Category: Blog

Puzzles and Their Positive Effect on the Brain

Do you start each day with the newspaper’s crossword puzzle? Or do you prefer putting together jigsaw puzzles with your kids or with family members on vacation? Have you ever thought about why you enjoy challenging yourself in that way or how it might be helping you? Puzzles serve a very important purpose when it comes to brain health. Due to our love of problem-solving, it’s no wonder that puzzles have been around for so long.

History of Puzzles

Puzzles and puzzle games

 

Logic puzzles likely stretch back thousands and thousands of years through human history. Certainly, humans have always been figuring new things out- from how to make fire to how to shoot a rocket into space. However, the first jigsaw puzzles appeared in the 1760s as mapmakers cut up maps and pasted them on to wood. This history of puzzles takes you through the growth of the jigsaw puzzle industry.

Recently, puzzle games have grown popular, from escape rooms to video games. In a poll conducted September 2017, over 60% of frequent video game players stated that they regularly played puzzle video games. Strategy video games followed close behind with the next genre being adventure at below 50% of players. Escape rooms have also begun cropping up all over the United States. Compared to only 22 companies at the end of 2014, now enthusiasts can find nearly 2,000 according to Room Escape Artist.  In fact, educators even use escape room-style lessons to help engage their students in a variety of material in different subjects.

Why do we love puzzles so much? Also, why are they so helpful in education for both kids and adults? Keep reading to discover the appeal of puzzles and how they can help our brains grow.

Challenge and Satisfaction

puzzles and puzzle games

 

Humans have always been problem-solvers, so it would be fair to say that the desire to put together “puzzles” has always been inherent to humanity. In fact, engaging in puzzle solving may even be good for long-term cognitive health.

Studies show that completing crosswords could delay the onset of early dementia by two years. Additionally, taking part in various kinds of cognitive activities, including puzzles, can lessen the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. It seems to be the combination of activities that is key. By providing our brains new challenges, we are able to keep our brains healthy and functioning for longer periods of time.

Of course, it is nearly impossible for studies to narrow down the sole cause to puzzle solving, but it can’t be denied that it can’t hurt!

Puzzles can also help young children with physical, cognitive, and emotional skills. With a jigsaw puzzle, kids practice hand-eye coordination and motor skills. Also, puzzles help kids with memory, problem-solving, and shape recognition. Finally, emotional skills include patience and setting goals. All of these are vital skills for kids to practice early in life. Puzzles help a lot with that!

The Puzzling World of Roterra

Roterra: A Puzzling Fairytale

 

Our upcoming game Roterra makes use of manipulable cubes and rejects the laws of gravity to craft a challenging experience for puzzle lovers. The versatility of the world and the puzzles it presents makes sure that players never grow bored. We only recently announced Roterra to the world, and we’re incredibly excited it.

With satisfyingly tough games in such high demand and showing such great benefits, we hope that our game finds a home among puzzle lovers. Stay tuned for updates coming soon on the iOS title right here or on our social media. We’ve been using our background in educational games to make a satisfying experience for all players. If you’d like to get behind-the-scenes access, make sure you sign up to be a possible beta tester on the main page at http://playroterra.com

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Spanish Translation for Excavate! MesoAmerica Game Free This Month!

While the Aztecs, Incas and Mayan did not celebrate Cinco de Mayo, it’s still a great day to learn about MesoAmerican history! Our Excavate! MesoAmerica social studies game updated recently to include a Spanish translation.  This new version features the same great gameplay as the English-language version. However, the translation opens this archaeology adventure up to more students across the country and world. With the option to switch back and forth between languages, the game also works well in teaching reading comprehension for both English and Spanish.

The game runs on the web, Android devices, and iOS devices and can be bought for $3.99. However, for the month of May, get the game for free to celebrate this new translation!

Why a Spanish Translation?

Spanish Translation screenshot from MesoAmerica game

By supporting a Spanish translation of the MesoAmerica edition, we hope that more classrooms can experience our biggest game based learning series. With a Spanish translation, the game fits into Spanish immersion schools, language classes, and more! Since we aim for our educational tools to be available to as many different students as possible, we hope the translation opens the doors for more students to experience Excavate! MesoAmerica.

In Excavate! MesoAmerica, students analyze three significant locations tied to the Aztec, Inca, and Maya cultures. As journals record their progress, students progress through three sites tied to Inca, Aztec, and Maya culture. At each location, students make meaning of how artifacts were used through a series of analysis questions and reports. By completing these tasks, students make connections and deduce facts about the people who lived, worked and played there. In this way, you consider the historical context of the primary source artifacts and make connections. During the game, players learn about the significance of jade and obsidian for the Maya, distinguish the role of gods in Incan society, and gain perspective on Aztec engineering.

