All work (and play)

Design (Thinking) Process

Bloxels for 4th graders–game design thinking

Using an app-based game-creation platform called Bloxels, I tasked 4th graders with making the most fun game they could–for an audience of their classmates, the wider school community, and anyone playing in the the Bloxels Arcade.(1)

Students worked in small groups, framing their efforts with design thinking, a highly human-centered process that emphasizes imagining (or empathizing with) users’ experiences, creative problem-solving, and swift iteration. Within each group, students took primary responsibility for one of three roles: Character Designer, Layout Designer, or Story & Theme Designer.

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Horizns – an augmented reality, collaborative storytelling game

Playable by anyone aged 12 and up, Horizns is a narrative-based, augmented reality (AR) game ultimately designed for collaborative storytelling in grades 7-12 ELA and/or Social Studies classrooms.

Players begin by participating in the (fictional) “Horizns Rewards Program,” an AR tour of the history of Times Square, NYC. The plot takes a dark turn, however, as players must “dystopify” the world around them; and everyone’s best chance at escaping a dire future means interacting with the dystopian visions of others.

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3D monument models atop a library bookshelf

“What Is an American”? 3D-printed monuments of unsung heroes from the American Revolution

During the 2018-19 school year, The Town School’s the 4th-grade faculty significantly reworked their Social Studies curriculum. The result was a year-long consideration of the question, “What is an American?”

For their culminating project, 4th-graders researched lesser-known participants in the American Revolutionary War–especially enslaved Africans, Black freemen, First Peoples, and women. Then, in their Technology class, using Tinkercad and working in small groups, students designed monuments to commemorate the “heroes” they had researched.

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Computational thinking with Fox Makes Friends

During the 2019-2020 school year, in their Technology classes Nursery 4 (N4) and Kindergarten students worked on a project designed to expose them to some fundamental concepts of “computational thinking”—namely, decomposition (breaking down bigger tasks into more bite-sized pieces) and sequencing (putting a series of steps in order).

Using the book Fox Makes Friends as inspiration, students followed a recipe, of sorts, in order to (like Fox does in the book) ”make” friends—to construct pretend friends alongside real friends, their classmates.

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Training simulation dialogue tree

This dialogue tree was written (in 2016) for (though unused by) a health simulations and training company. The simulated conversation was designed to be used to train pediatricians on Motivational Interviewing (MI) skills, which can be used to help change patient behaviors.

In this conversation, a pediatrician (“Dr. Naru,” whose choices the player controls) is conversing with a father (“Jerry Phillips”) and his daughter (“Kristen Phillips”) about a potential pediatric sleep disorder.

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photo of the ruins of the Roman Forum

Digital Citizenship – S.O.S.

During the 2016-17 school year at The Town School, I was tasked with expanding the digital citizenship curriculum for grades 2-4. This same year, some grades in the Lower School re-introduced Ethics classes into their curricula, which helped to anchor these digital citizenship lesson in Town’s mission-based ethical code–“S.O.S.,” which stands for “Self, Others, Surroundings.”

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(Page layout by Jullie Harten)

“Through My Eyes” – Oculus Rift + interactive fiction (+ Harry Potter)

Designed to serve as a robust and unique supplement to traditional language arts curricula, the content for TME’s story spaces is comprised of select, “unexplored” scenes from print books that students are reading in class. These “unexplored” scenes may be just a line or two of description in the original text that are then expanded into rich, detailed scenarios that students, assuming the role of one—or more— of the book’s principal characters, can dynamically interact with.

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Teaching design at the AMNH… with POV Mad Libs!

During a Game/Mobile Design internship at the American Museum of Natural History I worked on a program called “The Neanderthal Next Door,” which was a 27-session youth program for 21 12th-graders that’s designed to develop and implement a digitally augmented (augmented reality-enhanced) print activity guide that explores the topic of human evolution through the frame of Neanderthals.

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Institute exterior with protagonist and Foundation head

“The Mural” – a point-and-click adventure game about restoration

An art conservator, Miranda, is hired to clean and preserve a mural painted by an uncle whom, prior to his death, she hadn’t seen in over twenty years. Miranda’s employer is a secretive science institute on the verge solving nuclear fusion–and for whom her uncle once served as Chief Scientist.
Once she begins her work, Miranda quickly realizes that the mural is more than what it appears at first sight. She feels something suspicious is going on, and so she decides to dig into it a little bit deeper, unraveling a huge mystery.

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StoryPix app - Interpret path - order images

“StoryPix” – a digital storytelling card game

StoryPix is a platform-agnostic, digital card game designed for middle-school-age children and older. It is an image-based storytelling environment that both visualizes and verbalizes the multitude of ways that people interpret the world. Like other social media platforms, StoryPix users will share images with the intention of telling their “story.” Unlike other social media platforms, StoryPix users will be encouraged to present their images in a more deliberately sequential manner, to present them more like a story, and to create an interpretation of the visual stories of others.

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“Mama Hen Is Sick!” – an interactive fiction game

Setting: the not-too-distant future, in a factory that grows and processes vat-grown meat, the mass of which is named “Mama Hen.” The processing is attended by three dozen human clones (all male), supremely loyal and compliant laborers who live in the factory where they work. Unbeknownst to the clones, however, the factory is about to get bought out, meaning the fate of the entire operation is up in the air.

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“OPEN: the Journal” – an app designed to help close the word gap

A few years ago, I read Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid (2007) and was floored to learn (amongst other things) that “[a] prominent [1995] study found that by kindergarten, a gap of 32 million words already separates some children in linguistically impoverished homes from their more stimulated peers. In other words, in some environments the average young middle-class child hears 32 million more spoken words than the young underprivileged child by age five” (p. 20).

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“Why So Quick to Blame Video Games?” (blog post)

“No one at any major news outlet understands the third variable problem.” This is Erin Robinson, a neuroscience researcher turned independent game developer, explaining why news coverage that ties video games to acts of violence by adolescents is chronically flawed. For us non-statisticians, what she’s saying is: “Just because two events are correlated, one does not necessarily cause the other.”

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55-word story


“Stalin wanted a new army that was brutal and pliant,” McCauley whispered. “Some scientist suggested human-ape hybrids. Stalin agreed. Women volunteered.”

“BS,” hissed the kid, gripping his rifle.

“The scientist reported only failures. Left Africa within a year.”

“So why the heck we here?”

“The scientist lied.”

–From behind them, a grunt of acknowledgement.

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