FableVision Kicks Off National Women’s History Month Celebration! 

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Naomi: that was Rosie the Riveter’s name. Back in January of this year, Naomi Parker Fraley, the real-life model for the feminist icon Rosie the Riveter, died at the age of 96. Naomi was one of the many young women who proudly stepped up to help her community and country by working in a factory during World War II. As Rosie, Naomi was immortalized as a symbol of women’s strength and dedication, and in March of every year, we have the exciting opportunity to honor that strength by celebrating National Women’s History Month together.

The push for the creation of celebrating National Women’s History Month in March was driven by the National Women’s History Project, an activist group dedicated to the noble mission of “writing women back into history.” They saw success in 1987, when Congress first designated March as National Women’s History Month. Every year since, March has been dedicated to honoring and celebrating the many achievements of American women and their contributions to our rich national history.

Each year, the National Women’s History Project chooses a theme for the history month. This year, they have chosen to honor the courageous women from all walks of life who have worked to dismantle cultural, structural, and legal discrimination by naming this month Nevertheless She Persisted: Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

As a team dedicated to moving the world to a better place, FableVision is celebrating Women’s History Month by spotlighting passionate, powerful women who have helped change our world and our history for the better. We’ve asked each of the creative and driven FableLadies to tell us about the “she-ro” they most admire, and the result is a diverse group of inspiring ladies that we’re so excited to share with you.

Our campaign honoring and spotlighting influential women in our lives is dedicated to both Naomi and Rosie, who have inspired generations of women and girls since World War II . As we read about Women’s History Month and the history of Rosie the Riveter, we realize: there were multiple Rosies and we are all Rosie. The spirit of Rosie and Naomi lives on in all of us.  


Sarah Ditkoff (Communication's Director): Amelia Earhart
Amelia embodies so many things that I strive to embody: feminist, adventurer, entrepreneurially spirited, fearless, creative. She mentored, wrote, advocated, and broke countless barriers. She worked as a newspaper columnist, fashion designer, social worker, sales rep, English teacher, and nurse’s aid. She played the banjo and took an auto mechanics class. Ultimately, I have always viewed her as a woman who worked her butt off and didn’t take the word “no” too seriously. She is the epitome of every person’s path being her own -- there is no one way to success.

Leigh Hallisey (Creative Director): Tina Fey
Tina Fey is my Bae. I especially loved watching her on 30 Rock as Liz Lemon, the head writer of the TGIF show dealing with a “boy’s club” in the writing room and a super alpha male boss. She was the first female head writer on SNL, and while 30 Rock reflected some of that experience, my guess is in reality it was a lot uglier. I’m thankful that she bravely broke down some of those barriers with humor that is sharp and funny in universally human, not just female, ways. Today we are seeing more women creators in TV and film, which is really our best hope of seeing ourselves represented on screen in diverse, complex, and empowering ways. I love that Tina Fey makes being smart a good thing, not something to hide, and appreciate her honesty about the difficulties of being a working mom.  She elevates and celebrates female friendships, on screen and in real life—-I’m hard pressed to find women my age who don’t aspire to have a “Tina and Amy” friendship in their lives.

Sam Bissonnette (Producer): Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes has been one of my professional idols since college. Whether or not you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy (*raises hand*) or Scandal, you can’t deny the impact she’s had on the television industry. She was one of the first showrunners and creators in primetime drama that made racial diversity and diverse stories a priority (however idealized they may be). And because of that, she made the path clearer for more creators of color and women in a white, male-dominated industry. On top of that, she uses her influence to empower those who work for her, like actress Ellen Pompeo. She is a creative genius who never takes off her white hat, as well as an independent introvert who’s always challenging herself, personally and professionally.

