November 17, 2017

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What a Minecraft Server for Kids with Autism Teaches Us About Haters and Allies

Originally posted at the Connected Camps blog.


One of my Internet heroes is Stuart Duncan, founder of Autcraft, a Minecraft server for kids with autism and their families. After blogging about autism for many years, Duncan started Autcraft in response to what he had heard from his community about autistic kids being bullied on Minecraft servers. Clearly he tapped a pain point. After opening its doors in 2013, word spread quickly, and the Autcraft community has grown to over 8000 members.   

Creating safe spaces for kids with autism online (or anywhere) is important and hard. The Autcraft community has achieved this through vigilance and community innovation. Other servers can learn from their experience in creating inclusive and safe server communities. Creating a friendly and inclusive Internet shouldn’t fall to families with kids with autism alone, but should enlist and enrich all of us as allies and fellow netizens.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 8:47 AM

October 3, 2017

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What We Did This Summer: Ender Dragons, Parkour, Cow Paradise, and Turtle Bombers in Minecraft Camp

First posted on the Connected Camps blog.

It’s hard to believe that we have said our last summer camp farewells and kids are headed back to school. Hope all our friends on the Texas coast are staying safe this week.

The last camper certificates have been sent out, and counselors are preparing for our afterschool programs starting right after Labor Day.

I’ve been having a blast going back through the counselor’s logs and certificates from the summer, and reading camper and parent responses to our survey. I’ve pulled together some highlights. We hope our campers will share some of what they did this summer with Connected Camps when they are asked about it in school too!

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 10:04 AM

May 29, 2017

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How to Get Kids Into Coding -- 10 Myths and Realities


First posted on the Connected Camps blog.

90% of parents in the U.S. want their child to learn coding
and 71% of new STEM jobs will be in computer science. Still, the majority of kids in this country are not learning to code. It would help if schools offered CS, but parents and other influences outside of school can also play a big role.

Among the biggest reasons that kids don’t take an interest in coding is because of popular misconceptions about what it means to be a coder. In popular culture, coding is associated with nerdy, antisocial men and boys who are obsessively attracted to math and computers. It's worth digging into this a bit. Not only is it unfair to folks who are already deeply into coding, it also turns away kids who don’t identify with that stereotype.

How can we get kids into coding? Here are 5 popular myths about coding and how we can counteract them with the reality that coding can be for all kids.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 11:49 AM

April 3, 2017

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How to Get Your Daughters into Tech by Embracing Who They Really Are


First posted at the Connected Camps blog.

Only 26% of computing professionals are women, which is down from 36% in 1991. Millions of dollars are being spent on closing this gender gap, but it persists. Even though girls are just as into math and science in their school years, few go onto major in these areas, and even fewer go on to tech careers. What can we do to help our daughters buck these odds? Girls and Minecraft offer important hints.

The stereotype is that tech is for boys. Girls are also less likely to have friends, mentors, and role models in tech who they identify with. Parents who want their daughter to embrace technology may give up when she prefers Barbie to robots, or shuns geeky interests because they aren’t popular among their friends. The problem is that when we focus on “breaking stereotypes” we can end up pushing our daughters beyond their comfort zone.

Instead, we need to start with who they really are, and build on positive archetypes rather than focus on attacking negative stereotypes. Girls and Minecraft play is a unique opportunity to encourage tech learning and interests and challenge some stereotypes along the way.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 3:48 PM

February 25, 2017

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How to Create a New Year’s Resolution the Whole Family Loves — Make it About Pizza

First posted on our Family Pizza blog.


Every New Year’s Eve I poke the hubby and kids into committing to a self improvement goal, and every year, it falls flat. Until this year. I was inspired by the New Year’s resolution episode of The Sporkful podcast, which talked about how people resolve to eat less and exercise more, and most abandon that resolve sometime in February. Instead, why not resolve to eat more of what you love?

I asked my son if he might go in on a resolution for 2017 with me, to eat and make more of a food we both love. He was in. It would need to be something with depth and history that we could geek out on, and opportunities for variation and innovation. Some food types we considered were tacos, donburi, pasta, curry, and soup, but pizza was the winner. A new family project-based learning adventure and this blog was born.

We’ve been casual pizza makers for a long time, in part because I avoid dairy so it’s hard for me to eat pizza out. 2017 would be all about upping our game — eating our way through the best pizza in SoCal and cooking our way through different styles, with the goal of improving our homemade pie. This is a resolution the whole family could get behind.

I’ve never been this excited about designing a curriculum. I’m an educator by trade, and often designed “activities” to do with the kids, including weekend cooking, but this felt different. This was a long term investigation that involved both hands-on learning and what our family bonds most around — eating great food together. I don’t know why we hadn’t thought of this sooner!

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 5:23 PM