I can’t think of a new game I’ve been more excited to see brought to the world than the Go Go Games suite (though SuperBetter is also one I’m ecstatic about). The iPad app for children with autism spectrum disorders is the creative brainchild of interaction designer Heidi Williamson, user interaction expert Joy Wong Daniels, and software engineer Alexis Hiniker. The game, which is now available for 99 cents on iTunes, includes colorful train, car, and spaceship matching games that are deceivingly focus-demanding (by design). Kudos are in order for this team, which tested with dozens of children and educators before shipping its inaugural product with imaginative music by Adam Seltzer.
You may have noticed that things have been a little, shall we say, crazed in our culture. You don’t need to go far to see that kids, teens, adults, friends, co-workers, and neighbors feel called to check their phones, emails, game scores, and online connections. All the time.
Among other things, researchers have found anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, stress, and weight gain to be tied to excessive time on computers and other devices. In a time of continuous partial focus, a few Stanford designers and I thought that the attention–and intentions–of millions of young people who will be shaping tomorrow’s world deserves addressing.
This year we created Presence Project and a tacklebox-like toolkit to help families reconnect around their passion projects. A few ideas for creating more imaginative experiences and enjoyment in being together can be found here, and these resources can also help on your quest. more
After having been fortunate to spend a few weeks in Nairobi over the past year, I’ve started to recognize the massive importance of clean water and access to sanitation. Standing in line with young mothers who wait upwards of four hours a day in line to pay for a few gallons of water has shocked me. Not just because that time could be better spent on their businesses, educations, and the many contributions they make to their communities in informal settlements–but because they frequently return home empty-handed when water supplies are low or cost-prohibitive. In lieu of other options, dirty water becomes the default solution for family drinking and cooking.
Fellow Ohioan (and, oh, Congressman) Tim Ryan has been in the Bay promoting his new book, “A Mindful Nation” with foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The former quarterback said he knew he was struck by the contemplative bug when a recent Superbowl Sunday found him flying to visit a meditation master–and away from much-loved beer and brats.
His interests in education and preparing learners with social and emotional skills are timely ones. In Palo Alto today he asked, “What can we we do to combat inattention, instead of just yelling at kids? How might they come to the technology they’re using?” Being able to teach effectively today, he says (and I believe), involves considering our collective expectations of immediacy. One answer is mindfulness-based practice, a technique Ryan said he’s observed kids bringing to their stressed parents. Now here’s an experimental idea to bring to electorates.
I loved trying one of the new Nimble Scooters, and not just because they’re made locally (and beautifully). When cargo bicycle fan John Kim tried to bring hauling capacity to the scooter form, he wanted to make one that could be sold for less than $500. City dwellers have reason to rejoice. Kim, a Bay Area designer and blogger, skipped the complexity of modern bicycle components (think fixed gear scooting) to offer colorful transport at a friendlier price.
This weekend marks the introduction of a Vice and Intel collaboration, the art/music/technology mashup the Creators Project, to the City by the Bay. (Lest you think the image at right is a local representation, it’s actually a miniature model of Lisbon collected as part of the project’s global art undertaking.)
Fort Mason is hosting workshops and large-scale installations (not to mention a performance by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; free tickets were all spoken for earlier this week). Especially of interest is The Artist as Researcher panel which will bring United Visual Artists, Casey Reas, Quayola, and Sosolimite together with to discuss how “artists are playing a critical role in making technology more human” and whether they might employ the same data-driven practices that drive research at engineering-oriented organizations.
At the Styling Change show at the Mission portrait gallery Photobooth this weekend, the new company Cuyana stood out with its fetching Peruvian Alpaca wares and emphasis on generosity. Based in the Bay, Ecuadorian designer Karla Gallardo’s eco brand sells oversized vests and hats whose sale includes a 10% donation to charity:water. The “e-bazaar that gives back” will be traveling to Jaipur, India, next for inspiration and artisan partnerships (the result of which will no doubt be beautiful).
The annual Digital Media and Learning Conference has come to SF this year, and “motivation” has been the magic (or at least most-used) word. Both in scientist/strategist John Seely Brown’s kickoff statement (which included the idea that the half-life of skills is now five years max) and conversations about learner engagement, reasons for participation–and how they might be recognized–have been dominant. more
What do laser cutters, confidence, and trucks have in common? Besides being things we’d secretly like to have more access to, they’re part of an innovative project out of Design Garage at Stanford that looks to get young students making (in spite of the budget cuts that have recently plagued local districts).
The SparkLab team of product designers has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $25K to outfit a truck with tools and take it from school to school and stimulate students along the way. Take a peak at their fun story to see how the project intends to get local kids learning in highly hands-on ways.
I’m grateful for Edutopia’s new short story “How meditation transformed a school.” Beautifully told, it shows the transformation of Visitaction Valley Middle School (where many students suffer post-traumatic stress after witnessing gun violence) following the introduction of a meditation program into classrooms. Call silent meditation during the school day a coping mechanism, behavior modification, or simply progressive: whichever way you look at it, the reduction in stress and truancy is staggering.
This thought from SF superintendent Carlos Garcia also seems to have ramifications not just for education but for workplaces and personal development as well: “If we continue to do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got…Is that good enough? I don’t think it’s good enough for the 21st century.” Watch, won’t you?