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The Future is Now: Vote to Send FableVision to SXSW EDU 2020

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For years, SXSW has been a strong creative institution attracting the most innovative ideas in media and beyond. This year marks the tenth anniversary of SXSW EDU, a subsidiary of the conference focusing on the improvement and development of teaching and learning practices nationwide. SXSW EDU invites some of the brightest minds in education to propose presentations, panels, workshops, and more for the conference through its unique system, SXSW PanelPicker. Community members vote for their favorite proposals on the PanelPicker website, directly influencing the conference’s lineup. 

This year, FableVision is teaming up with MIT Education Arcade, MIT Playful Journey Lab, and Filament Games to propose a panel on game-based learning and assessment, featuring experts in design and development for educational technology. Now we need your help to bring our session  “The Future is Now: Games as Assessment” to SXSW EDU 2020!!

Voting began last week and continues through August 23. Use your voice to vote to bring us to Austin!

Voting Process

  1. Make An Account: Sign up on SXSW PanelPicker 

  2. Browse the Submissions

  3. Cast Your Vote: Community Voting is from August 5-23

The Future is Now: Games as Assessment

Looking to develop your skills in educational game design? Join us to learn how industry experts create games that focus on future-facing skills and promote strategies for meaningful learning that are transferable to the real world. We’ll take a look at five unique games developed by FableVision Studios, MIT Education Arcade, and Filament Games and examine best practices for accountable assessment and skill-building. Click here to read more about our session.

Speakers

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  • Peter Stidwill, Executive Producer at FableVision Studios. Since studying at Cambridge University, Stidwill has had over 15 successful years managing the design and development of educational games/projects for some of the most prominent names in the industry. He has taken the lead on several award-winning productions for the BBC, Learning Games Network, and more and presented at numerous events on educational technology and gaming. At FableVision, Stidwill leads the company’s production efforts, working hard to manage and execute multiple projects with a consistent level of quality, care, and attention to detail.

  • Louisa Rosenheck, Associate Director of MIT Playful Journey Lab and researcher of educational technology at MIT Education Arcade. Rosenheck has expertise in developing learning games for a diverse audience, including under-resourced communities and international learners.

  • Dan White, CEO of Filament Games. Filament Games has completed over 160 education-focused projects. White has extensive experience creating games for learning.

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August FableFriday: Michael Fogarasi, Producer

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“I was drawn to FableVision because of its emphasis on mission-based projects” says Michael Fogarasi, FableVision Producer. “This coupled with working with creative and technical teams here at the studio brings a uniqueness to what might otherwise be a traditional project management role.” As producer, Michael manages not only his own schedule, but those of his team members. He also keeps track of task lists, reviews, and other items to ensure the projects he produces are running efficiently and delivering high quality content.

Michael is also no stranger to stepping up when it comes to a new project. As evidenced by his transition from Associate Producer to Producer and his role as Production Internship Coordinator, Michael not only understands the production process, but is also passionate about guiding and mentoring FableVision interns so that they can understand and become familiar with it.

Although every project is different, Michael welcomes every unique challenge and works hard to keep the team on track to deliver a project that meets both the client’s mission and the studio’s goals. And since we work with like-minded organizations to move the world to a better place, his managing of our teams is seen and felt by staff and partners alike. Let’s jump in and learn more about his process for approaching new projects, what he looks for in a production intern, and where he’s headed on his next vacation!

How did you come to be at FableVision?
I started college around the time when educational technology websites and apps like Quizlet and Duolingo were first coming out. Once I tried them, I was immediately hooked—they not only became an integral part of my learning experience, but also sparked a passion for educational technology. Pursuing this passion, I ended up as an intern in MIT’s video production department, where I helped film and edit courses for MIT OpenCourseWare. Then, a good friend of mine and former FableVision associate producer Katie Tusch, let me know the team was hiring for the associate producer position, and I jumped at the chance.

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You have to balance a lot of schedules when producing projects. What does a day in your life look like? And how do you keep your team(s) on track?
My day starts and ends with a variety of productivity tools and schedules. Every morning, I’ll check in on FableVision’s weekly schedule and my own schedules for each of my respective projects. I’ll then make sure that each person on my team knows what they have ahead of them that day—sometimes that’s through project stand-ups, Slack check-ins, or I’ll just head over to their desk. 

For projects that are earlier in the process, we tend to meet fairly frequently, so I’ll gather the team for brainstorming sessions or production meetings to start the problem-solving process. I’ll also frequently meet with clients to present what we’ve been working on, making sure that we capture their feedback.   

