We all want to give our students the best chance at an enjoyable fulfilling career, and at Zulama, that’s what we’re doing!  Through our Entertainment Technology Academy, we are infusing our students with the 21st century skills they need to compete in today’s workforce.  That’s why our program is built on the qualities of STEAM, rather than STEM. Science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics play a critical role in all our courses. They work together to teach our students collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking skills.  Take a look at the infographic below developed by The University of Florida comparing STEM and STEAM.



Digital Literacy on a Global Level Through Games

Digital Literacy on a Global Level Through Games

Bev Vaillancourt, M.Ed, Educator, Instructional Designer

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has established six comprehensive technology standards for 21st Century students. These include

  • Creativity and innovation
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Research and informational fluency
  • Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making
  • Digital literacy
  • Technology operations and concepts

My travels to work with teachers at Manav Rachna International School _ Sector 46 in Gurgaon, India, underscored the global interconnectivity defined by these technology standards. During training, teachers accessed Zulama’s Learning Content Management System and navigated through its many components. Soon their students will be doing the same. The joy of playing games, understanding the value of learning game design, gaining proficiency in digital literacy, and managing content delivered online are coming together at three MRIS schools in Gurgaon thanks to a joint initiative between MRIS, Zulama, and iCarnegie Global Learning. It was a joy to work with these very dedicated and skilled teachers during my all-too-short stay in Gurgaon.

Manav Rachna International School (MRIS) Sector 46, Gurgaon, India

Manav Rachna International School (MRIS) Sector 46, Gurgaon, India

The ISTE standards noted above are a corollary to the skills identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and critical knowledge in order for students to benefit from the advantages offered by the global learning network. My work with the inspiring teachers at MRIS also highlighted the universal language of games. What better way to achieve the advantages identified by the ISTE standards and 21st Century Skills, and connect students globally, than through participation in game design curriculums?

With a focus on collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity, students proficient in 21st century skills take ownership of and accountability for their learning. Importantly, curriculums, such as Zulama’s, produce students who are highly engaged and able to work with others in any subject area and within new and challenging learning environments. Layer that with the software skills needed to manage 3D design, or the computer programming skills necessary to produce digital games, and the opportunity to share creative expression on a global level occurs with the ease of keystrokes.

No matter where games are played, the experience carries with it a sense of optimism, challenge, and the desire to learn from mistakes in order to improve one’s strategy and game play. Individuals enter game play on a voluntary basis, share commonly understood and agreed upon rules, and desire the same goal of successfully completing the game. Games are universally viewed as enjoyable experiences. A well-designed game brings to the player an experience that balances risk and reward, offers advancement in skill, and presents a fair opportunity for success. Games reflect the critical thinking required to do well in math, science, social studies, and the fine arts.

MRIS teachers participating in Zulama training in preparation for teaching the Evolution of Games

MRIS teachers participating in Zulama training in preparation for teaching the Evolution of Games

When students design games, they are looking to challenge the player and bring to the moment the desire on the players’ part to play again. For some game designers, this is as simple as designing a new card or board game for friends. For others, the advanced technology skills needed to design computer-based games are not only an intellectual offering, but also an open door to the ever-expanding game industry.

Today, the game industry offers students with project management, art, marketing, and computer programming skills an amazing array of employment and advanced study opportunities fostered by a global video game market that at present eclipses the film industry. According to a 2012 CNN Money article, video game design is among the top six “cutting-edge” jobs in the United States. With a predicted and impressive ten-year job growth hovering around 32 percent, it’s no wonder students of all ages are looking to gain entry into the digital game market.

While working with the teachers from Manav Rachna International School, we talked about how mutually beneficial it would be to have students from India taking the Evolution of Games course communicate with students in the United States taking the same course. Students separated by thousands of miles would be able to share their gaming experiences with games from ancient times, such as Ur and Senet, and share their game design ideas. This global communication and collaboration based on games and game design could foster a global understanding of cultural diversity and deepen an understanding of heritage – all through the unlimited advantages that come with standards tied to technology and through expression of 21st Century skills. Embracing diversity though global connections made possible by the study of the Evolution of Games. What an awe-inspiring possibility!

Maximizing My District’s Technology Resources

Maximizing My District’s Technology Resources

Eric Griffith, Director of Information Technology

Mechanicsburg Exempted Village School Districtfb56e2d894eacdc1f8da8b90148047d3

My name is Eric Griffith and I have over twelve years in the professional educational technology field.  I am celebrating my fourth year as the Director of Information Technology at Mechanicsburg Exempted Village School District.  Over the past four years I have maximized my district’s technology resources and could not have done it without these key points:

Previous Experience

When I first started her at Mechanicsburg, I was fortunate enough to have my predecessor still teaching in the building and able to provide support and insight on technology related issues.  Paul Aukerman was the district’s Technology Coordinator for 14 years and wanted to spend his remaining years back in the classroom he missed.  He was literally a flight of stairs away if I needed anything and always kept me positive.  Today he volunteers his time one day a week to keep me on task and knock out the dirty jobs on my to do list.  I have tried to work with students during the school year in the past but found that more often than not I spend my time managing them verses my projects. I have had greater success with graduated seniors wanting to do a summer internship, and I am happy to pay it forward being that is how I started my career in technology.

I also rely on the kindness of . . . vendors, their recommendations of the right technology for the job, educational professional networking, and willingness to earn my business have helped myself and the district create a clear vision for the future.  Without collaboration and plain old elbow grease from others I would not have been able to create and install a district wide wireless solution, migrate the district to Google Apps for Education, create a technology replacement cycle for all devices, provide technology based professional development, deploy several Google Chromebook carts or create a community technology recycling program.  By listening to and relying on others with “previous experience” I was opening myself and the district to new ideas without completely abandoning “how it was done in the past.”

