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SimCityEDU: Gaming in the Classroom

GlassLab
GlassLab

I've been playing the new SimCity game for months. But starting today, kids in classrooms can play SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge!, a version of the game in which middle school students work through scenarios as the mayor of a simulated city. Here's a short video showing kids who beta tested the game:

Pollution Challenge! features six "missions," each of which focuses on a goal, but requires different kinds of problem-solving to complete. (And each of the challenges can be solved in multiple ways, so it's possible to approach the problem from many angles.) Several of the missions focus on reading as a crucial activity, so this is not just about play—it's about problem-solving in different modes. Although, yes, there's a pretty rad video game component too!

Students playtest the game. Image courtesy of GlassLab.

Pollution Challenge! is the first in a series of SimCityEDU games. The games are built to cover educational standards so teachers can fit them into a variety of classroom scenarios. I asked Jessica Lindl, General Manager at GlassLab, to explain how Pollution Challenge! differs from the SimCity game I've been playing. Here's her answer:

"SimCityEDU is customized for learning and assessment purposes, based on the new SimCity released in March of 2013. Thanks to the generous donation from Electronic Arts, we have modified the game into a series of missions that engage learners to solve real world problems. While learners solve these problems, game play data is gathered in our assessment engine and provides real-time estimates of student learning back to their teacher and parent.

"SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge! acts as a powerful teaching tool for educators, integrating learning and assessment aligned to Next Generation Science and Common Core Standards in the same experience. Designed for middle school students, the game encourages students to think critically about the challenges facing modern cities and the world around them. In the game, students play the role of mayor, addressing issues of environmental impact in a virtual city while maintaining employment levels and citizen happiness.

"The suite of SimCityEDU tools includes teacher and student dashboards with easy-to-understand, standards-based reporting, as well as lesson plans to support use in the classroom. Teachers also have access to an online community where they can create, share and browse lesson plans and instructional ideas that are designed to address Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards."

Screenshot from SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge! Image courtesy of GlassLab.

I also asked about educational goals—why use a game to teach students? Lindl responded:

"We want to take the fun and excitement of SimCity to change the outdated practice of testing. Our hope is to close the "engagement gap" in today's classrooms while providing real-time estimates of student learning to teachers and parents.

"Let me explain. Most classrooms haven't changed in the last 100 years, while outside of the classroom kids are learning in dramatically different ways—hence the engagement gap. We wanted to create something that was just as fun and exciting as what they were doing outside of the classroom—imagine kids leaping out of their desks when they get to "take a test" with SimCity, that's exactly what happened in our beta tests. At the same time, we wanted to dramatically improve the transparency of student learning. Today, kids take tests and get the results months later—oftentimes being shoved into a drawer at home. We want test results to be immediate, we also want to reveal a much deeper understanding of student learning. Our games provide thousands of learning activities on each learner—not just a multi-item test bank that shows only a limited view of learning.

"Based on the feedback from our beta where thousands of kids and teachers played the game across the country, we learned kids were incredibly engaged—teachers felt like a whole new conversation was happening around the learning because of student engagement and transparency of learning data."

If you're a classroom teacher, homeschool teacher, or parent, you can buy the game and integrate it into your curriculum. For more on the game, check out SimCityEDU.org and be sure to read this PDF explaining the missions, plus details on which standards are covered. There's also a community site with lesson plans, FAQs, webinars, and ways to interact with other people using SimCityEDU. Another useful resource is Matthew Farber's blog post about using SimCityEDU with his sixth grade class.

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The 25 Toughest Colleges to Get Into in 2018
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As many students from the class of 2018 look forward to college, the next year's seniors are gearing up for the application process. The school and neighborhood analysis tool Niche has broken down which universities are the most competitive in 2018.

To compile the list below, Niche pulled data from the U.S. Department of Education on college acceptance rates and the SAT/ACT test scores of enrollees. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Harvard University, one of the oldest and most prestigious colleges in the U.S., ranked No.1 with an acceptance rate of 5 percent and an SAT range of 1430 to 1600 points. Right below that is California's Stanford University, also with an acceptance rate of 5 percent and a slightly lower SAT range of 1380 to 1580. Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the California Institute of Technology round out the top five.

America's best schools don't always come with the highest tuition. According to Niche, the average cost to attend Harvard after financial aid is $16,205 per year. The most expensive school on the list is Harvey Mudd in California in 14th place with a net price of $35,460.

Check out the full list below.

1. Harvard University // Cambridge, Massachusetts
2. Stanford University // Stanford, California
3. Yale University // New Haven, Connecticut
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology // Cambridge, Massachusetts
5. California Institute of Technology // Pasadena, California
6. Princeton University // Princeton, New Jersey
7. University of Chicago // Chicago
8. Columbia University // New York
9. Vanderbilt University // Nashville, Tennessee
10. Brown University // Providence, Rhode Island
11. University of Pennsylvania // Philadelphia
12. Duke University // Durham, North Carolina
13. Dartmouth College // Hanover, New Hampshire
14. Harvey Mudd College // Claremont, California
15. Pomona College // Claremont, California
16. Northwestern University // Evanston, Illinois
17. Rice University // Houston, Texas
18. Johns Hopkins University // Baltimore, Maryland
19. Swarthmore College // Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
20. Claremont McKenna College // Claremont, California
21. Washington University in St. Louis // St. Louis, Missouri
22. Cornell University // Ithaca, New York
23. Amherst College // Amherst, Massachusetts
24. Bowdoin College // Brunswick, Maine
25. Tufts University // Medford, Massachusetts

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The 25 Most In-Demand Job Skills Right Now, According to LinkedIn
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Looking for a new job? Depending on what line of work you’re in, you may want to brush up on your technical skills—or learn some new ones. LinkedIn recently released a list of the 25 most desirable skills for 2018, and it’s clear that many employers are on the lookout for people with experience in computing, web development, and software and data engineering.

LinkedIn analyzed data from its member base of more than 500 million people to determine which skills are most needed by employers, according to Business Insider. The thousands of individual skills that can be found across member profiles were grouped into overarching categories (iOS, for instance, would go under the mobile development umbrella). Next, LinkedIn analyzed hiring and recruiting activity during an eight-month span and “identified the skill categories that belonged to members who were more likely to start a new role within a company and receive interest from companies.”

Here’s the full list:

1. Cloud and Distributed Computing
2. Statistical Analysis and Data Mining
3. Middleware and Integration Software
4. Web Architecture and Development Framework
5. User Interface Design
6. Software Revision Control Systems
7. Data Presentation
8. SEO/SEM Marketing
9. Mobile Development
10. Network and Information Security
11. Marketing Campaign Management
12. Data Engineering and Data Warehousing
13. Storage Systems and Management
14. Electronic and Electrical Engineering
15. Algorithm Design
16. Perl, Python, and Ruby
17. Shell Scripting Languages
18. Mac, Linux, and Unix Systems
19. Java Development
20. Business Intelligence
21. Software QA and User Testing
22. Virtualization
23. Automotive Services, Parts and Design
24. Economics
25. Database Management and Software

Many of these skills can be learned from the comfort of your home via online classes that are available on platforms like Udemy, Coursera, edX, and Lynda. While it couldn’t hurt to know these hard skills, 57 percent of business leaders surveyed by LinkedIn said soft skills are even more important. Those tend to be more universal across careers, with leadership, communication, collaboration, and time management being identified as the most crucial soft skills to have in 2018.

If you’re ready to start learning a new skill but don’t know where to start, check out this list of 25 ways to learn a new skill quickly.

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