Christina Kelly  (Production Designer): Rebecca Sugar
My She-Ro of choice is Rebecca Sugar, creator of the animated tv show Steven Universe! I find that the people and women that inspire me most are the ones that are an emblem of what is achievable that used to feel out of reach in their career. Female creators in the animation world are still rare, even though the majority of students graduating with an animation degree still continues to be a vast majority of women. She gives me a lot of hope that not only can women have more of a place in the animation world, but that they can create a beloved universe that gathers fans all over the world and inspires future young female storytellers.

Hannah O'Neal (Artist & Animator): Boudica
One of my heroes is a woman from ancient Britain known as Boudica. I’ve always had a tremendous interest in ancient Celtic/Gaul/ “pagan” tribes and culture. I’ve always thought of it as a way to culturally go as far back as I could within my own heritage. Of the other ancient legends and historical figures of the age most, if not all, are men. But not Boudica. She was a warrior queen of the Iceni tribe in eastern England. After an awful encounter with the Roman occupation, Boudica decided to lead her people in revolt and to throw the Romans out of Britain around 60AD. And she almost succeeded! It is so inspiring to hear of this account of a Celtic woman, bringing tribes of people together, being as smart, ruthless, and strong as any military leader of the day! She was standing against the might of the Roman Empire, THE patriarchy….it’s an amazing story of human and female strength.

Mitul Daiyan (Communications Strategist): Andrea Davis Pinkney
When I first stepped foot on my career journey, I was fortunate enough to turn to Andrea as my mentor and support. She helped pave the way to my entry into Scholastic and provided mentorship and advice that I still stand by. She is powerful and mighty, packaged into a small frame. Her voice emanates both authority and kindness. I look up to her for being a trailblazer in the kidlit industry, a down to earth human being, and an all-around female powerhouse.

Mikaela Johnson (Associate Producer): Amy Poehler
She’s a hilarious actress, brilliant writer and inspiring philanthropist whose organization, Smart Girls, tells girls, “change the world by being yourself.” Plus, Leslie Knope is my favorite tv character of all time.

Loren Lee-Flynn (UX/UI Designer): Mary Roach
Popular science writer/reporter Mary Roach’s books tackle the science surrounding a wide range of subjects (death, space exploration, the military) in a relatable, humorous, and informative way. She chooses subjects for books based on her own curiosity and is known for conducting exhaustive research.

Here's a quote: "Make no mistake, good science writing is medicine. It is a cure for ignorance and fallacy. Good science writing peels away the blindness, generates wonder, and brings the open palm to the forehead: 'Oh! Now I get it!'"

Margarita Dekoli (Senior Developer): Megan Smith
Megan Smith, former United States Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in the Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Obama administration and the first woman to hold this position.

Megan Smith, former Vice President at Google, was the first woman to be named United States Chief Technology Officer, under the Obama administration. Nowadays, Smith is traveling the country as leader of the Tech Jobs Tour, which aims to both welcome individuals from diverse backgrounds into the often-exclusive, male-dominated world of tech, and to engage in conversations about the role technology will play in our future.

Andrea Calvin (Vice President of FableVision Learning): Sally Goodrich
There are two women in my life that have shaped the woman I am today - Sally Goodrich is one of those women. My path intersected with Sally in 2006-ish because of a documentary my then boyfriend, now husband was working on. Don and Sally Goodrich lost their son in the attacks on 9/11. The documentary was chronicling their building of a girls school in Afghanistan and the support of Afghan students to study in the U.S. During the filming of the doc, I had a chance to spend weekends, Thanksgivings, and just moments with Sally. Her strength, compassion, and drive empowered me through the hardest time of my adult life thus far. She was a woman who truly worked to do good when it all seemed impossible.    

Allie Caton (Marketing Intern): Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe fully embodies what it means to use art for a greater purpose. Through her music, she created an intricately built world full of androids, clones, time-travelling rebels, and killer beats. Wrapped up into her three albums is a sci-fi story of oppression, romance, and liberation that insights vibrant visuals despite being just (insanely dance-worthy) music. Her albums are so much more than just one bop after another; the story that she tells is a reflection of the real life experiences of marginalized people. Her musical novel has taught me so much about experiences outside my own, especially those of people of color. Her tireless dedication to her story and the values that her musical novel embodies is endlessly inspiring. On top of all this, she rocks a tux like no one I've ever seen before.

