Category: Blog

‘Tis the Season – For Movies!

Make use of your free time and watch movies!

A scene of the movies

from: hashi photo

The holidays are a great time to get cozy and watch some movies! This year it looks to be a good year for some exciting new films like:  Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jumanji, The Greatest Showman, and Ferdinand, just to name a few!  However, one of the most successful movies this holiday season has been Disney/Pixar’s Coco. The beautiful story of young Miguel who has dreams of being a musician despite his family’s mysterious ban on music! He finds himself able to cross into the “Land of the Dead” during Día de los Muertos to meet his musical idol.

Trademarking Culture

One of the reasons the movie is so successful and plays to both Hispanic and non-Hispanic audiences so well is because of a flub by Disney. The company tried to copyright the phrase “Día de los Muertos” in 2013 which resulted in such intense backlash they decided to rescind the permit a week later. One of the most outspoken critics of the copyright was Lalo Alcaraz, a Mexican-American political cartoonist, who Disney then hired (along with two others) to be a cultural consultant. This assured that the film was portrayed in the most appropriate and authentic manner.

As a former Spanish teacher, I am thrilled to see movies like this and Reel FX’s Book of Life Movies like Coco feature Dia de los Muerta altars like thisbring culturally sensitive and authentic portrayals to the mainstream. I have taught in predominantly suburban districts that did not have diverse populations. Every year I had to explain to teenagers that Día de los Muertos was not “Mexico’s Halloween” but a vibrant celebration of life and death. Sure, there are plenty of documentaries, crafts, and websites to research how Día de los Muertos is celebrated, but none of it got to the emotions and beliefs of the holiday like Coco. It’s a wonderful thing to know that children and adults can see this movie and experience the heritage, bright colors, music, language, and emotion of Día de los Muertos.

Preserving Culture

An artifact not from the movies- instead from Excavate! Mesoamerica

We obviously love any kind of entertainment that can combine learning and fun. Games and experiential learning have the power to make education effortless. We had this in mind when we designed our Excavate! Series. In Excavate! Mesoamerica you can have this experience. Players have the opportunity to travel to three different locations: Chichen Itza – the Mayan pyramid complex on the Yucatan Peninsula, Tenochtitlan – the Aztec capital in central Mexico, and Cusco – The capital of the Incan Empire. The game lets students analyze artifacts from these cultures to piece together an understanding of the people and how they lived. The beautiful illustrations in the journal will also provide many opportunities for discussion. We hope this game can also spark an interest into learning about these histories and people.

 

 


Were the Greeks the First Gamers?

Interactive Narrative as Game

The Iliad and the Odyssey are part of the Western Literature canon but primarily written down in book form. This belies their original format which was recited, edited, embellished and improvised epic poems performed in front of a rapt audience. They were a seamless combination of entertainment and education much like today’s educational video game! Add the fact that a driving narrative delivered the lessons and knowledge and now you can really see how ancient epics have similarities to learning games.

Exploding the Castle This comparison is brilliantly made by Roger Travis of University of Connecticut in his article (“What Homeric Epic Can Teach Us About Educational Affordances of Interactive Narrative” pgs. 19-37) published recently in Exploding the Castle: Rethinking How Video Games and Game Mechanics Can Shape the Future of Education. Travis’ article not only explores the interactive nature of sharing epic poems but also highlights how their use in Greek theater expands the nature of their interactive power. The messages, lessons and epic journeys get reframed and improvised to keep audiences engaged through surprising twists and turns and reframing of comfortable tropes much like how a video game progresses through various levels.

My favorite assertion is that Socrates was indeed a gamer!

Socrates was a gamer. My research suggests that he and his fellow Athenians played the stories of Achilles and Odysseus every time they heard them because we always play adventure stories, whether we hear them or read them or watch them and whether we have explicit, if fake, control over some portion of the story or not. Remember that every choice you can make in a digital game is programmed into that game’s software, and remember that every choice you can make even in a tabletop role-playing game must fall within the rules. If it works better for you, though simply imagine Socrates and is friends playing Achilles or playing Odysseys at the end of his life those games became even more interactive as Socrates chose to become a new Achilles. (Travis Page 22)

We read and perform these epic poems for their powerful stories of the human condition, insight into historical events and because they have powerful narrative structures. We are constrained in how far off piste we can go with content as we rework them but they are inherently engaging and we read them over and over again. Much like a good game compels the player to replay, rework and master a technique or level. When we play today’s video games, we may be taking part of a tradition that started a lot earlier than we had imagined!