All of this information ends up getting organized on my personal Trello board. Anything that comes my way gets immediately noted and categorized—I rely upon it heavily! I probably run through my to-do list 10-20 times a day to determine the next steps that need to be taken. Then, I’ll do one final swoop at the end of the day to ensure we’ve hit all of our deliverables, while also previewing the next day—just to make sure there are no surprises! 

What is your process for approaching a new project, and what advice do you have for new producers starting their first project?
The beginning of a project is an exciting time—it can go a million different ways and it’s the producer’s job to help find its footing. Beyond setting up all the organizational infrastructure, my advice would be to become intimately familiar with the client’s goals and wishes for the project. I like using the project kickoff to explore the client’s background and reasons for coming to FableVision. Those early conversations can set the tone for the entire project—if you’re able to keep these discussions in mind, you can make sure that every decision is made in the project’s best interest. 

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What’s the biggest difference in producing animation and game projects?
Animation and games are quite different in the way they are experienced—animation conveys its information to curious viewers, while games need to get their message across through a series of interactions. 

In animation projects, I like to think of the storyboard as the end-product of the ‘plan’ phase. Once the script has been written and the storyboard drawn—both major feats on their own—our team has a pretty good sense of whether the piece is engaging or conveys the intended message. If we’re happy with the piece at this stage, we can be very confident that we’ll similarly be happy with the final piece—and so it just becomes a matter of executing on the storyboard, which requires tracking all the assets to be created, scenes to be animated, and audio to be recorded. 

Meanwhile, an interactive project’s ‘plan’ is typically a game design document, which describes all the interactions a user may encounter throughout the experience. Ultimately, the design process requires careful testing and tweaking of the document’s mechanics over the course of the development cycle to ensure that we create something fun that simultaneously gets the content across. Because of that, our team needs to act much more quickly—constantly meeting, reviewing game builds, and discussing potential improvements—while also figuring out which assets need to be tracked and created. It’s a process that keeps you on your toes!

You’ve produced some pretty large projects during your time here. Can you tell us a little more about one in very recent memory, Project Here Games? What went into getting that project to the finish line?
Project Here Games was a really fun and challenging project to work on. The project was commissioned by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) as part of their Massachusetts-state-wide Project Here initiative to combat substance use through social emotional learning and healthy decision making. As you can imagine, that’s a pretty hefty task to fit into an engaging website for middle schoolers—but none too big for the project’s creative masterminds, Leigh Hallisey (creative director/writer) and Loren Lee-Flynn (user experience designer). Our team devised a series of quizzes and games, which were designed to model real-world situations and reward healthy decision-making. Combined with a really fun art style from our art team, Keith Zulawnik and Christina Kelly, the website was an instant hit. And collaborating with associate producer, Mikaela Johnson, and really dedicated teams at the AGO, Human Resources in Action, and GE, allowed us  to wrap up the project smoothly and successfully. 

You also project managed The Paper Girls Show! What’s your favorite thing about that animated series?
The series Paper Girls Show depicts two friends, Caily and Reese, who are both totally enamored with STEM and use it to solve all sorts of creative challenges. The show aims to break down gender stereotypes around STEM subjects and empower more girls to join those fields. It was inspiring to work with a team of people who were passionate about the mission. This created a fast-paced, creative environment that was amazing to be a part of—we could barely keep up with all the backgrounds, characters, and designs our art team was producing. And at the end of our first season, it was exciting to receive validation for our hard work once we took home animation awards at Cannes, Palm Springs, and KidsScreen!

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You’re also the coordinator for the studio production internship. How do you work with the interns to insure they’re getting the most out of their time here, and what do you look for in a production intern?
At the beginning of a student’s internship, we meet to determine what sorts of projects they are interested in and subsequently pair them with a few. While assigned to a project, the interns become part of the team, helping out in a variety of capacities. When I was an intern at various companies, I didn’t always get a sense of the company’s bigger picture beyond the project I was assigned to, so I also started a series of weekly meetings with our interns, in which studio members discuss their roles and backgrounds. Through these meetings, the interns are able to see how all the different pieces of the FableVision puzzle fit together. 

Regarding prospective candidates, I’m most interested in whether they have demonstrated a real interest in either children’s media or educational technology. We’re looking for students who are really passionate about the field and made efforts to contribute to or learn about it. 

What are your favorite ways to unwind after work?
I really enjoy running, biking, or cooking when I get home in the evenings. I don’t have a car in MA, so I’ve been able to get out and explore the area by biking deep into the suburbs and countryside. I also love trying out and perfecting new recipes, particularly with unique ingredients or new flavors I haven’t experienced before. 