Why the Excavate! Games?

Spanish Translation screenshot for Excavate! MesoAmerica game

The Excavate! games are designed by former middle school teacher and DIG-IT! Games CEO Suzi Wilczynski. Through engaging gameplay and challenging analysis, the series takes students on entertaining and educational archaeological adventures through tim. Using archaeologists’ tools, players uncover real artifacts from ancient cultures. Also, each civilization includes 3D artifacts and detailed illustrations of ancient life to immerse the user in each unique culture.

“The Excavate! games are just great! My students take turns to excavate with the tools, read the instructions and questions aloud, answer questions, discuss ideas, and complete the journaling,” said Samantha McClusky, an educator from Searsy, AR. “They are learning so much, and ask for me to teach them more!”

These educational games fit into grades 3-8 and correlate to Common Core State Standards (and equivalents) for ELA and The National Council for Social Studies C3 Framework. For easier analysis, the game includes the new educational game and app learning analytics standard GBLxAPI, which is improving learning data reporting in educational games and applications. Also, the Excavate! Games recently received high marks from the KOKOA evaluation method.

Now, take the chance to grab Excavate! MesoAmerica for your classroom while it’s free this month!

While learning about MesoAmerica today, check out the real history of Cinco de Mayo (often misinterpreted!): http://time.com/4313691/cinco-de-mayo-history/

You Might Also Be Interested In These Spanish-Language Resources:

Spanish Playground: Spanish for kids! This website features all kinds of activities for every aspect of learning the language.

Espanglish: For those in the DC area, meet up with other adults learning Spanish!


Game-Based Learning in the Classroom: What’s the Point?

Game-Based Learning in the Classroom

We think game-based learning pushes students to get more invested in learning. By utilizing games, teachers motivate students to try harder through competition and interactivity. However, the tools understandably intimidate many teachers new to using technology in the classroom. On this post, discover how game-based learning works in the classroom and how it benefits students. Also, find sources to discover more about the subject.

What is Game-Based Learning?

Game-Based Learning in the classroom- what is it?

Game-based learning grows in popularity with each passing year. With an increasingly digital society, more and more teachers look for new ways to engage their technologically-minded students. Games provide a method for students to connect with their learning materials. Also, they offer a safe space for students to fail and learn from failure.

However, not all game-based learning experiences work for everyone. The definitions above help in understanding the basic concept, but an effective experience comes from a capable teacher. Rather than replacing teachers, educational games partner with good teachers to create an awesome lesson both fun and helpful. Games teach not only facts but skills. By virtue of being digital, games bring opportunities to have unique experiences that would be hard to replicate in physical form. Additionally, games provide a framework for assessing student performance in applying lessons. More diverse than straight tests, games gather impartial data on student performance that can be fed back to the teacher.

Bear in mind, different games work for different classes.

How Can I Use Game-Based Learning in the Classroom?

Game-based learning in the classroom - how to use it?

Flexible and varied, teachers use game-based learning in the classroom to achieve many goals. Games help teachers provide new material in an interesting way, conduct assessments, or motivate students to work harder. Clearly, the goal depends on the kind of class and the subject taught. By identifying the goal first, teachers tailor game choice towards these goals. That way, game-based learning offers the most benefit. Additionally, students enjoy it more when it feels purposeful in their education.

However, more importantly, games show success in meeting these educational goals.

What’s Good About Game-Based Learning?

Game-based learning in the classroom - what's good about it?

Game-based learning meets a variety of needs from teachers. More than half of teachers agree that game-based learning motivates low-performing and special education students. They get more involved in lessons and become more interested in learning. Read a teacher’s thoughts on how our Excavate! games gets her special-ed classroom interested in learning here. The review also touches on how game-based learning personalizes education. Other reasons cited above for using game-based learning include promotion of collaboration, independent learning, and the ability to deliver content from a distance.

Many games fall under national standards like Common Core. For example, our Excavate! games follow C3 standards for world history education. However, not every game works for standardized curriculum, so make sure the game works for your class.

What Do Other Teachers Say?

Game-based learning in the classroom - what do others think?

