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Staff Voices: Our Favorite FableVision Memories

We’ve had some incredible voices in our chorus of 20th anniversary celebrations this year. There are a lot of factors that contribute to our mission of doing good in the world—unrelenting passion and curiosity, dedication to high-quality educational media, a never-ending love for storytelling, the best partners any studio could ask for. However, the secret ingredient driving our mission forward is first and foremost our staff.  We’re only 20 years into our 200-year mission, but we’ve already managed to collect loads of fond memories along the way. We  asked the staff for memories they hold near and dear to their hearts.

Want to hear more from our vibrant team? Check out the staff video we put together to celebrate 20 wonderful years. Hear what they have to say below and tell us, what's your favorite FableVision memory?


"When we gathered together to unveil our Secret Snowflake, FableVision's version of Secret Santa where we exchange thoughtful gifts for one another." 


" The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It was a really great spontaneous way that the team came together for a bigger cause—which is exactly what FableVision is all about: doing good things to move the world to a better place." 


"Our visit from former mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino to announce a gaming initiative for the city of Boston. He embodied everything about the Boston culture and it really gave us the opportunity to closely align with the city and its initiatives." 


"Our very first holiday party at Paul Reynolds’ house. It was an amazing gathering of everyone at FableVision. It was so homey and you really couldn’t believe that this was your company: people were as nice as you thought and as wonderful as they seemed." 


“I really enjoyed some of the FableVision parties before I came to work with the team but also throughout the years. It's always been a fun time full of interesting people.” 


“Every Friday, we have Curd Herd. One member of the team makes up a little cheese spread each week. It’s great, delicious, and a good way to end the week.” 


“Brian’s waffles, Extra Life, and the formation of Curd Herd!” 


“Our last days in the Watertown office. We were just awarded the Lure of the Labyrinth project which was exciting and in the end helped our company go in another direction in terms of larger learning games." 


“When I was working at Learning Games Network, we were developing Quandary and almost at the launch stage. There were some issues that needed resolving but I knew that the FableVision Quandary team was at a wedding because two of their team members were getting married that day. Even with the wedding, they did a quick impromptu meeting and we got the game fixed. It was such an awesome example of the team coming together.” 


hannah snow.jpg

“One winter, there was a lot of snow and not a lot of people could make it in. There were just four or five of us in the studio. For lunch, we went out on the roof and had a snowball fight.” 


"Character design, definitely. I remember working at my desk and realizing that I was drawing a dehydrated cell that was in complete misery and so gross and remember thinking I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this, I’m having so much fun!"


"Our 10th anniversary. We had just moved into the Boston Children’s Museum. Things weren’t even plugged in but it was cool to celebrate 10 years in the Boston Children’s Museum."


"During our FableFun Day, we paddled down the Charles River. It was a moment that was impromptu where we grabbed on to each other’s boat and were this little floatation device.  We ate snacks and we tried to tip each other over. It was so fun!"


"The FableVision Cape. When I was an intern here, they had me run around in the FableVision cape. It’s a real thing!"

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FableVision Celebrates Women's History Month 2017

Over the past 20 years, we’ve dedicated ourselves to compelling story-enriched media for learners of all ages – and that includes highlighting diverse and powerful representations of female characters. In honor of  the 30th anniversary of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating female characters we’ve created and worked with over the years. From purple-haired rockstars to influential educators, we’re proud  to draw inspiration from trailblazing women.

Gathered here are just a few of our favorite FableVision feministas. Check out our portfolio for more inspiring characters!


Vita
Zebrafish, Children’s Hospital Trust

Vita marches, sings, and fundraises to the beat of her own drum. In Zebrafish, this earnest teenager is all about making a change in her community. It’s not just her purple hair and rockin’ voice that make her stand out, but her desire to make a difference in the world. When her friend Tanya gets sick, Vita uses the power of music to help move the world to a better place.


Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein
The Powder & the Glory, Powder and Glory Productions

Though they never met each other, Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein built an industry that’s now worth over $150 billion dollars. These two women not only revolutionized how makeup was viewed but how women saw themselves. Together with Powder and Glory Productions, FableVision animated sequences for the PBS film, The Powder & the Glory, a documentary that channeled the energy of the Roaring Twenties and life in the 1930s.


Neshama Ryman
The Klumz, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York and Western New York

At 10 years old, Neshama Ryman has illustrated, written, narrated, and directed her own animated short film, The Klumz. Neshama took the innate clumsiness of her favorite imaginary creature, and turned it into something beautiful. FableVision helped the driven young artist turn her dream into a reality.


Alice Marriott
Hot Shoppe, Marriott International

Welcome to “The Hot Shoppe.” Opened in 1927 by Alice and JW Marriott, the little cafe grew into what is now Marriott International. Alice was Marriott’s first cook, and acted as co-founder with her husband. Resourceful and driven, she’s a role model for the entrepreneurial spirit. The animated series shares Marriott’s core values and for both hotel employees and the public alike: a fun reminder of their priorities from day one.


Savannah Harper
Georgia Race Through Time, Georgia Public Broadcasting

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see back in time? With her motorbike and trusty canine companion, Peaches, Savannah Harper does just that. This self-reliant young woman is the star of Georgia Race Through Time, a history game that takes players on an exciting journey across the state of Georgia. As an antiques collector with a special gift of seeing back in time, Savannah is a reminder to celebrate personal uniqueness and do what you love.


Isabella Reyes
Good Thinking! The Science of Teaching Science, Smithsonian Science Education Center

Isabella Reyes is a confident, funny educator who learns as much as she teaches. In the animated series, Good Thinking!, Ms. Reyes works to dispel common scientific misconceptions. An experienced teacher, Ms. Reyes is a self-proclaimed science nerd who understands the importance of education. With good humor and a bright personality, Ms. Reyes has educators learning and laughing alongside her as she demystifies the science of teaching science.

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March FableFriday: Chad Dorsey, President and CEO of The Concord Consortium

chaddorsey_concordconsortium

FableVision Studios has been working with The Concord Consortium for several years now. The nonprofit research and development organization in Concord, MA and the San Francisco Bay Area in California focuses on transforming STEM education through technology. At its helm is Chad Dorsey: educator, scientist, explorer, maker, and long-time FableVision friend. Together with Chad and the team at The Concord Consortium, we’ve collaborated on innovative game-based learning solutions, including Geniverse and GeniConnect, which focus on genetics and biotechnology for middle and high school students.

“To The Concord Consortium’s delight, we find that our work brings out the inner scientist in everyone,” shares Chad. “To us, of course, that’s no surprise, because we see fascination lurking in the world around us every day. But it’s the biggest treat in the world to be able to bring amazing phenomena and concepts out for everyone to discover and appreciate.”

By identifying the best uses of educational technology, The Concord Consortium is working to produce a new generation of STEM-literate learners, workers, and citizens. And after chatting with Chad, we think you’ll agree that fascination is, indeed, lurking all around. 

Tell us a little bit about your role at The Concord Consortium and the work the organization does.
The Concord Consortium has been creating innovative educational technology for over twenty years—since the Web was a toddler!—and I've been here as President and CEO for the past eight of those years. I have the distinct honor of being able to work with a ton of fascinating projects and amazing people to forge new and better ways of teaching and learning science, math, and engineering. We provide our resources and technology available for free to learners, educators, and developers around the world and continuously conduct research to help better understand the learning they make possible.

What makes The Concord Consortium's worldview stand out as distinctive? How is that reflected in how you approach your work?
We have long recognized that technology has exceptional potential to facilitate teaching and learning in STEM areas. A great many STEM topics involve concepts that are difficult to convey or grasp through traditional teaching methods. With technology, we can open up huge opportunities for tackling ideas that might otherwise be inaccessible. We recognized this from our early years, as we pioneered the use of probes and sensors for collecting data (often using mobile devices, but long before any concept of a smartphone existed). We saw how the ability to collect hands-on data about the world in real time made phenomena come to life and enabled students to explore things we never would have imagined.