Claire Nataro (Marketing Intern): Tobin Heath
Growing up with an older brother, I watched a lot of sports as a child. Although I enjoyed the (many) hours I spent watching hockey and baseball with him, I never really idolized the teams or players in the same way he did – until I discovered the US National Women’s Soccer team when I was in high school. I was thrilled to explore a whole new world of sports, one with talented and strong female athletes that I could connect with and look up to in way I never could with my brother’s favorite players on the men’s teams. For my she-ro this month I chose Tobin Heath, a midfielder for the USWNT and my favorite player in the world of women’s soccer. Heath serves as a representative of my love and respect for this team of women, and my belief in their power to spark conversations about gender equality and inspire girls and women to break down gender barriers both on and off the field.

This post was written by Claire Nataro. Illustrations provided by Allie Caton.



March FableFriday: James Collins, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Government Relations

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There is a common thread spanning across James Collins’ personal and professional life: storytelling. Hailing from the U.S. Department of Education, and the Smithsonian Institution before that, James is on the frontline of education innovation. With a constant eye towards improvement, James has made it his mission to tell the stories that so often go untold. His belief that storytelling can both inspire imagination and minimize digital inequity is the foundation upon which he forges new relationships and partnerships in his role as Director of Strategic Partnerships and Government Relations at FableVision Studios.

According to James, “People have a habit of repeating the same stories over and over again. Familiar stories are comforting, but education asks us to look more broadly at the world. Where are the stories of those who do not have a voice? The underserved school districts in rural states and on tribal lands, the non-profits working to protect vulnerable populations, the scientists and think tanks trying to turn their research into a call to action… These stories can be easy to forget, but it is vital that they are shared. I would love to work with anyone who feels that their story is not being told.”

Roll the dice and draw a card to learn about how James is building a home for FableVision in Washington D.C., his goals to push the boundaries of storytelling in his new role, and his tabletop game recs!

James, tell us about your journey to FableVision!
When I was a kid, I played a lot of DOOM. My mother (an engineer) bought me my first computer science book and challenged me to do something more than just shoot demons. I learned how to hack the game and realized that I had more fun building, exploring, and coding than I did shooting. My path since then has focused on finding ways to change the narrative. We learn from every game that we play – why not learn something beautiful? We tell stories every day – why not tell ones that inspire?

I knew that I wanted to work with a team that understood that.

 James and the team at the U.S. Department of Education participating in the #ReadWhereYouAre campaign.

James and the team at the U.S. Department of Education participating in the #ReadWhereYouAre campaign.

You talk a lot about stories. How has your love of stories shaped your professional path?
When I worked at the Smithsonian, we devoted a huge amount of resources to telling the stories of physical objects. Curators, exhibits, special events. The digitization crew there was just starting to really convert some of those physical objects into digital ones. But what do you do with those? How do you tell the story of a digital rock?

For me, the answer was clear. Museums put objects into context. A rock in a glass container is interesting just as a rock. A rock in a prehistoric forest with dinosaurs grazing nearby tells a more meaningful story. With technology, we are not bound by physical limitations. We can hang a painting on a digital wall in a digital museum, but we can just as easily show Picasso hiding that painting from the Gestapo as he lives in 1940s Paris. Which is going to fire the imagination more? Which is going to help us better understand our role in history and the importance of art in times of darkness? How does the approach change the connection we have with objects?

I took some of that same perspective with me to the Department of Education where we wrote vision documents including the National Education Technology Plan and a joint policy brief on using education technology for early learners. Each focuses on positive stories and principles being used out in the field today. We even hosted a story map telling the stories of all of the amazing work that schools are doing across the United States.