Lasting Influence…Even in Game Play

The Greeks have had a significant influence in our culture and it is evident in our architecture, live theater, form of government and now even our video games. Why not learn more about these cultural influencers by playing a video game about them?

Socrates the Gamer

Dig-iT! Games has recently released our Ancient Greece title in the Excavate! video game series. Students excavate real artifacts that are primary sources that students analyze in order to draw conclusions about the daily life of ancient Greece. Excavate! Greece challenges students to compare and contrast the lifestyles of Athens and Sparta, dig deep into Greek religious practices while exploring Apollo’s Temple at Delphi and explore the life of world class athletes while excavating Olympus. It is an engaging and fun way to learn about and build on the ancient tradition that Socrates also enjoyed: the interactive narrative!

Try Excavate! Greece today and give it to your loved one who has to find an engaging way to get his or her students interested in ancient Greece after the holidays!


Guide to Holiday Gifts for Teachers

Gifts for the holidaysAsk a teacher what gifts they want for Christmas and they might smile and say any of the following:

  • A snow day
  • Longer prep period
  • To use the restroom whenever they want
  • To reach that one student that needs help

Obviously, none of these options can be bought or wrapped, so let’s discuss some viable options to show your appreciation for someone who does so much for your child.

Gift Options

  1. Water bottles are useful gifts for teachersGift Cards – I know a lot of people don’t like to give gift cards because it seems a little impersonal. However, gift cards to coffee shops, Target, or Amazon can be used to buy supplies for the classroom (or for themselves).
  2. Reusable water bottles or travel coffee mugs – Nice water bottles and travel mugs can get pricey very quickly. Find ones that are insulated and don’t leak so they can throw it in their bag without fear of soaking students’ papers!
  3. A Donation – Many teachers are turning to crowd-sourcing websites to fund projects and supplies. Check out donorschoose.org, adoptaclassroom.org, or classwish.org.
  4. A personal gift – It’s great to get to know the teacher and their interests. I once received a knot blanket from a student that had my university’s logo on it. It’s one of my favorite gifts to this day.

The holidays can be tough.

Parents have enough to stress about over the holidays and this shouldn’t add to it! Teachers sincerely appreciate any gesture no matter how big or small. If your budget or time doesn’t allow for a gift, IT’S OK! A nicely worded note or email is enough. Not to mention, those notes of thanks are great year-round!

There can also be a big difference between elementary teachers and high school teachers. It’s much easier when your child only has one teacher versus 7 or 8. Don’t feel pressured to buy a gift for EVERY teacher, but do try to be discreet about giving the gifts out.

The perfect gift for the history teacher!

The Excavate! Card Game could be your gifts for teachersHave a history teacher to buy for? Or have a child that loves history? Check out our Excavate! Card Game. It’s a great way for students to make connections with ancient artifacts. Buy a few decks to make sure the entire class can enjoy! Check them out here!


Computer Science Education Week

Computer Science Education Week

Computer Science Education Week was December 4-10 this year. This annual celebration focuses on the importance and promotion of computer science classes in US schools. According to their website, csedweek.org, there are over 400,000 computing jobs available in the country right now and only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce.

Working at a video game studio can definitely make one see the importance of this subject and the wide-ranging effects it has on daily life. Our office ranges in background from computer science majors to philosophy and education majors. Even with this range, computer science makes an impact on all of us.