You’ve lived in and travelled to a lot of countries. How have your travels influenced you, and what’s your next vacation destination?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a foreign service family, which meant moving to a new country every three to four years. It’s hard not to love travel with that kind of background. So since I moved back to the US about 10 years ago, I’ve been trying to get out as much as possible. I love seeing unique places (especially city skylines), trying new foods, and⁠—though I’m a bit of an introvert⁠—meeting new people. 

In terms of next destinations, one of my good friends is moving to Argentina for a few months and I’m hoping to get down there in the fall. It will be my first South American destination, but I’m hoping to travel throughout the continent at some point. 

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More about Michael:

Current show you’re binge-watching: Anything from Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel.

Favorite game: Mario Kart Double Dash.

Any podcast recs? It’s not the cheeriest rec, but I’ve been listening to Slate’s Slow Burn about Bill Clinton’s impeachment. I’ve been trying to revisit political events from my childhood and this fits in perfectly. 

Go-to dish to bring to a potluck: Homemade hummus or a dip with too much garlic.

Favorite book you’ve read recently: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou.

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Libraries Got Game: Empowering Communities Through Education and Play

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Libraries and librarians have a powerful impact. They offer a welcoming and accessible space for the community to explore their passions and be creative. As longtime supporters of libraries and their roles in their communities, FableVision was proud to co-host the Libraries, Games, and Play Conference alongside American University and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. We’re also grateful to all the conference organizers, including Bob Hone, Lindsay Grace, and J Collins, who were the lead conference organizers of the event.  

The conference took place in April in Washington D.C. and welcomed attendees from the library and educational gaming fields. We heard from librarians, educators, and more about how library resources helped further the goals of their students, as well as their own goals in technology and game design. 

The day was filled with amazing speakers who spoke about the unique ways in which libraries have touched their lives as educators and their students’ lives. 

Throughout the day, FableVision and the Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning, and Creativity showcased Fab@School Maker Studio, which introduces students to 2D and 3D printing and modeling. This tool allows students to get more comfortable with digital design and fabrication tools. FableVision Studios also shared some recent projects such as CyberChase Fractions Quest, which engages students in fraction learning, and Project Here Games, which promotes substance use prevention and healthy decision making skills.. 

To close out the conference, FableVision and Reynolds Center CEO  Paul Reynolds discussed the ways that libraries shape the minds of future generations, as well as how they encourage creativity and play. He also touched on his personal experiences and how teachers and libraries have inspired and motivated him throughout his life.

With the inaugural Libraries, Games, and Play Conference behind us, the studio created a series of case studies that highlight four speakers at the conference—Lindsay Grace, Erin Walter-Lerman, Juan Rivera, and Kenneth Nero—and each of their unique connections to libraries and games. Each speaker was deliberately chosen  to showcase different perspectives and connections to gameplay and game design in libraries. The vignettes bring attention to the mission and importance of the conference.

First, our team created scripts for the case studies based on what the speakers discussed in their respective talks. The illustrations for each case study were presented in a slideshow style with key figures emphasized through strategic zooms. Audio was recorded to go along with each case study, voiced either by the speaker or an approved voice actor.    

These spotlights show how libraries can provide a space for exploration and accessibility, and they effectively illustrate the important roles these centers have in communities. All four of the case studies are now available on the Libraries, Games, and Play Conference website. You can watch the vignettes here!

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July FableFriday: Julie Dobrow, Professor at Eliot- Pearson Children's School at Tufts University

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Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with Julie Dobrow, Senior Lecturer in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development and Tisch College Senior Fellow for Media and Civic Engagement at Tufts University. As an experienced scholar of child development and children’s media, Julie offers an experienced and unique perspective on creativity, imagination, and reconnecting with your inner child for those interested in entering the children’s media field.

“You need to be willing to keep learning, because the field and the platforms are always changing. I also think that the best producers of children’s media are the people who can connect with their inner child,” says Julie. “You need to remember what it FELT like to sit under that hedge and imagine that it was the portal to a whole different world. You need to close your eyes and SEE all kinds of fantastical things. You need to HEAR joyful music. And you need to DREAM in color, not black and white.”

As an attentive and supportive educator, Julie has even led many of her students to our studio for internships, and a few of them even staying as FableVision staff! A longtime FableVision friend, Julie talked with us about her history with children’s media, her latest projects, and her best advice for up-and-coming children’s media professionals.