Many teachers welcome the tools into their classroom and find their students love it. Good educational learning developers provide frameworks for teachers to work with. For our Excavate! games and ExoTrex games, we offer free teacher’s guides and lesson plans to help use the games with students. Always make sure that you feel comfortable with a game before giving it to students. Game-based learning in the classroom starts with a good teacher. No matter how good the game, it needs a teacher to guide students through learning.

How to Find Out More?

The statistics quoted in this blog come from Level Up Learning, a national survey about teaching with games in K-8. We highly recommend giving the whole report a read. Also, we offer this report on digital game-based learning in secondary education as another sources of information. Just a quick search on the web brings up tons of information and options for learning more about educational games.

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World History Explored Through Video Games

It makes sense that real world events have served as inspiration for many books, movies, and shows. After all, history is a story itself. Video games are no exception to using history as setting or plot, and they can be incredible ways to give detailed looks at ancient civilizations from Egypt to Mesoamerica. Check out this list of video games inspired by the history of the world!

Explore Ancient Egypt

Ancient world history is brought to life in Assassin's Creed Origins Discovery Tour Ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed Origins is the latest entry in the long-running Assassin’s Creed series from developer Ubisoft. However, it differs from previous installments thanks to the recent edition of the Discovery Tour. This mode allows the player to simply explore its Ancient Egyptian setting as either a character from the game or as a historical figure like Julius Caeser or Cleopatra.

The mode includes 75 guided tours that were crafted by Egyptologists and covers everything from the Great Pyramids to the daily lives of the citizens of Alexandria. Your character can even participate in the activities of the locals to truly understand how the people lived.

Discovery Tour launched on February 20, as a free update for owners of Assassin’s Creed Origins. You can purchase it as a standalone title for $20 as well.

Discover Mesoamerican Ruins

World history is fictionalized in Lost Ember from Mooneye Studios Mooneye Studios

While heavily fictionalized, Lost Ember is an upcoming game that will allow players to explore Mesoamerican ruins. The developer based the world on the history of the Inca and Maya civilizations. The player takes the form of a wolf who can inhabit other animals. This game emphasizes the diverse wildlife of Mesoamerica.

As players discover new ruins, they also learn more about this ancient civilization. While it will feature its own fictional civilization, the idea of archaeology giving insight into ancient life is very real. Comparing and contrasting the civilization of Machu Kila with the real Mayan and Incan civilizations could also be an interesting activity.

Lost Ember is yet to be released, but you can find out more about it on the Mooneye Studios website.

Understand Greek Myths

World history and myths are featured heavily in Age of Mythology Microsoft Studios

Greek mythology inspires many stories in books, movies, and games. Even Rome and Byzantium based their own myths on the Greek gods. Age of Mythology from Microsoft Studios is one such game which covers Greek myths as well as Egyptian and Norse myths.

Through its story, Age of Mythology lets players experience the fabled city of Atlantis, fight the Trojan War, and accompany Odysseus on his adventures. The gods and goddesses play an important role as well as different cities focus their worship on different gods, just as they did in ancient times. While the game is certainly not education-focused, it can get kids interested in the myths of Greece.

Age of Mythology is an older game, but it’s still available to buy through Steam. Find out more on its website.

Let Your Students Discover World History Through Educational Video Games

Excavate! Mesoamerica and the whole social studies series can help teach world history

These entertainment-focused video games aren’t the best for classroom learning. For that, look no further than our Excavate! series of games. Our six civilizations cover a wide variety of world history curriculum. Put your students in the shoes of archaeologists and let them enjoy C3-aligned gameplay.

In Excavate! Egyptstudents analyze artifacts from Giza, Alexandria, Karnak, and the Valley of Kings to understand the lives of ancient Egyptians. Excavate! Mesoamerica features sites from the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations and explores each unique culture. Meanwhile, Excavate! Greece compares and contrasts Athens and Sparta while also letting students learn religion at Delphi and sports at Olympia. Our other civilizations include Rome, Mesopotamia, and the Byzantine Empire.

Explore World History with Educational Video Games
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Teaching Tools for the Byzantine Empire

In the late 400s AD, the Roman Empire came to an end after a long time of fracture and fragmentation. What survived after the fall became known as the Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire. While certainly not as famous as Rome, the Byzantine Empire wielded formidable power up to the Middle Ages in Europe. Today, it remains an important part of world history curriculum. However, what are some teaching tools that can be used to get students excited about learning Byzantine history?

Check out this list of resources to discover new ways to spice up lesson plans!

Artifacts & Museums

While actually taking students to a museum can be difficult, many museums put their collections online where they are easily viewed. Using these artifacts, teachers can encourage their students to do research about ancient civilizations and learn about the culture by drawing conclusions about their stuff.

