Zulama takes on Boston!


Thanks to the Boston-based Ed-Tech startup accelerator Learn Launch (LearnLaunch.org) for organizing a great event a couple of weeks ago!

Teachers and administrators looking for innovative, new educational products came out to “kick the tires.” Zulama made lots of new friends, and we received very useful feedback about our program. Mostly, the adults all wished Zulama was around when THEY were in school. These days, who doesn’t want to learn how to make mobile apps, 3D art, or video games?!

So, Zulama may soon be coming to a school near you—in the Boston area!


Zulama in Action at Elizabeth Forward School District

Elizabeth Forward dedicates its new tech center

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Eric Slagle is a McKeesport Daily News staff writer and can be reached at 412-664-9161 or via e-mail.

Elizabeth Forward High School students got game.

No, this isn’t a story about sports.

The reference here is to competition in the abstract, and all contests involving luck, skill and strategy.

Students in the school’s newly developed Entertainment Technology Academy are learning all about games this year from the historical and design perspectives in preparation for classes they’ll take later that involve design and construction of computer video games.

On Monday, the district unveiled a newly designed classroom for the academy paid for with a $10,000 grant from The Grable Foundation. The learning space features lots of vivid colors and sharp angular patterns on the walls and ceiling, cushioned bench seating, roller chairs, a decorative work table, pop art and two flat screen TVs on the walls.

In short, it looks nothing like the old drop ceiling, desk-furnished computer lab that once occupied the classroom.

Students in the program told district stakeholders at the open house that they found the classroom inspiring.

“There’s no end to what we can think of in there,” said Wesley McVicker, who is one of 30 students enrolled in the program.

The district introduced the program this year after learning in the fall that it had received the Grable grant.

The introductory course, Gaming through the Ages, began in January as preparation for additional classes to be offered next year in video game programming, digital storytelling and digital art.

Math teacher Mary Wilson and English teacher Heather Hibner are instructors for the course. The two say the curriculum brings right-brain and left-brain learners together.

“I’ve watched non-traditional students excel,” Wilson said. “They’re now looking at games from a new perspective.”

Junior Lily Hunt said the course appealed to her because she is interested in art. She’s looking forward to learning more about 3-D art programs next year.

“I think it’s going to help me get into those kinds of courses in college,” she said.

Freshman Aaron Rotharmel said he has plans to study game design when he goes to college, too. He said there is a lot to know when it comes to designing a game.

“Before you actually come up with it,” he said, “you need some inspiration.”

For now, a lot of the inspiration is coming from games based on classic designs. Students have created two-dimensional boards based on recreational games from ancient Rome and Egypt.

Superintendent Bart Rocco said the district turned to the program as a way of keeping students interested in school.

“We had to look beyond the walls,” said Rocco, “and think about learning in a different way.”

Students all say there was a rush for the guidance office when the program was announced.

Hunt said she knew she’d found a good fit at the onset of the course when “they gave us this iPad and said, (tilde)OK, you’re going to do something new.'”

District assistant superintendent Todd Keruskin said the district has to be inventive if it wants to keep students engaged in learning in a high-tech world.

He noted that a forthcoming high school library renovation program, also funded by The Grable Foundation through a $160,000 grant, will develop a media center within the library that includes a video and audio production studio.

District officials thanked many at Monday’s event, including Gregg Behr from The Grable Foundation, the architectural firm JC Pierce LLC, which donated design services for the technology room, and the Entertainment Technology Academy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Others who were thanked for supporting the program were the district’s maintenance staff, which did the work on the classroom; the school board; Zulama; OnHand Schools; Ford Business Machines; Schell Games; Idea Foundry; Sprout Fund; and Pennsylvania Coach Lines.

Read more: Elizabeth Forward dedicates its new tech center – Pittsburgh Tribune-Reviewhttp://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/dailynewsmckeesport/s_788527.html#ixzz1sxuf1Stk

Prepare now for future tech job skills?!

This is a great infographic, yet success doesn’t happen by simply getting technology into the classrooms, but also by making sure it is being used well. Some learning still takes place best in an analog fashion. But for the learning that is best served using digital means, then yes, everyone should have access!

Of course, Zulama’s success depends on students and teachers having digital access to each other and the greatest content around (ours). So we support getting more devices into the hands of the users. Including mobile devices. My question raised by the infographic is—yes, maybe we’re doing a terrible job so far, but how/where/when, and by whom, is the state of technology in our K-12 schools going to change? Is that really what the Digital Promise will provide?


One of my roles is to serve on the planning committee for TRETC (Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference), which is now in its 14th year of existence.  TRETC has always been focused on educators sharing with other educators, and has a great, hands-on lineup already started this year. Karen Cator, the Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, is our keynote speaker! Diana Rhoten, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Startl and Andy Russell, Launchpad Toys is speaking at the pre-conference.

TRETC is a prime opportunity for educators to shine and lead by example by sharing with fellow educators from the southwestern PA region.  This is a way for teachers to:

  1. take your message to people outside your district, and
  2. try out your presentation before you do it at PETE&C or ISTE.

Educators on the leading edge may think their topic is kind of “old news,” but are usually surprised by how many folks in the audience are hearing it for the first time.

Educators: Submit your presentation proposal here! Click on Presentations in the upper-right corner.

TRETC has an expanded format this year, with a full-day of pre-conference workshops offered (mainly) by vendors.  At the conclusion of the pre-conference, there will be a vendor reception to unwind and socialize with fellow attendees.

BONUS to being a presenter: FREE registration – you can show your district how you just saved them some money!

Check out the agenda here!

—Nikki Navta, President, Zulama