: KaBOOM! Playground Build

IMG 6154 1024x1024 Community in Action: KaBOOM! Playground Build

IMG 6259 1024x768 Community in Action: KaBOOM! Playground Build

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

IMG 6247 1024x1024 Community in Action: KaBOOM! Playground Build

 

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!

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!

Brain Fitness Line 1024x341 Brain Fitness games keep older brains sharp!

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?