The Met provides essays about the history as well as the art of the Byzantine Empire. Along with its provided writing, the website hosts online features from Helen Evans on the art of the time. Students explore the artifacts and receive additional information on the development of art from an expert.

The Museum of Byzantine Culture in Greece provides an English site complete with pictures of their collection. The museum’s collection numbers more than 46,000 artifacts which date from the 2nd to the 20th century. Students can take close up looks at the detail in some of the pieces as well as read the history and use of each one.

Lesson Plans and Teacher Materials

Teaching tools for the Byzantine Empire

Mr. Donn is a great source for all units of world history, the Byzantine Empire being no exception. His website offers free powerpoints, maps, and templates which can be helpful for putting together lessons on the subject.

If you want to focus on one aspect of Byzantine history in particular, we recommend Justianian and Theodora. These two are the most famous leaders of the empire. As part of one of our series of Women’s History Month blogs, we collected resources for teaching about powerful female leaders of history. Theodora featured on this list. For lessons about her, head over to that blog to get the resources you need.

Multimedia Teaching Tools

Excavate! Byzantine portfolio image for social studies game

To really bring something engaging to lessons, consider making use of videos or games to draw in student interest. By mixing traditional lecture with these media sources, all kinds of learners are served and can connect with the material. Otherwise, they miss out or stay uninterested.

Extra History makes awesome series on all sorts of topics, but they have entire playlist of Justinian and Theodora, the two most famous rulers of the empire (as previously mentioned). In addition to their policies and reforms, the videos cover their origins and more personal aspects of their stories.

Of course, our own Excavate! Byzantine just came out recently, and it serves as a great tool for teaching about the daily lives of Byzantine citizens. Students dig up artifacts and analyze them in order to draw conclusions about Byzantine culture. This includes religion, economy, home life, and governmental structure. Apply C3 skills in this middle school social studies game that brings the ancient civilization of the Byzantine Empire to life through archaeology. For your convenience, Excavate! Byzantine works for Apple, Android, and HTML5.

Additionally, all the Excavate! games come with supporting teacher materials for using the games in class. For a complete lesson, make sure to check out the Teacher Guide, Artifact-Based Questions, and Inquiry Analysis Questions.


Hopefully, these resources will help in putting together new lessons on the Byzantine Empire for middle school students. If you have any questions about our products, know that you can always contact us.

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Women’s History Month: Female Space Pioneers

Female Space Astronauts, Cosmonauts, and Mathematicians

As we continue through Women’s History Month, we take a look back at some female space pioneers. The women served in all kinds of roles from helping build rockets to riding in them. No matter their position, all the women featured here cemented their position in space history through their many accomplishments.

Katherine Johnson and the Mathematicians of NASA

At the beginning of World War II, the demand for aeronautical engineering began increasing exponentially. Langley Memorial Aeronautical Labratory began hiring women in 1935 to do number crunching. Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 book Hidden Figures told the stories of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan along with many others. Additionally,  the critically acclaimed 2017 movie based on the book focused on these “human calculators.”

The women highlighted in Hidden Figures worked for NACA (later NASA) starting in the 40s and 50s. Through their math, they worked on making the flying machines better, stronger, and faster and calculating flight trajectories for important missions, including the Apollo missions.

NASA recognized Katherine Johnson specifically in 2017 through naming the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility after her. Without the research and dedication of Johnson and her contemporaries, NASA would not be the same as it is today.

The Very First Woman in Space

The first female space explorer- first woman in spaceValentina Tereshkova orbited the Earth 48 times and became the first woman in space in June of 1963. Before being chosen as a Soviet cosmonaut, she never even flew a plane. Rather, she was a textile worker and amateur parachute jumper. The latter skill earned her the job. After eighteen months of grueling training, she became the only woman out of five to be selected.

Beyond just being the first woman in space, she remains the only woman to ever fly a solo mission. Since her mission, Museum exhibits, stage plays, and documentaries celebrated her space legacy . Additionally, she carried the Olympic torch for part of its journey in both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Sally Ride: Female Physicist and American Astronaut

The first American woman to go to space and the youngest astronaut everSally Ride blasted down barriers as she blasted into space in 1983 as the first American female astronaut to actually enter the final frontier. She served as a mission specialist on the STS-7 space shuttle mission. As a mission specialist on that flight, Ride worked a robotic arm to help release satellites into space.