Our world revolves around stories. Stories that matter, stories that move.

 Image by Darren Milligan licensed under CC-BY-NC 2.0

Image by Darren Milligan licensed under CC-BY-NC 2.0

You worked in education technology for the U.S. Department of Education and the Smithsonian prior to joining the FableVision team – how were they different?
I worked as a liaison across all of the offices at the Department. At one point, I was leading our work on early learning, informal learning, and broadband/school infrastructure. Those can look unrelated from the outside, but what you begin finding is how interconnected education is. For example: what about a preschool that partners with a museum to create new learning experiences for their students? That’s an amazing partnership for a preschool near a museum, but what about those that are in rural areas without a strong museum presence? Improving broadband infrastructure could provide a similar experience to those disadvantaged students.

At the Smithsonian, we would ask the same question: how can the children of Maryland, Michigan, and Montana all have a meaningful experience with the Smithsonian’s collections? It shouldn’t matter whether you were born in Baltimore, Detroit, or Billings.

Even though we asked similar questions, we would approach them in different ways. At the Smithsonian, we would partner with outstanding youth organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of America, 4-H, or the Girl Scouts to reach children where they already were. At the Department, we would find ways for those organizations and others to work together to advance equity in education more broadly.

I am looking forward to working with more of those partners now that I am here at FableVision, and I am thrilled to be associated with FableVision’s studio so that we can build the tools, experiences, and stories that we have been dreaming up.

 James pictured here with the Office of Ed Tech and Education Secretary John King

James pictured here with the Office of Ed Tech and Education Secretary John King

Where do you see the future of ed tech going?
Full disclosure: My research background is in machine learning, so I am biased toward data, data, data.

If I had to guess, I would say that a significant seachange will be when highly individualized technologies like blockchain and broad state-wide data systems begin working together. At that point, you will be able to capture a full picture of a learner’s trajectory.

As former Education Secretary John King once said to me, data can reveal inequity. I believe that using and capturing data smartly (and with adequate privacy safeguards!) will show us the path to removing institutional barriers to education.

As a father, you have a front row seat to observing how media can influence children’s education – what are some ways you incorporate ed tech in your personal life?
The important part isn’t the technology, it’s being present in the moment. We love walking through the forest when it’s muddy, looking for squirrels and birds. We love trying to dance ballet while we watch Swan Lake on our tablet. And we love making troll pizza in Zoombinis too!

Whatever the format, we look for experiences that we can share together.

This March, you’re taking wing at SXSW EDU! What’s warranting this exciting trip?
Two years ago, I led a roundtable at SXSW EDU on game-based assessment. We had an amazing group of educators, students, corporations, non-profits, and others join us. That conversation showed me how valuable SXSW EDU and other conferences can be at bringing together people who don’t normally get an opportunity to collaborate. I am looking forward to meeting even more new people and finding ways to connect more of this wide-ranging community together.

I have to give a special shout-out to The Tribe of educators that will be out there too. Being able to meet up with so many expert teachers using games in the classroom is always energizing.

James’ Favorites:

 The "Tribe" of Game-Based Educators

The "Tribe" of Game-Based Educators

Classic Tabletop Game: Diplomacy
Released in 1959, this light WWI simulation was Kissinger and Kennedy’s favorite game. It’s completely luck-free (a rarity for war games), and it even has a Youngstown, Ohio variant (my hometown)!

New-Cool Game: Gloomhaven
I’m on the bandwagon on this one. Gloomhaven is 20 lbs. of epic, strategy-based dungeon crawling.

Museum in the D.C. area: The Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building
A&I was the first national museum ever opened – and has just been reopened with an eye toward innovative, tech-infused programming. I’m so excited to see what living, breathing exhibits they share with the world.

Most recommended D.C. restaurant: The Board Room
How could I not recommend Dupont Circle’s only board game bar?

