Bloxels - Build your own video games by James Huggins

We blogged a while about Pixel Press and their brilliant draw your own video game experience. Well now those clever little monkeys are back with a new project called Bloxels. Taking the physical / digital interplay even further Bloxels lets you map out level designs for games using physical blocks. As the video above shows it looks quick, easy and LOADS of fun.

Pixel Press are soon launching a Kickstarter campaign to help fund Bloxels and that's where I am going right now to pre-order my copy.

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Little Tiger Press to publish Stomp picture book! by James Huggins

It doesn't seem that long ago that we posted about our publishing partnership with Macmillan Children's Books to take Little Legends into print so it's incredible to be able to announce another one. Caterpillar Books, an imprint of Little Tiger Press will be publishing the fabulous Stomp picture book from author Jeff Norton and illustrator Simon Cooper following a new publishing deal.

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The Amazing Adventures of Millie Moreorless by James Huggins

‘The Amazing Adventures of Millie Moreorless’ is a new accessible iPad game designed to help children with Down Syndrome improve their mathematical skills.

The game is based on pioneering research in the field of magnitude, and has included children of differing abilities and their parents as a vital and integral part of the development and design process. Sibling game designers Will and Cara Jessop, Dr Jill Porter, University of Bath, and the development team at creative studio Made in Me, are producing the project as part of REACT Play Sandbox.

To mark World Down Syndrome Day on Saturday 21 March, they are releasing a special demo version of the game to crowd-source testing and feedback as they continue to refine it ahead of release in the spring.

The team are now keen to encourage as many children as possible of all abilities to try the test demo so their feedback can be incorporated into the design process going forwards, as well as helping researchers to understand better what supports children’s attainment in mathematics.

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‘The Amazing Adventures of Millie Moreorless’ demonstrates how technology can make learning maths fun and empowering for children with learning disabilities.

Magnitude is a key predictor of later mathematical understanding and refers to our instinctive ability to distinguish between different quantities. For example, if shown a group of four apples and a group of ten apples, most of us could immediately identify which group contained the greater quantity. Previous research has revealed that children with Down Syndrome often experience significant developmental delays in this area. However, new research carried out by Dr Jill Porter with children aged 5-12 as part of the development process for Millie Moreorless, has indicated that some children with Down Syndrome could achieve as well as older children or even adults when tested in a more open and playful environment making use of new technologies. 

Inspired by these fascinating new findings, the team worked closely with BAFTA-nominated creative studio Made in Me to create a simple, fun, accessible yet challenging game that will allow children with learning disabilities to practise and hone the skills needed to get better at magnitude discrimination. Children have been at the very heart of the project and throughout the team have worked closely with a volunteer group of 20 children with Down Syndrome, as well as the non-disabled ‘Young Coaches’ from REACT Play Sandbox. The children have been integral to the design process, sharing their opinions, imaginations and values, and testing prototypes of the game.  

The team are now keen to encourage as many children as possible of all abilities to try the test demo so their feedback can be incorporated into the design process going forwards, as well as helping researchers to understand better what supports children’s attainment in mathematics.

Will and Cara Jessop say “Designing Millie Moreorless has been an incredibly rewarding experience. We believe that by allowing ourselves to be led by the young people themselves, we have created a game mechanic that is fun, challenging and addictive for players of all abilities. If it can help even one child with Down Syndrome to lay the foundation for the improved mathematical skills that will bring them greater independence in later life, we will be over the moon.”

Dr Jill Porter, Director of Research at Dept of Education, University of Bath says “This is an important and unique opportunity to investigate how children respond to mathematical information in different learning contexts and to tailor resources to meet their needs. Our research has highlighted that learning maths does not have to be hard work. New technologies combined with creativity can be very effective in raising the achievements of children who struggle to understand abstract concepts.” 

James Huggins, co-founder Made in Me, says “We felt it was important that the Millie game experience could be rewarding and enjoyable for children with a very wide range of ability. This presented a significant challenge in terms of designing a game that was at once both utterly simple for less able players yet still engaging for those more able. In many ways this is the hallmark of any great game so we're thrilled to be able to share a little taste of what's in store with the demo.”

Jo Lansdowne, REACT Managing Producer says, “REACT are thrilled to have supported the development of the Millie Moreorless prototype. This extraordinary team brings together excellent research with creative ambition and a deep, personal commitment to make work that really responds to who children are and how they play and learn. Brilliantly, and bravely, they also understand that the only way to truly do that is to work with children themselves throughout the design process. The result is an app that is fun, pretty and rich with potential. Everyone should have a go and let us know what they think."