After her time as an active astronaut, Ride continued to work in the STEM field, particularly in encouraging STEM education. She wrote books about space exploration and co-founded Sally Ride Science in 2001. Her work with the organization aimed to support students into careers within STEM, particularly girls and minorities. Through teacher training, books, festivals, classroom activities and more, she sought to transform the idea of what a successful scientist could look like. Even after her death in 2013, her legacy continues.

The Women of ExoTrex 2

ExoTrex2 stem game character concept of female space operativeWhen looking to engage students in STEM learning and space exploration, look no further than ExoTrex 2, a game that will test their physics, chemistry and critical thinking abilitities. Exotrex 2 is a beautifully rendered, STEM focused game that will challenge and engage your 8th – 10th grade science students.

The player partners with the AI Fiona and supervisor Dr. Estelle Burke, a female space pioneer herself, to find a new home for humanity. To complete this mission, students start by balancing speed, thrust, and acceleration while navigating gravitational fields to successfully land rovers on their chosen planet or moon. Also, they remotely navigate their rovers to collect ground and atmospheric samples and later analyze them for their chemical compositions.  Finally, Students will learn about the planetary characteristics of each destination and take observational notes in order to report their findings back to Dr. Burke. 

Help get your students passionate about space with these profiles of female space history-makers and by going hands-on with ExoTrex!

Get into Space with ExoTrex 2
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Local Archaeology: Discoveries, Education, and More!

Archaeologists discover new findings every day across the world. Here, we take a moment to highlight discoveries and opportunities for those interested in archaeology around the DC Metro area. Based in Bethesda, MD, we at Dig-It! Games always try to keep up with what’s happening in archaeology around us. Bigger finds often overshadow local archaeology. However, archaeologists find tons of interesting things around Maryland, Virginia, and DC.

Alexandria’s Big New Discovery

Local archaeology in Alexandria led to the discovery of two ships on the waterfront

On the historic waterfront of Alexandria, archaeologists discovered the remains of two ships from the late 1700s or early 1800s. Just two blocks away, archaeologists found a similar ship at the Hotel Indigo site in late 2015. At the beginning of March, the City of Alexandria won a grant to preserve that ship from the Virginia Association of Museums. For these two new ships, examination and analysis still needs to take place. It has yet to be announced if these ships will be preserved.

Archaeologist discovered the ships on a site where developers JBG Smith and EYA are turning a former warehouse into townhouses and condos. The law of Maryland requires that developers have archaeologists on site whenever ground is disturbed.

“It wasn’t an unexpected discovery, especially since what we knew from the Hotel Indigo site,” Eleanor Breen, the city’s acting archaeologist, said. “I think there’s a high possibility of additional archaeological treasures to be found.”

We look forward to hearing about what those archaeological treasures might be! If you want, read the full story on the Washington Post for all the details about the excavation.

Local Archaeology Programs for Kids & Students

Get your kids into local archaeology with great programs

Do you know an aspiring archaeologist or just a kid who loves to dig? Around the DC area, you can find many opportunities for young excavators to learn the tools of the trade- literally! Check out these programs first to see if there’s a good fit for your student, child, or the whole family!

Archaeology in the Community, a Washington, DC, organization, aims to promote the study and understanding of archaeological heritage. In pursuit of this goal, they host public events, enrichment programs, and professional development. Additionally they offer a ton of regular youth activities as well as camps.

Also, the National Park Service offers regional archaeology programs in and around DC. They offer cool archaeology programs for youth, teachers, professionals, and others in a variety of locations around the metro area.

Finally, of course, check out the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and learn more about the newly discovered ships.

Game-Based Archaeology

Get your students into archaeology with Excavate!

While we don’t have an Excavate! DC, our series of social studies archaeology games serve as a great way to get students interested in world history and the process behind excavation. Through C-3 aligned gameplay, Excavate! fits into both the classroom and homeschooling curriculum.

Choose from a variety of civilizations with six currently available: MesoAmerica, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the Byzantine Empire. Additionally, bundles of civilizations release on the Apple App Store tomorrow for greater convenience. However, the games can also be purchased from Google Play, Amazon Appstore, and on our website.

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Byzantine Empire Joins Excavate! Social Studies Game Series

A Byzantine Empire Game for the Social Studies Classroom

Our latest expansion to our long-running Excavate! social studies and archaeology game series arrives today! Play Excavate! Byzantine on the web, Android devices, or iOS devices for $3.99. If you want more than one civilization, contact us to request bundle pricing.