Here’s what some of our team members had to say:

“Computer science helps me think logically, in life as well as at work. Because a computer only does exactly what it’s told, computer programmers must be very precise in their language, syntax, and style. This analytical mindset is beneficial for a number of real-world skills, including verbal and written communications, long-term planning, and problem-solving. Computer science is powerful because it’s given me the tools to succeed in many aspects of life.” – Reuben, Junior Developer

“Computer science allows me to create anything in the world I want … artistically… imagine that.” – Mikel, Senior 3D Artist

“In the dark pre-Internet days, I fell in love with programming in early high school after finding a book on how to program real time computer graphics on my family’s primitive computer, and went on to earn a BS in Computer Science in college.  Computer Science is a very detail oriented discipline where you create computer programs to instruct the computer on how to improve a complex system or how to efficiently solve a complex problem.  For me, Computer Science is fun because every day I get to create complex systems, solve abstract problems, and design engaging experiences for players in games.  Also, I really enjoy being a part of a team with other talented programmers, designers, artists, and educators that all strive to make really engaging games for our players.” – Jesse, Senior Developer

“Both of my parents were computer science majors and imparted the interest in technology and education on me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. ” – Elisa, Education Team

Promotion of Computer Science

In an effort to promote computer science, Dig-iT! Games often hosts field trips from student groups who want to see what we do every day. These experiences can really open the eyes of students who think that a career in computer science is boring or out of reach. If you are a teacher and are interested in a field trip (either in-person or virtual) please don’t hesitate to reach out. Check out our about page for more information about what we do and our mission-based philosophy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Excavate Series Expands Greece, Rome and Playing Cards

Today, Dig-iT! Games formally announces the expansion and updated improvements to the Excavate social studies games series with six civilizations on world history. Existing civilizations Egypt, Mesopotamia and MesoAmerica have been updated with additional content and C3-aligned gameplay for an enriched overall learning experience. New civilizations include Rome, Greece and Byzantine (coming soon). Available on multiple platforms for desktops, tablets and phones, these games are designed by former middle school teacher and DIG-IT! Games CEO, Suzi Wilczynski, to take kids on archaeological adventures through time and around the world, that are both entertaining and educational.

New Playing Cards

The series has also been expanded to include Excavate! playing cards for classroom and family fun. Each card deck includes People, Places and Artifacts cards that complement the video game or can be played separately. This is a perfect way to get the conversation going without screen time. An excellent gift option for your child, grandchild or a favorite teacher to introduce the ancient cultures. Game decks are available for the Rome and Egypt civilizations. Standard game play is for 3 to 5 players ages 9 and above.

Six World History Civilizations

“We are pleased to be adding three new world history civilizations to this popular series and updating the content to align to C3 standards to make a more effective teaching tool” says Wilczynski. “Excavate™ provides a high-quality resource for educators across their full World History Curriculum and the new card decks add an additional option for cultural game play, creating a complete multi-media game experience for the middle-school classroom.

Read the complete press release here


Strong Showing at NCSS!

Dig-iT! Games had a great showing at the recent National Council of Social Studies (NCSS) conference in San Francisco (November 17th-19th).  Our staff presented on topics that are not only recent studio initiatives but also integral in furthering the field of game-based learning.

Stuart Claggett presented the research we conducted with the National Science Foundation on creating a universal data reporting standard for games and digital learning experiences.  He presented on the vision of a universal adoption of data protocols that would not only make it easy for games to report learning events to teachers but also the potential of a school or district to collect and amass all learning data in one location.  This will increase the ability to compare and contrast the value of digital learning tools while protecting student data.  Stuart had great follow-up conversations with game companies and school districts interested in student data privacy afterward.

Elisa Bartolomeo-Damon presented about the power of object-based learning with ancient artifacts and with Dig-iT! Games’ video games.  She demonstrated the “Describe-Interpret-Evaluate” process we not only incorporate into our games but also our supplemental curriculum materials.  This was not only a great reminder to social studies teachers about how artifacts are primary sources but it also was an engaging introduction to our newly released Excavate Card Game. She inspired many teachers to head right to our booth afterwards to pick up their free deck of cards to practice object-based learning in a game format on their own.

Chris Magnuson presented on a new concept from our studio of building a matrix of games to play in order to compare and contrast ancient world civilizations.  The concept entails building a core game for aspects of each civilization like architecture, religion or technology and then customize each game to highlight the unique characteristics of each civilization studied.  We had a small turn out (thanks to a Sunday morning slot) but the conversations afterwards about game-based learning were rich and insightful.