That same notion really carries through all of our work—whether we’re adapting algorithms from research chemistry to create a world of interactive molecular simulations or creating tools that make intriguing patterns jump out from within complex datasets, we employ technology in ways that make the invisible visible and explorable.

chaddorsey

The Concord Consortium has programs for formal classroom settings and informal learning spaces, including afterschool programs, for grade levels ranging from elementary to higher ed. How does this affect your approach to building content and programs for so many audiences?
We try to think about the world as learners first and foremost, so holding tight to that notion of exploring concepts and phenomena helps keep our work centered on a core that can apply to all audiences and settings in different ways. We also mirror aspects of this approach in our technology development. For example, when creating new simulation technology, we tend to create general purpose engines for simulating whole aspects of a domain (e.g., molecular motion, ecosystem dynamics, motion of fluids, and thermal energy). Doing this means that we can create open-ended, accurate, virtual representations of phenomena deliberately geared toward exploring and learning STEM concepts.

Because these simulation engines are so flexible, we can easily use them in different ways depending upon the scenario—in one case, we may develop sequenced classroom lessons around a set of simulations, whereas in other cases, we may develop a game or even a museum exhibit powered by the same underlying simulation engine. Keeping the science at the center in this way ensures that all of these uses are meaningful ways of engaging with the topic. We’re even finding that this approach, together with today’s ubiquitously available technologies, permits us to explore how learning can bridge across settings. We’re creating experiences that allow learners to encounter the same concept in a museum exhibit, back at home and again at school, each time in a manner appropriate to each setting, so that each encounter extends and builds on the learning from the last.

How did The Concord Consortium’s path happen to cross with FableVision’s?
We have been lucky enough to have Penny Noyce on our board of directors through the years. As part of her work with the Noyce Foundation seven to eight years ago, she ran across FableVision and suggested that we might find some kindred spirits there with complementary talents. As usual, she was very right! Now, Penny is writing and publishing great science-related fiction stories for kids through her company Tumblehome Learning. I guess she has always had a nose for sniffing out the intersection between science learning and great storytelling.

What has your experience been like working with FableVision on Geniverse and GeniConnect? 
It’s been an absolute blast! These projects have been close to my heart, because they grew out of the work that brought me to Concord in the first place. And they’re just so much fun—who couldn’t love developing games and simulations in which students breed dragons to learn genetics? The work itself draws on a long heritage carrying across from Paul Horwitz’s early educational technology work decades ago, so it builds on a wealth of know-how and research. But the work with FableVision has brought it to an entirely new level, making it a beautiful, engaging world while retaining its scientific accuracy and kids-as-active-scientists ethos.

And as Penny suggested we would, we found ourselves striking common chords with FableVision’s people and approach from the very first moments. The working relationship has been excellent at all times—I think this is because both companies focus so much on having great people who deeply love what they do. We’ve also discovered lots of “inner geeks” around FableVision’s halls as we’ve worked together. I like to think we’ve been responsible for coaxing them out into the open! (I have it on good authority that more than one FableVision developer has clocked late hours at home unexpectedly hooked on trying to crack our dragon genetics puzzles!)

 What are you currently working on that you’re excited about?
What am I not excited about? There’s just so much cool stuff we’re doing right now. We’re working on projects that will pass virtual thunderstorms straight through middle school classrooms, with students "taking data” and building meteorological computational models to issue forecasts and predict where the storms will go. We’re creating new modeling and simulation engines to allow students to explore plate tectonics and geophysical processes in a hands-on way. We’re applying intelligent tutoring and machine learning techniques to provide real-time feedback to students and teachers as they go through games and curricula or as they engineer 3D houses and design solar panel arrays. We’re using infrared cameras that “see” heat energy to transform the chemistry classroom experience. We’re giving students from all over their first maker experiences by allowing them to quickly design and construct moving mechanisms out of paper and cardboard and then control them electronically. And I probably just missed a dozen others… 