Byzantine brings out total number of games up to six. Previously, the Excavate! series included Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, MesoAmerica, and Greece. Like its predecessors, Excavate! Byzantine includes C3-aligned gameplay and companion teacher resources. For specifics, you can find out more on the main page for the game. 

Analyze Artifacts and Discover the Byzantine Empire

Byzantine game tasks students with archaeology and socials studies analysis

Dig-It! Games CEO Suzi Wilczynski, a former middle school teacher, designs the Excavate! games. Through engaging gameplay and challenging analysis, the series aims to take students on entertaining and educational archaeological adventures through time and around the world. By using archaeologists’ tools, players uncover real artifacts from ancient cultures.

First, the game gets players immediately in the dirt, evaluating the proper tool to use while learning about the scientific process of excavation. Through this, players learn concepts such as stratigraphy, context and the importance of proper recording. Next, analysis takes center stage as players learn about the significance of the artifacts they collect and gain a deeper understanding of ancient people through what they left behind. Each civilization includes 3D artifacts and detailed illustrations of ancient life to immerse the user in each unique culture.

“We are pleased to be adding this new world history civilizations to the popular series after recently updating our previous content to align to C3 standards to make a more effective teaching tool” says Wilczynski. “Through its expansive content and flexible applications, Excavate!™ provides a high-quality resource for educators across their full World History Curriculum.”

Explore and Experience Byzantine Life

Excavate! Byzantine game has students analyze artifacts using archaeology and social studies knowledge

Excavate! Byzantine takes students to the Hagia Sophia, the Imperial Palace, an oikos (or house), and a market to discover how the people of this civilization lived. While they analyze artifacts, students learn about the role of religion, family, military, and trade in the empire. In this way, students not only learn about life in the Byzantine Empire but also stretch their critical thinking skills.

Teachers, we also provide several helpful resources for creating lesson plans around Excavate! Byzantine. Look through the Teachers Guide, focus on Inquiry Analysis, and quiz your students with these Artifact Based Questions. Because we want to make the use of these games as easy as possible, we have similar resources for each of the games in the Excavate! series.

If you want more information, read the full press release here.

Play Excavate! Byzantine Today!
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Women’s History Month: Our Female Game Developers

Last year, during Women’s History Month, we featured many of our female game developers and other employees in short profiles over three separate blogs. In celebration of this year’s Women’s History Month, we re-share these profiles to show our appreciation of our talented employees and to showcase these successful women who have thrived in the gaming industry and other STEM-related fields.

Sara Platner

Sara, one of our female game developersGrowing up I was always pushed towards the math and sciences because I naturally good at them, but my heart always called to more creative pursuits. My mother gave me the wise advice that “If you do what you love for work, it’ll become your work and not what you love.” With that in mind, I applied to engineering programs across the east coast, before coming across a school that featured a Game Design and Development major. Although heavily computer science based, the major also taught design, animation, 3D modeling, audio, and narration. Instantly, I knew it was a perfect match: a field both technical and creative.

I loved college and consider it to be some of the best years of my life! Starting my freshman year, my major was 11% female: 22 girls to 220 boys. I would never have more than 4 girls in a core class, and my major’s labs were often entirely male. It might seem intimidating, but it really wasn’t. Guys are just guys, and I balanced them out by joining a sorority.

Since graduating from college, I’ve been working at Dig-It! Games creating science and history video games. Due to the small size of the company, I’ve been able to be involved in nearly every process: Development, Design, Research, Script Writing, QA, and Production. I would definitely encourage young women to pursue a career in the technology field. Obviously computer science is incredibly technical and difficult, but so is becoming a doctor or a lawyer; so is everything worth doing!

Melanie Stegman

Melanie, one of our female game developersI started learning to code in C# when I was 44 years old. While I learned some BASIC coding in high school, I found the whole process stupid and boring. While I knew that the Atari games I loved were created by programming, I couldn’t connect to it. My 17-year-old self wanted to solve important, complicated problems. Real, important problems that required creative thinking were problems like: What causes cancer? What makes us feel stressed out? How does stress affect our immune system? Could we optimize our immune system to fight cancer better?  So I threw myself into biochemistry. I loved it. I worked every single day for 3 years. Then, for the next 7 years, I decided to always take a whole ½ a day off every weekend.