Fantastical world you wish you could vacation in: Stardew Valley
I hear they have really good produce.

Must-listen video game soundtrack: Chrono Cross
But an honorable mention to the underappreciated Baten Kaitos OST.

Item that’s always within reach of your desk: A ready to play copy of Quarto!
See how I snuck in another tabletop reference?

Catch James Collins and the Rest of the FableVision Team at
SXSW EDU 2018! 


Join FableVision’s Peter Stidwill and Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Andrew MacCartney and Laura Evans as they discuss the intricacies and production process behind the award-winning Georgia Race Through Time game at SXSW EDU!

Immersive Learning: Teaching History Through GBL
When: March 5 at 12:30 p.m.
Where: Room 17B, Austin Convention Center



In “Gasha Go!,” Numbers Just Make More Sense

For many kids, math can be a daunting subject. And many teachers agree: without fun, engaging tools to teach math, early learners—particularly students in Kindergarten to third grade—will struggle to understand the basic foundational concepts, leading to greater struggle grasping complicated theories down the road.

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This is precisely the problem that caught the attention of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Vice President of Education and Digital Media, Andrew MacCartney and Director of Education, Laura Evans. Georgia educators expressed concern about their students struggling with the essential concept of “number sense”—the understanding of what numbers are and how they relate to one another. Their solution? Teaming up with FableVision Studios to create GASHA GO!, a colorful, engaging, and curriculum-based math game world!

GASHA GO! is the first in an expandable series of educational games and animation all set in a vibrant, cute, character-filled arcade. GASHA GO! features Mash, the mustachioed foreman, and his friends who need your help solving math problems to refill the toy capsules inside the gashapon machine.. The different modes of play let students use numbers in different contexts, such as word problems and counting. FableVision also created an original animated song arranged by Junior Joe about number sense and numeracy featuring the same lovable characters from GASHA GO! The video can be played separately or in tandem with the game.

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Feedback and user-testing were essential in building this game. Two K-3 math teachers consulted as GPB’s experts, and provided insight on how these standards are taught in the classroom—and how they felt technology could be used to convey the lessons. Georgia first and second graders voted on their favorite character designs and suggested names. While we couldn’t accept all suggestions (sorry, “Chicken Master” and “Mr. Taco”), getting feedback from the students ensured we made something they would enjoy playing.

With characters so cute, they had to play an instrumental role in the hit song, Numbers: They Make Sense!To help both parents and children get a high-level view of number sense and help round out the toy world, FableVision cooked up a short, catchy animated music video and song that was bound to be on repeat in your head! Written by in-house FableVision lyricist and Creative Director, Leigh Hallisey, the words and images in the music video demonstrated the many places you might find numbers, and the different ways the same number might look. By embedding this content into an energetic, fun music video filled with cute, dancing characters, math that was once daunting and confusing became colorful and engaging.

The rest of the arcade is currently under construction, getting ready for more games to join the universe. But in the meantime, leave your flashcards at home. Grab your tokens and tickets instead!

For More On Immersive Learning,
Join GPB and FableVision at SXSW EDU! 

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Join FableVision’s Peter Stidwill and Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Andrew MacCartney and Laura Evans as they discuss the intricacies and production process behind the award-winning Georgia Race Through Time game at SXSW EDU!

What: Immersive Learning: Teaching History Through GBL
When: March 5 at 12:30 p.m.
Where: Room 17B, Austin Convention Center



FableVision and Big Picture Learning Launch Animated Film Series to Raise the Positive Profile Around Vocational Education and Career Opportunities


In an effort to raise the positive profile around vocational education and career opportunities, Big Picture Learning (BPL) and FableVision—both long-time champions of progressive, creative approaches to education—are collaborating to produce a series of short, animated films to help students, educators, and caregivers understand and appreciate successful career paths that extend beyond the four-year college experience. Navigating Our Way is the first film project in BPL’s initiatives (including the Harbor Freight Fellows Initiative), aimed at providing new forms of apprenticeship and mentoring for youths exploring career pathways in trades and crafts.