What has your own experience in the classroom and laboratory taught you about the importance of STEM education for the modern learner?
In my years as a middle school and high school physics teacher, I learned the importance of letting students grapple with ideas for themselves and engage in "productive struggle” to learn through inquiry. As a physicist by training, I have also personally seen the benefit of figuring out solutions through persistence. I’ve found that people with STEM backgrounds often have a worldview influenced by these types of experiences, and I’ve seen it show in the way they approach the world. Experiences that derive things from first principles, either mathematically or logically, convey a sort of secret power that transfers to many applications far beyond science. In today’s world, where problems are messy and complex and so many solutions need to be discovered for the first time, this perspective is crucial. For both work and basic citizenship, I believe the practices of STEM learning are more and more becoming the practices we need for modern life!

The Concord logo carved with Chad's  Shapeoko desktop computerized router.

Word around town is that you’re a big maker! What is the importance of the Maker movement for STEM education?
It’s clear that the Maker movement is mirroring huge changes in society. It’s amazing—new and affordable fabrication technologies, open software, idea exchanges on the Internet, and streamlined supply and manufacturing chains have come together to really change the entire game. The transformation from raw idea to actual sophisticated, working thing has never been more accessible to so many people. Though this is a very exciting change societally, finding the meaningful place for it in STEM education has been a bit more elusive. I view these days as analogous to the Heathkit days of computing—it was clear that something big was afoot as early computers began to arrive onto the scene, but the path from that point to future educational applications was still shrouded in the fog. Many of our early jumps reflect this unsurety today; there is a ton of positive energy around makerspaces, and the hobbyist tools I play with in my spare time and with my kids are incredible, and still I sometimes don’t know how to make the solid connection to STEM education.

I do think that some things are clear, though. I’ve definitely come to believe that today’s children need to grow up with the notion that anything you can imagine can be created. I know that they need to understand that computers and electronic devices should be thought of as modular building blocks that exist to be bent to their will, as a medium for their ideas. I believe that this notion will become an important aspect of what "computational thinking” means in the future. And I believe that engineering is in many ways redefining itself in real time in front of our eyes.

Listened to any good podcasts / read any good books lately?
Great question—how much space do we have?

There are always the true classics: Radiolab and 99% Invisible are absolute must-listens for anyone and everyone. Newcomers like Startup and Serial have really upped the game. The irreverence of entries such as Reply All, the first season of Surprisingly Awesome and the gem that was Mystery Show is really refreshing.

And then there has been the whole crop of political podcasts that have become essential listening for us as Americans: Slate’s classic Political Gabfest and the New York Times’ The Daily are as important as the newspaper, and Politico’s Nerdcast is a close companion. 

For dessert, all the fun ones: future tech views from Flash Forward and Futuropolis, new ideas from Tell Me Something I Don’t Know or TED Radio Hour, or erudite dives into language with Lexicon Valley are all great as well.

What are five places that you’ve traveled to that you’re most likely to recommend? 
Hmm… I guess the best way to characterize travel is through those unforgettable moments tied to places on the globe. A few everyone should have on their bucket list:

  • Traveling by dugout canoe up a river in rural Malaysia to view the secret colonies of synchronized blinking fireflies
  • Participating in an all-night new year’s ceremony by bonfire in a Lisu hill tribe village on the border of Thailand and Burma
  • Soaking in the view from the top of a mountain in Montana's Absaroka-Beartooth range
  • Climbing Budapest’s hills at night to identify the buildings stringing along the banks of the Danube below
  • Wandering down pretty much any back street in Paris, stopping to gaze in a patisserie window on every corner

And I’ll hopefully have another one soon—in a few weeks I’m heading to Dubai to be part of the first-ever set of educational technology demos at GESF, the “Davos of Education.” I hear Dubai is more like visiting another planet than another country, so I’m excited to see what it’s like.