Whenever I interacted with non-scientists, people always said the same two things to me: 1) You don’t look like a scientist and 2) I have no idea what you are talking about. The second statement bothered me more, because what I was talking about were things that effect everyone every single day: cells, receptors, molecules in our bodies. So, I decided the big complicated problem I would focus on would be teaching the average person how cells, receptors and molecules work. If everyone had this basic vocabulary then we could talk about health, the environment, and funding for research much more clearly.

At the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) as the Director of the Learning Technologies Program, I conducted research on learning and confidence gains in players of the game Immune Attack. I published my research, designed and developed a follow up game called Immune Defense. When the FAS decided not to work on learning games any longer, I chose to become an indie (independent) game developer.

The Transition to Game Development

Starting a career as indie game developer, I learned repeatedly that game development is difficult and time-consuming. Also, I learned (again) how difficult and time consuming writing grants can be. In November 2016, I started working at Dig-It Games. Here at DIG we share similar goals: make games that teach important concepts that people really enjoy playing. My brain is challenged, my colleagues are a ton of fun, and I learn new things every minute.

ExoTrex, a STEM-focused space exploration game

In my own time, I still work on my own molecular biology games. I continue to be a very happy “woman in tech.” And yeah, everyone still says I don’t look like a game developer, just like they used to say I didn’t look like a biochemist. Scientists and engineers on TV and movies still are usually men… the people doing the cool, meaningful things in stories are usually men. (Except for that fantastic Hidden Figures book/movie!)

Let me just tell you, it is a lot easier to ignore those voices of doubt when you have colleagues around you who treat you with respect. Find a place where people respect you, and don’t try to tough it out in an unfriendly environment. There are many places looking for people who enjoy solving problems, who help their colleagues face new problems. Wherever you are now you are gaining experiences that you can use in the future for solving new problems. Keep learning and keep looking for new jobs.

Just a thought: maybe we female tech people should wear shirts saying “This is what a game developer, graphic artist, QA expert, educational technical researcher, CEO looks like!”

Suzi Wilczynski

Suzi, our female CEOEverything I know about entrepreneurship I learned from my mother.  Ok, that may be a slight exaggeration, but the fact is, most of what I needed to know to found an educational gaming company I really did learn from my mother, without either of us truly intending it.

My mom never developed a game, but she incorporated all the parts of good educational game design into her work teaching students with learning disabilities: building skills, measuring and rewarding progress, engaging all types of learners, and developing age-appropriate content and expectations.  Her example has helped me build games that are recognized by industry experts as seamlessly blending fun and learning and that fill a gap in the market for authentic, skills-based, interactive games that are tailored for how middle school students think and learn.

I learned many things from my mother, but perhaps the most important is one of the most basic qualities of entrepreneurship: perseverance.  My mom went from being a part time tutor to founding and running the Study Skills department at a prominent private school.  She believed profoundly in her mission and overcame many challenges and obstacles to accomplish her goals.  Her example was inspirational for me as I founded and grew my business.

I did not set out to be a business owner.  I started out as a teacher looking for a tool for my middle school classroom, but I couldn’t find one.  So I built it, thus starting my new career as the owner of a tech startup.

Dig-It! Games logo in female game developers profile post

Starting Dig-It! Games

I founded Dig-It! Games because I want to change how history and science are taught.  My vehicle is largely archaeology, but my purpose is to truly make a difference in how we think about education.  I chose archaeology as a tool because it’s something I’m passionate about, but also because archaeology is a combination of science and humanities.  It’s my belief that if we introduce kids to the scientific process in a non-threatening way, they will have more confidence in math and science classrooms.

By way of archaeology, we can teach kids how to think–how to analyze, think critically, process information, communicate findings–skills that are the building blocks of all learning. Through our archaeology and history games games kids learn scientific process and historical analysis skills, while improving reading comprehension and building historical knowledge, all in a way that sparks their imagination and engages their attention.  Learning should be fun–Dig-It! Games is on a mission to ensure that it is.

Women in Tech: To Aspiring Female Game Developers and More

Words from Suzi Wilczynski

To all the young women out there who want to pursue careers in STEM or who dream of being entrepreneurs: the best thing you can do is explore.  Try everything.  Try things that stretch your limits and push you out of your comfort zone.  Attempt things you think you’d never in a million years have an interest in—you might be quite surprised.  Explore multiple fields and experiment with new ones.  Think creatively about where you fit and how to best use your skills.  Not everyone is good at everything; it’s ok to decide something isn’t your thing, as long as you don’t give up on exploring other options.