We also had a great time hosting our booth in the exhibit hall in which we presented our newest Excavate! series of games.  Teachers had fun playing Excavate! EgyptExcavate! Greece, Excavate! Rome or Excavate! Mesopotamia on laptops or iPads.  They also reviewed the accompanying curricular materials and were introduced to the Excavate! Card Game as a great group-based review activity.  The booth was busy with a lot of traffic and here are a few things that were overheard while interacting with the crowd:

Teachers participated in our Twitter Contest by taking photos with artifacts and making connections to them. “Teachers today and teachers in Rome liked their wine!”

“You have World History content! Sweet!” 

NCSS had many booths that connected to American History and civics but we were surprised to learn that we were one of the only booths solely devoted to Ancient World History.  Many teachers commented on how grateful they were to find rich game-based learning resources for this era of human history.

“This will make my unit on Mesopotamia so fun!”

As teachers played our Excavate! video games they repeatedly mentioned how our games would make the teaching of ancient world history fun and engaging.

“Wait there is more?!” 

Teachers were impressed with the Excavate! video games but as we walked through our supporting curriculum materials with them their eyes widened as they saw concrete ways to incorporate our lessons into their classes.  They saw that we thoughtfully created lessons that could be used verbatim to prepare students to play and also record their learning afterwards.  But as we showed them our Excavate! Card Game as an extension of the video game and the curricular materials they remarked about how there were so many integrated materials to support student learning.  We felt like infomercial sales representatives adding so much value with additional product…but wait there is more!

“That really helps with student-to-student discourse.”

We are proud of our Excavate! video game series as it challenges students to explore ancient world civilizations at their own pace, but we wanted to make sure that we build opportunities for students to review and demonstrate learning in a cooperative group setting as well.  We created the Excavate! Card Game to facilitate rich review discussions among students which was not lost on our booth visitors as one of them remarked how it helped with student-to-student discourse.

“My colleague said I had to come by here!”   

One of the things we heard often, and are most proud of, is that teachers either were brought to our booth by others or were sent to see us.  Word of mouth was evident and we welcomed it at NCSS and we also welcome more of it!  If you came to our booth or would like to share your experiences with Excavate! drop us a line.  We are excited to hear more about how you are using it in your classes and schools. Email Chris and Elisa of the education team info@dig-itgames.com


World Space Week 2017

World Space Week iconThis week marks World Space Week which runs from October 4th to October 10th. The theme of this week is “Exploring New Worlds in Space” which, according to their website, “…serves to inspire the World. It puts as a focal point astrobiology missions like New Horizons (NASA’s first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt)” They also mention projects like Space X and Lockheed Martin’s Orion Multi-Purposed Crew Vehicle which all look to explore human interaction and inhabitation of space.  

This year we saw the dramatic Grand Finale of the Cassini space craft after a 13-year run orbiting Saturn, its moons, and rings. The craft was launched on October 15, 1997 and spent 7 years on a journey that took it near Venus, Earth, through the Asteroid Belt, around Jupiter, and then finally reaching orbit around Saturn. That was just the trip there!  

ExoTrex 2 is perfect for World Space WeekCassini also dropped off the Huygens Probe onto the surface of one of Saturn’s moons, Titan. This was the first time a craft had landed on the surface of an outer solar system world. The probe showed scientists a landscape that looked very similar to Earth’s with rivers, volcanoes, shores, and seas. However, the liquid is not water, but methane and ethane! 

Other discoveries included an ocean under the frozen surface of Enceladus, seven new moons, new images of massive storms at the poles of Saturn. After years of orbiting Saturn, power was beginning to run low so the team made the decision to send it into a death plunge. Scientists were worried if the power ran out that the craft could smash into one of the moons and cause damage so they decided to plunge it into Saturn’s atmosphere where it would burn up and lessen any potential damage.  

Our space exploration game, ExoTrex 2, uses some of the information we learned from the Cassini mission. In ExoTrex 2, players explore Venus, Mercury, and the moon Titan. They perform experiments, one of which is landing a rover on the surface of Titan! They must balance thrusters against the gravitational pull to accurately land it and then explore the cryovolcanoes and landscape of Titan to figure out if it is suitable for life. 