 

Chad Dorsey is President and CEO of The Concord Consortium. Chad's professional experience ranges across the fields of science, education, and technology. Prior to joining The Concord Consortium, Chad led teacher professional development workshops as a member of the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance. There, he developed technology-embedded assessments, analyzed Web-based phenomena and representations for an online library, and co-authored an NSTA Press book of science formative assessment probes. Chad has also taught science in classrooms from middle schools through college and has guided educational reform efforts at the district-wide and whole-school levels. While earning his B.A. in physics at St. Olaf College and his M.A. in physics at the University of Oregon, Chad conducted experimental fluid mechanics research, built software models of Antarctic ice streams, and dragged a radar sled by hand across South Cascade Glacier. Learn more about The Concord Consortium and the work they do on their website.

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Digital Learning Day: Five Game-Based Learning Tools for Success Through Play

As the education technology world continues to evolve, exciting new products and services are emerging to strengthen and create unique learning experiences for leaners of all ages. Digital Learning Day was established in 2012 to spotlight the many different facets, tools, and applications that support and empower teachers and students. It applauds educators who are getting creative with their digital resources to open up a whole new world of discovery. In honor of Digital Learning Day, we’re sharing some game-based learning tools we’ve developed with a few of our partners.

We’ve been in the educational media industry for over 20 years. Throughout this journey, we’ve held on to our belief in the power of learning through play. This roundup of resources offers a look at immersive play in diverse content areas including history, civic engagement and reading, logic, financial literacy, leadership, resiliency, and social emotional skill building. Players learn and develop skills as they play exciting roles of daring explorer, investigative journalist, and even a wily con artist.

We’d love to hear and learn from you! Share how you’re implementing game-based learning tools in the comments below.


Zoombinis, TERC
Make me a pizza! Through Zoombinis, players learn important life skills including algebraic thinking, data analysis, and theory formulation in a fun and engaging setting. With 12 puzzles and four levels of increasing difficulty in each, players are constantly challenged, improving their problem-solving skills as they advance through the game. Play the revamped classic game you know and love!


Con ‘Em If You Can, Commonwealth
Con 'Em If You Can is a fun, interactive strategy game developed to help players learn how to spot and avoid investment fraud. The game turns the tables and players are cast into the role of fraudster, learning key techniques – phantom riches, reciprocity, scarcity, social consensus, and source credibility – to scam the residents of Shady Acres and thwart the Fraud Fighting Agency!


Operation: REACH, Boys & Girls Club of America
Players set sail on the SS Chelonia to rescue crewmates stranded along a mysterious island archipelago. Aboard the ship, players work with the Captain to navigate and mediate interpersonal conflicts among the crew that threaten the success of the mission. Only with communication, resiliency, collaboration, and empathy will they be able to gain the strength and knowledge to face the final mystery of the Fog, and return safely home. Players gain social emotional learning skills by utilizing tools to keep their stress and anxiety at bay.


Read to Lead, Classroom, Inc.
After the Storm and Community in Crisis places middle schoolers in the fictional city of Port Douglas – a community devastated by a hurricane. By leading the daily news website and running the community center, students assume a leadership role in the community and pick up literacy skills along the way. The literacy learning games in the Read to Lead series promote vocabulary, multi-media production and editing, and work place readiness through real world simulations.


Ripped Apart: A Civil War Mystery, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History
Ever wondered what it’s like to work at the Smithsonian? With the sudden and curious departure of her last intern, Museum Curator Isabella Wagner needs help solving a mystery dating back to the Civil War. Ripped Apart invites players to immerse themselves in the 19th century by exploring the photographs and belongings of mysterious characters from America’s past as an intern at the museum. The app aims to improve the understanding of American history, while helping players get a feel for the critical thinking skills, analysis, and tools museum curators use to study and classify historical objects and artifacts.

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