Excavate! Rome, one of Dig-It's social studies archaeology gamesA key thing to remember is that failure is part of the learning process.  So often we are taught that failure is a stopping point when in fact it’s actually the best way to grow.  We learn so much more from failure than from success, but schools, and society, are not built around that concept.  So don’t be afraid to try new things.  You will fail at some of them, but then you’ll pick yourself up, evaluate what you learned and try again.  The great secret of success is that it’s a process, there’s no straight line and every path is different.  You may have to try a lot of things and fail often to find your path, but as long as you keep at it, consider yourself a success.

In Summary

It’s important to remember that, even though they are underrepresented, women are welcomed and can thrive in technological fields. As time goes on, demand increases for female game developers, female biochemists, female archaeologists, female programmers and more. Diversity helps create better products after all! Dig-It! Games encourages all girls out there to pursue their dreams, whatever they might be.

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Women’s History Month: Female Rulers from World History

World History and Women’s History Month

As we begin Women’s History Month 2018, we take a look back through world history to discover the powerful female rulers of ancient civilizations. In Egypt, Byzantium, and Maya, women served as pharaohs, empresses, and queens. Some made extremely important accomplishments for their respective civilizations.

Hatshepsut: The Female Pharoah

Women's History Month: Remembering HatshepsutHatshepsut’s reign as pharoah began in 1479 B.C. and lasted over two decades until 1458 B.C. She ruled for the longest out of any of Egypt’s female rulers. Egyptologists consider her to be the most successful female ruler in ancient Egypt. In fact, many consider her one of Egypt’s most successful rulers overall. However, after her death, others tried to erase most evidence of her reign.  This fascinating Ted Ed talk goes in to how her time as pharaoh was erased by those who succeeded her on the throne. Details about her life didn’t begin to arise until the 19th and 20th century and evolved over time to recognize her accomplishments. Our modern understanding of Hatshepsut is far different than it used to be.

The only portrayals of Hatshepsut as a woman come from her early years on the throne. Later on, statues and likenesses portrayed her as a man, complete with the traditional fake beard that many pharaohs wore. Ambitious building projects and a trading expedition to the land of Punt that brought back exotic goods like ivory and incense mark notable points of her reign.

Teach your students about Hatshepsut with this lesson plan comparing her rule to Ramses II from the UCI History Project. Alternatively, go through all of Egypt’s greatest rulers, including Hatshepsut with a lesson from PBS.

Theodora: Empress of Byzantine

Women's History Month: Remembering Theodora of ByzantiumTheodora rose to power after being born into the lowest class of Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) society. She began her life on the outskirts of the empire with her father, an animal trainer. After her father’s death, Theodora became an actress to support the family. However, this scandalous profession made it so Theodora had to scramble and seize every chance to move up in society. Her future husband Justinian began his life from similarly humble roots and changed a law forbidding his marriage to a former actress in order to marry her. Their origins are explained in this great Extra History video which also includes many more videos on parts of their reign.

The husband and wife ruled as equals. Theodora guided Justinian through religious unrest during his rule and passed laws to expand the rights of women. Even after her death, her influence remained evident in Justinian’s later rule where he continued to strive to help women and other persecuted groups.

Get your students to learn more about Theodora with a large amount of resources from Teachers Pay Teachers.

The Powerful Queens of Maya

Women's History Month: Remembering Queens of MayaWe learn more and more about the queens of Maya as time goes on, and much of their lives remain undiscovered. Lady Yohl Ik’nal is the first recorded female ruler in Maya history and one of a few to bear a full royal title. Also, Lady Six Sky oversaw the city of Naranjo, commissioning several monuments and engaging in conquest during her reign. Finally, Lady K’abel, whose likely tomb was discovered in 2012, served as queen and military governer of the Wak kingdom.

Whether or not the queens of Maya were sometimes “warrior queens” is still a subject of archaeological study. In 2014, sculptures discovered in Naachtun showed both kings and queens as conquering heroes. Either way, they likely wielded considerable power at points in the history of Maya

For a historical fiction account of the lives of Maya’s queens, try out the Mists of Palenque series of books. For a general lesson plan on Maya civilization, check out some Scholastic resources.

Discovering the Role of Women through Archaeology in our Excavate! Series

Excavate! Byzantine portfolio image for social studies game

While our Excavate! games don’t focus on specific rulers, each one explores the role of women in ancient societies. Learn more by playing Excavate! Egypt, Excavate! Byzantine, Excavate! Mesoamerica, or any of our other three civilizations! If we missed one of your favorite examples of female rulers from history in this Women’s History Month post, let us know!

Learn about women through history and more!
Play Excavate!

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