Remotely Reducing My Support Time

I live an hour away from Mechanicsburg so, it wasn’t always the easiest thing to hop in the car and fix an issue.  I needed an effective solution that worked for me and didn’t involve a cot and sleeping bag in my server room.  The solution for me is called LogMeIn and it is a remote management tool that allows me, or anyone I approve, to remote into any server or PC in the district.  This application was a lifesaver and is something I use on a daily basis; it may sound lazy but even if the teacher is in classroom right down the hall they can pick up the phone and talk to me while I remote right on in.  This allows them to see how I resolved the issue, as well as minimized the distraction of me walking into their classroom.  The ten seconds it takes me to log in is faster than if I actually walked down the hall, keyed into the classroom and asked the teacher to move so I can sit at their cramped desk.  Some staff didn’t take to this concept so well and I do still make “house calls,” but when you are primarily an army of one you need to use the most efficient tools you can get to get the job done.

As a positive side effect to the concept of remote management with LogMeIn, some staff members remote into their school desktops from home or wherever to continue to work.  Google Apps for Education has started to reduce that number by allowing their documents to be online, but it is still pretty exciting to hear a teacher retell their story of how they spent the day home with a sick kid and routinely remoted into their school desktop and check in on their sub.  I am slowly turning my teachers into the same level of nerd I am without them knowing it.

The Right Tool For The Job

I previously mentioned our use of Google Apps for Education and LogMeIn, but my other favorite tool is VMWare.  This allows me to replace my existing aging Dell desktops, some of which recently celebrated the 13th birthday, with a sub $250 10Zig Zero Client.  Not only do these devices consume 1/20 of the power a standard Dell desktop, but they use the same image of the computer, meaning I don’t have to update Java, QuickTime, Windows Updates, Flash, etc. individually on each computer, I simply do it once on the master machine and then VMWare takes care of cloning it out to the other hundreds of clients for me.  By 2016 I will have no more aging Dell desktops to support, just 400 or so 10Zig Zero Clients.  This experience has truly been like having an assistant that doesn’t sleep.

The next big project for the district is our 1:1 Chromebook Initiative.  Staff and students in grades six and seven will be issued a Dell Chromebook for both classroom and home use.  This is also another perfect example of the right tool for the job.  The device is cost effective, updates itself, has a 10 hour battery, can’t get viruses and does 90% of what the teacher needs it to do in class. Some teachers still will have issues getting their content to work on a Chromebook, which is why I stated “90% of what the teacher needs it to do in the classroom.”   This will change as more and more online resources adapt to support the latest and greatest devices and our teaching staff discover and share new resources over our summer professional development.

Administrative Backing

Our migration to Google Apps for Education would never have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for administrative support.  90% of all data created today at Mechanicsburg is done so with Google Apps, from email, to scheduling, to meeting notes, to presentations, we are yet another success story.  Having an Administrator successfully model a new technology allows the staff to build confidence in the solution.  Having an all in one solution and workflow has tremendously aided in collaboration between buildings, staff and students.  In fact recently I overheard two staff members complaining about how they had to interact with another school by emailing a document back and forth to edit it, and it only added to my previous comment of slowly turning everyone into nerds like me.

Ligonier Valley High School will enrich tech curriculum by starting Zulama pilot in January

Welcome Ligonier Valley!

ligonier valley high school logo

We’re so excited to welcome Ligonier Valley High School to the growing list of schools using Zulama’s Entertainment Technology Academy! Ligonier Valley is one of four confirmed schools starting a pilot in January. We’re thrilled to be working with more districts to help improve their technology curriculums.

Below Ligonier Valley High School Principal, Tim Kantor, and Superintendent, Chris Oldham, talk about how they will integrate Zulama’s courses into their school.

If you would like more information about our current schools or our Entertainment Technology Academy program you can contact us at

Higher-tech curriculum wins approval at Ligonier Valley

By Nicole Chynoweth
Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Additional tech-savvy curriculum is coming to Ligonier Valley High School.

At its meeting on Monday, the school board approved “Zulama: Games Through the Ages” to pilot in the advanced emerging technology class next semester.

The course, developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, teaches computer programming and computer science through games from various time periods, such as ancient Egypt, according to high school Principal Tim Kantor.

Upperclassmen enrolled in the advanced emerging technology class will be the first to try out the course, which Kantor said is “project-based learning.” Next year, Kantor hopes to offer it to ninth-grade students.

The curriculum has upper level, semester-long courses that build upon the skills taught in the previous course. A series of skills courses allows students to explore several technology areas, such as three-dimensional design, mobile application development and game design, Kantor said. The next course gives students the chance to produce their own projects in a sort of “studio” setting, and the final course allows students to complete projects for real-world entities, such as a mobile application for a local business.

Superintendent Chris Oldham said the board will receive information about the skill courses in February or March for consideration, and the production studio course will be considered in the following school year.

The cost of “Zulama: Games Through the Ages,” which will total $4,300 at most, will be paid through the school’s Richard King Mellon Foundation technology grant.

Read more:

Innovation in the Library (and elsewhere)

If you haven’t been paying attention to the changes at a “regular” but innovative district in southwestern PA, it’s time to check out Elizabeth Forward. It’s a small-ish rural district whose administration couldn’t believe the impact that dropouts and charter and cyber schools were having on their bottom line.

They decided to REALLY make some changes to ENGAGE their students. To give them even more reasons to come to school every day. And it’s working.

An old, dingy computer lab was renovated into a colorful, welcoming place to hang out and geek out.

Their library was also transformed into a modern media space.

The teaching staff was offered a chance to create their very own Entertainment Technology Academy. They are using Zulama’s Game Academy courses, as well as providing other engaging game-based learning opportunities.

Some recent press:

Library Transformation