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You are part of the Eliot Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University, the oldest Child Studies program in the nation. What is your role there and what do you enjoy most about it?
Ever since I’ve been at Tufts—and I’ve been at Tufts a LONG time, since 1995!—I’ve taught at Eliot-Pearson. At first, it was just one class on children and mass media. Since then, however, I’ve added a graduate seminar on the topic and introduced a new course a couple of years ago on creating children’s media. I have always loved teaching, but teaching in this area of study, which changes every year (if not every week!) is both challenging and fun because it means I have to keep learning too.

What first made you realize you were interested in children’s media, and how did you get your start?
I actually wrote my Master’s thesis on images of gender and race in children’s animated television. Then, I didn’t do anything with the topic for a while. But when I became a mom, I started renewing my interest because I saw in my own little home laboratory just how much and in how many different ways media impacted kids’ lives. That led me to explore the area more in my teaching, research, and writing.

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Can you tell us some more about the Children’s TV Project (CTV)? How did the idea for this project come about and what reflections do you have as you near the end of your research?
This project was actually born when the original Disney version of The Lion King first came out. My colleague, Chip Gidney, and I had each seen the film and were both kind of horrified by the ways in which the evil characters were marked by dialects. We looked at each other and said, “we should do something about this.” So we started designing a way to systematically explore the depictions of gender, race, and ethnicity in kids’ animated programming.

I’d have to say that after all of these years of working on this, I still feel like there’s more we need to understand. We’re pretty clear on the fact that stereotypes still exist and, in fact, exist way more than we would have thought they would given how hyper-PC so many people in the entertainment industry often appear to be. What we’re not as clear on is just why they do. And we’re just at the beginning of the last part of the project, arguably the most important part: doing research with children to understand how they think about and process the images that they take in.

Considering the observations that inspired CTV, what is something that writers, producers, and consumers of new children’s media should think about? 
One thing is that it’s not only how characters are drawn that matters; it’s also how they sound and the context they exist in. You can draw a very diverse set of characters, but just plopping them into some generic urban or suburban background isn’t enough to make a richly contextualized environment that mirrors the environments in which real people live.

Many of your students have worked or interned at places like WGBH, Sesame Workshop, and of course FableVision! What have you enjoyed the most about watching your students branch out into the world? 
I love matching my students up with internship sites, including FableVision. There are few things more rewarding than making a good match! Internships are an incredibly important way for students to see how they can parlay what they’re learning in the classroom into industry jobs. They make great contacts, and then they’re very willing to “give back.” So, by now, I feel like I have a whole little army of former students who are working at Sesame Workshop, Nick Jr., WGBH, Fablevision, Fox Kids, Google, Sprout, and a host of other places. They know how the combination of child development and media studies can really help get you started in this industry, and they’re always willing to help a fellow “Jumbo” with a conversation, a contact, and often, a job.

How did you first cross paths with FableVision? What makes it a place that you recommend to your students when they’re looking for internships?
It actually might have been one of my former students who tipped me off to some of the incredible work that’s going on at FableVision. I’ve had enough students who’ve interned and worked there by now to know that FableVision is a place where magic happens. I also know that it’s a warm, encouraging, and creative workplace. And how many internships or job sites actually have popcorn machines?!

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We heard you’re currently on a book tourcongratulations! What is your book about and what do you hope readers will gain from it?
After Emily is a mother/daughter biography of Mabel Loomis Todd and Millicent Todd Bingham, the two relatively unknown women who made Emily Dickinson into a household name. I hope that my book will introduce these two fascinating women who pushed the envelope on what women of their respective eras did to readers. I also hope that it will speak to everyone who themselves have had a complicated relationship with family members, and that it will shed some new light on the story of the ever-mysterious reclusive poet of Amherst.

We heard you recently ran into Marc Brown, author of the Arthur series, at one of your book events. How did it feel to officially meet the creator of such an iconic program? 
Well, Marc and I have been in touch for many years, since I helped Tufts to acquire some of Marc’s old Arthur materials when he was moving out of his home on the Vineyard. But we’d never met in person until he showed up at an event I did on my book tour in New York. It was wonderful to meet him, and I wish there had been more time!


More about Julie:

Favorite flavor of ice cream? Coffee.

What’s a children’s book you still love to read? The Phantom of Walkaway Hill.

Best way to spend a Saturday? Puttering around in my gardens.

What’s your favorite city to visit? I’m not much of a city girl. I like visiting New York and Los Angeles, but I sure wouldn’t want to live there.