Navigating Our Way follows the story of best friends Seymour and Sylvie, who grow up near the busy shipyards of New Orleans and share a similar set of lofty dreams which include building, ships, and the harbor itself. Following their high school graduation, Seymour parts ways with Sylvie to go to college. Sylvie surprises Seymour by rejecting her many college acceptance invitations in favor of apprenticing and learning from her family’s shipyard workshop. Eventually, fate brings the two back together with an opportunity that requires both of their unique and important skills, and one that affirms that their different choices and journeys were equally valid.   

Navigating Our Way, produced by FableVision Studios, is narrated by award-winning film and television actor and New Orleans native Wendell Pierce. The film was written by Elliot Washor (Big Picture Learning) and Paul Reynolds (FableVision), with character design by New York Times best-selling picture book author Peter H. Reynolds. The film’s original music score was composed by New Orleans native and BPL student, Brian Richburg Jr., in collaboration with composer Tony Lechner.  

Along with tackling the stigma around the trades, Big Picture Learning co-founder Elliot Washor hopes this film will work to evolve society’s understanding of learning as a solely cognitive activity.  “We are forgetting how to work with our hands, and how to create things.” says Washor. “You can’t talk about human intelligence without also talking about hands. Our nation’s CTE (Career Technical Education) programs need a creative rethink to offer a blend of head-heart-hands learning.” Of course, shifting social-cultural perceptions around the trades  is an enormous challenge. That’s why the BPL and FableVision teams are leveraging the power of narrative storytelling to foster attitudinal change.

“We hope, over time, our work with Big Picture Learning will help shift the perception and value of all learning paths, including trades and highly skilled vocational and technical careers,” FableVision Co-founder and CEO Paul Reynolds shares, adding, “Navigating Our Way marks the launch of a national initiative, and will be followed by many other tools, including films, books, and educational resources that will help communities across the U.S. advocate and implement best-in-class CTE education and fill the trade pipeline with creative, talented, and passionate contributors.”  

Big Picture Learning is heading to Austin, Texas to take the annual SXSW EDU conference by storm. Click  on the images for more information about their upcoming sessions and be sure to add them to your schedule! 



Our Favorite Words Inspired by Peter H. Reynolds’ “The Word Collector”

“Hover,” “treasure,” and “whisper” are just a few of the many words that expert word-collector Jerome has gathered and stored away in award-winning author/illustrator and FableVision co-founder Peter H. Reynolds’ latest story, The Word Collector.

It’s not until his words get lost and scattered that he begins to recognize that the hundreds of syllables he has collected are only pieces of a much larger puzzle. He realizes that words can be strung together to create meaning much greater than they have on their own. He uses this revelation to create poetry and songs that delight all who listen, encourage, and motivate people all around him, and even show affection for his furry friends. He begins to fill in the lines of his own story with healing words, loving words, and uplifting words.

Words are the greatest bridge-builders—they transcend race, religion, age, gender, sexuality, ability, and distance. Whether it’s braille on the page of a novel, a good morning text message, or a story harmonized to music, the power and versatility that words hold is the common thread. Through words we are able to connect with each other, with icons of the past, with characters on a screen, and even with our own feelings. They are the tools through which we build the story of our life.

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On Scholastic’s site you can flex your creative muscles by tinkering with words and phrases through interactive activities that get you mixing and meddling with words just like Jerome. You can become your own master wordsmith by making a collage out of Jerome’s many words over the backdrop of the whimsical illustrations from the book.

When you get a group of storytellers together in one room, there is going to be all kinds of words flying back and forth. The image that just popped into your head is what the FableVision office looks like. Following in the footsteps of Jerome, we decided to collect some of our own favorite words together!

Watch the FableVision-produced trailer for The Word Collector here and get a copy for yourself and all the other word collectors in your life!