World Space Week was recognized by the UN General Assembly in 1999 and celebrates the effect of science and technology on the world each year. We support these initiatives and hope that our ExoTrex series can help to spark interest in these fields for the future generations. 

 

 

 


The Total Eclipse is a Start

Millions of people will look skyward today to witness the solar eclipse. The orbit of Earth and our moon have never been on so many minds at the same time.  During this event, we are experiencing something together on Earth as a united humanity.

ExoTrex and the eclipse

Exotrex2 – Dig-It! Games

Space has fascinated people from the dawn of time. People from the past spent nights gazing at the heavens and creating meaning from the milky way. For travelers, stars were used as guideposts.  Ancient civilizations used them to predict seasons, align temples and marvel at the periodic events like the eclipse we will soon witness today.  Not only do we witness this collectively today, we also connect to our ancestors who were sometimes deathly frightened by events like solar eclipses.

Our understanding of what is happening today comes on the shoulders of ancient and current astronomers. Over the course of lifetimes, they studied and observed space.  No longer are we fearful of what we are about to observe.  In fact, we are welcoming this once considered sign of doom-and-gloom.  We here at Dig-It! Games® are also excited to be witnessing this rare event and one of our colleagues has been walking around with eclipse glasses in his pocket for weeks in great anticipation!

Space and the eclipse

Exotrex2 Dig-It! Games

We have many people to thank for our current understanding of space and we have been fortunate at Dig-It! Games to have teamed up with an amazing astrophysicist in the making of our game Exotrex™.  Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi is an accomplished astrophysicist, cosmologist, inventor and currently an educator working with NASA who became the voice of our main character Dr. Gerald Burke.  It was great to work with him on the first episode of Exotrex and also to introduce him to students at Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C. to share his love for science and his life’s journey!

Exotrex challenges students to train as astronauts in preparation for an epic journey to find a new planet after life on Earth has become unsustainable.  It is an exciting and challenging program that prepares students for this harrowing mission.

Gameplay from ExoTrex

Exotrex2 Dig-It! Games

However, the fun and challenge does not stop there!  It is with great pleasure that we announce that Exotrex2™ is now available for you to play!  Continue the quest to find a new planet for humanity by traveling to Mars, Titan, Mercury and Venus and explore the physical and chemical composition of each destination.  Collect your evidence and report your findings back to Dr. Burke.  Carefully land probes on distant planets, navigate land rovers to collect planetary samples and analyze their chemical composition all while exploring the entire solar system!  It will get you up in the stars much like our ancestors would have liked to do and much like many of us would like to do on a day like today!

After you watch the eclipse, get inspired and journey through space by playing Exotrex2 Today!


More Than They Bargained For…Reflections From Our Summer Interns

“Back to School” signs in stores around town are one indication that the summer is fast coming to an end, but another signal of the changing of the seasons is that we have to say goodbye to our amazing summer interns!

As a mission-based game studio, we not only make games for educational purposes but we also see the process of game design as an educational endeavor.  This summer Matt, honed is coding skills while working with the development team and Haley did a tremendous amount of research while working with the education team.

Here is a recap of their experiences in their own words:

My name is Matt Schneider, and I will be a senior at St John’s College High School in DC in just a couple weeks.  Since I am interested in going into the Computer Science field I decided to look for an internship that would get my foot in the door.  I was a beta tester for Dig-It! Games this past year so I applied for an internship here to get more coding experience.

 

Going into my internship at Dig-it Games, I expected to be helping out in some projects or other small things. I did not expect the amount of responsibility and work that I have had, but I have enjoyed it a lot. I learned a lot about both the developing aspect and the team aspect of game design. I learned about programs, such as Git with Source Tree and Text Mesh Pro, and improved my coding ability within Unity.  My project was to reskin and improve an existing match 3 game. I had to work with the project’s previous code, while also writing new code.  I designed the game with another developer, Reuben, and together we brainstormed new ideas to include in the game.  I also experienced what it is like to be making a game with a team: having meetings about the game, feedback from testers, and a professional and dedicated art team.  I had to create art lists, implement all the new art, and give feedback on it.  My favorite part of my time at Dig-it games was seeing the positive feedback and the excitement from others about the game I created.  I really enjoyed my summer at Dig-it games and am thankful for this opportunity.