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FableVision’s Cross-Country Tour

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Summer is here, so you know what that means: sun, fun, and our annual Summer Road Trip! We’re excited to hit the road once again to visit conferences and summits across the country. We’re sure to meet amazing people and take part in the important conversations happening in education, media, and technology. Follow along with our travels on Twitter, and if you find yourself at any of our stops, come say hi!


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Back in the Bay Area

We’re heading off to sunny California from June 10-12 to hear from some of the brightest minds in educational technology at the SIIA Conference. With keynote panels focusing on diversity and inclusivity in educational services, this conference is sure to be a deep dive into the future of edtech in the United States as well as internationally! Catch our colleagues from the Reynolds Center from Teaching, Learning, and Creativity in the Cisco booth presenting the FabMaker Studio STEAM program to create practical, affordable makerspaces using paper, cardstock, and inexpensive digital fabricators (details TBA!).

Building Your Internal Capacity Without Hiring: Working with Service Providers
What:
Panel of experienced providers in conversation about company growth and making the most of your workforce. Featuring FableVision Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Product Solutions Shelby Marshall.
When: June 12, 2019 at 10:15 a.m.


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Taking a Byte of the Big Apple!

Next up: New York! Join FableVision’s Communications Director Sarah Ditkoff, Executive Producer Peter Stidwill, and President and Co-founder Gary Goldberger at the Games for Change Festival, where attendees will hear from designers, developers, and others who are making games for social good. Along with Learning Games Network’s Shannon Frederick Meneses, Peter will speak about FableVision’s game, Quandary, which was awarded Game of the Year at the 2013 Games for Change Festival. We’re looking forward to convening with people leading meaningful changes in gaming through immersive media and applied principles in civics and game-based learning.

Life After “Game of the Year”: Sharing Six Years of Learning
When: June 18, 2019 at 11:45 a.m.
Where: Parsons School of Design at The New School, 63 Fifth Ave, NYC


Exciting Edtech in Philadelphia

Join FableVision’s Sarah Ditkoff and Shelby Marshall in Philadelphia for the International Society for Technology in Education Conference. This conference highlights visual, cultural, and digital literacy. We can’t wait to meet teachers, business leaders, and others spearheading the movement for inclusive, accessible education technology (and perhaps pick up a tasty cheesesteak in the meantime)!

When: June 23-26, 2019
Where: Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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FabMaker Crew: Paper Prototyping for STEAM-powered learning

FableVision’s Paul Reynolds and Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning, and Creativity’s Andrea Calvin will showcase FableVision’s Fab@School Maker Studio at two workshops hosted in the CISCO Active Learning Space. Discover how schools, libraries, and programs around the country have used the FabMaker Studio STEAM program to create practical, affordable makerspaces using paper, cardstock, and inexpensive digital fabricators. During this hands-on session participants will experience the benefits of rapid paper prototyping, which allows for quick cycles of testing and iterative design enhancements.

When: June 24 from 3-3:45 p.m., June 25 from 11-11:45 a.m.
Where: Breakout Room 106AB


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Making Moves in Maine!

Ever wondered about how animation can revolutionize learning? Join FableVision’s Jane Reynolds and Dr. Denine Jimmerson at the Side x Side Summer Arts Institute in Portland, where they will explore just that! Take part in a comprehensive workshop focused on introducing important animation techniques and starting a conversation about using animation as a platform for every lesson imaginable.

What: “Using Animation as an Innovative Tool for Teaching and Learning” Workshop
When: June 24-25, 2019
Where: Portland, Maine


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Seriously Smiling in Montreal

We’re heading to the University of Quebec for the 2019 Serious Play Montreal Conference, highlighting the biggest achievements in serious games. We’re so excited to hear from developers, designers, and more who are leading the way in educational gaming and immersive learning. FableVision and our partners are accepting two Serious Play Awards for our games Lights, Camera, Budget! and Project Here Games

Silver Award Winner: Lights, Camera, Budget!, Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) and the Georgia Council on Economic Education (GCEE)
Lights, Camera, Budget! puts high school students in the shoes of a Hollywood movie producer in order to enhance their knowledge about personal finance, money management, and budgeting. In partnership with GPB and GCEE, FableVision created this game to reflect real life lessons in economics and help to increase students’ financial literacy.

Bronze Award Winner: Project Here Games, The Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts, Health Resources in Action, and the GE Foundation
Project Here Games is part of a state-wide initiative to promote substance use prevention and healthy decision making among middle school students. Working with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and Health Resources in Action, FableVision created this series of games that provide an interactive landscape in which students can develop socioemotional skills to handle situations involving substances and peer pressure, as well as stress management.

When: July 10-12, 2019
Where: University of Quebec, Montreal, Canada