 

 

My name is Haley, and I am a rising junior at George Washington University, majoring in Archaeology. I have been working at Dig-It! Games for over a year but this summer I have been working in the office, rather than solely from my computer back at campus. Working in-house has been a great experience that I wish lasted longer than a three-month summer. Dig-It! Games is an exciting workplace that thrives on collaboration and I like being a member of that dynamic. There are three main departments: development, art, and education. I work within the education department.

 

As an intern in the education department, I mainly research the games we are creating, such as Mesopotamia or Egypt. The type of research I do ranges from finding what is being taught in schools to actually looking through different museum databases to find artifacts. Finding artifacts is one of my favorite parts of the job; it is like a big treasure hunt. I am usually given a list of ideas or parameters that we want the list of artifacts to fulfill, but the tricky part is that we don’t know what specifically is out there. There have been many times where I have as many as 12 tabs open all with different types of clay figures trying to find the right one. I probably have looked at hundreds of various artifacts over the summer!

 

 


Fun Educational Summer Activities!

Now that summer is in full swing check out these great activities to do with your family or send the information along to your students. Educational summer activities are a great way to help students learn while they are having fun as well as giving teachers beneficial professional development.

The Smithsonian is hosting a variety of programs every day this summer! The Mystery of the Megatherium Club: Mustaches and Mayhem is going on every day at the Smithsonian Castle, sometimes twice a day! This scavenger hunt will excite the whole family! Also, on select days there are films after 5 p.m. at the Anacostia Community Museum! Check out their summer activities and events to see which museum is hosting something that will entertain and enrich your child’s summer. If the events are not your thing and you love just to check out their exhibits, hurry some of these programs leave this fall!

Looking for some professional development to do from the comfort of your home? Twitter is your place to be this summer. With a variety of edchats being conducted on various days and new porch PD, it is safe to say that an educator could enjoy gaining new information, tools, techniques, and resources from other educators around the world from the comfort of their home! There are many chats to participate in, and I guarantee the schedule will keep you busy! Some notable chats to participate in are #edchat, #satchatWC (West Coast Leadership Chat), #satchatOC (Oceania Coast Leadership Chat), #mschat (Middle School Chat),  #sschat (Social Studies Chat),#ntchat (Ed Tech Chat), #engchat (English Chat), #mathchat (Math Chat) and #games4ed (GBL Chat).

Summer is also a great time to learn at summer camps, workshops, and conferences and most summer activities on Eventbrite are free!

Going on right now is the Modern Robotics LocoSummer Camp Series by LocoRobo Innovations Inc. This camp is from Mon. July 10th – Fri, July 14th.

The Urban Institute is inviting educators to a forum on Wed. July 12, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. on The Impact of Early Childhood Education on Health and Well-Being: The Latest Research on Policies for Action.

Also on July 12th is the Microsoft Inspire IAMCP Women in Technology Charity Luncheon from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Excited about Legos? Send your kids to a 1-Day Lego Summer Camp on Sat. July 15th from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m hosted by e2 Young Engineers.

Make the trip to Norfolk, VA on July 21st from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. for the Inspiring Teacher Conference from YAV and Old Dominion University College.

Women in Tech Demo Day Presented by Capital One is a two-day event from Fri. July 21 – Sat. July 22. This program is by the Women Who Code and AngelHack.

Lastly, on Sat. Aug. 12 send your daughters to the Product Designer (World Fair Event) hosted by the DAR from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Have fun this summer and don’t forget that there are a lot of free, fun, and educational events going on all over the states. Check out museum sites, Eventbrite, and Twitter for great ideas!


Keep in touch with Dig-iT! Games:
DIG-IT! Games Production Studios

A creative game studio that builds award-winning games users really dig!

Creating Games Everyday

Contact Us

Game Support

7801 Norfolk Avenue Suite 200
Bethesda, MD 20814

General Information
Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Youtube
Consent to display content from Youtube
Vimeo
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google