May 20, 2013
Have you ever been to a museum and wanted to play with the exhibits, but you could only walk by, look at and point at the artifacts sitting on display? That’s about to change!
Dig-It! Games is excited to announce a fun, new interactive texting game that turns players into adventurers as they explore treasured exhibits at world-renowned museums like the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
It’s called Gallery Quests, a free opt-in game that engages players in a fun question-and-answer dialog as they take on different personae and investigate various objects and materials within a gallery. The interactive mobile texting game encourages visitors to read, learn, and discover new information about museum exhibits, leading them on an entertaining and educational adventure that transforms the way they discover ancient cultures.
The premiere version of Gallery Quests can currently be played at The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia in the Mexico and Central America Gallery. With artifacts that include monuments, sculptures, hieroglyphics, and other objects spanning from wall to wall, Gallery Quests’ engaging game play presents a unique opportunity to take on three different experiences: helping a student solve riddles for a school project, assisting a Maya priest with preparations for an equinox ceremony, and helping a museum curator find objects in the gallery.
Dig-It! Games and the one-of-a-kind Gallery Quests will be branching out to museums throughout the United States, so stay tuned for where you can get your next hands-on encounter with ancient history!
May 13, 2013
This past weekend was a special time for mothers everywhere. But Dig-It! Games’ very own Suzi Wilczynski honored her mother—who passed away 20 years ago—with a touching tribute, featured in The Wall Street Journal.
In its business blog, The Accelerators, Suzi eloquently honored her mother’s deep influence on her and her business, from her time as an educator to her career as a business owner. As an Accelerators Guest Mentor, Suzi noted how that most of what she needed to know to start an educational gaming company came from her mother.
To read her complete commentary, please visit http://blogs.wsj.com/accelerators/2013/05/10/suzi-wilczynski-everything-i-know-about-entrepreneurship-i-learned-from-my-mom/
Happy Mother’s Day!
May 09, 2013
It’s only been a couple days since Cinco de Mayo, but Dig-It! Games is already celebrating another “cinco.” We are very excited and proud to announce that Mayan Mysteries has earned five awards from several highly respected organizations, including About.com, Academics’ Choice, ComputED Gazette, The National Parenting Center, and Parents’ Choice Foundation! Wow, thank you!
These acknowledgements are extremely rewarding, especially since they are based on a mix of ratings from parents, educators, industry experts, and even the general public. To us, this means we’re delivering on our promise to provide engaging and interactive educational gaming experiences to children, parents, teachers, and anyone interested in playing games geared toward adventure, culture, history, and mystery. Here is the list of honors with links to the reviews of Mayan Mysteries:
About.com Readers’ Choice Award
Mayan Mysteries was named the Best Educational Software Program in the 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards’ inaugural Secondary Education category for its demonstrated ease-of-use and effectiveness when developing lessons for students in grades 5 and above.
Academics’ Choice Mind Spring Award
Academics' Choice, which helps parents and educators validate products as genuinely effective learning tools that stimulate the mind, issued its Mind Spring award to Mayan Mysteries Classroom Edition through a critical testing period by a review team and academic advisory board.
ComputED Gazette BESSIE Award
The ComputED Gazette, a nearly 20 year-old online educational resource for school administrators and teachers, identified Mayan Mysteries as a winner in its 2013 Best Educational Software (BESSIE) Awards in the category of Middle-School Language Arts Website.
The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval
The National Parenting Center, which was established to provide parents with comprehensive, responsible advice on products and services marketed to parents and children, awarded its Seal of Approval to Mayan Mysteries for the Spring 2013 testing period following a rigorous 10-week examination.
Parents’ Choice Foundation Recommendation
The nation’s oldest non-profit guide to quality children’s media and toys, Parents’ Choice Foundation selected Mayan Mysteries as a Recommended Online Video Game for Spring 2013.
In addition to these accolades, The Association of Educational Publishers has named Mayan Mysteries Classroom Edition a finalist in two categories of the prestigious AEP Awards. After three rounds of critical review, the game outperformed 75 percent of nominated products in order to qualify as a finalist for both the Distinguished Achievement Awards and Innovation Awards. We’ll find out if Mayan Mysteries is a winner once again on June 4 during Content in Context 2013. Fingers crossed!
May 06, 2013
Did you celebrate Cinco de Mayo yesterday? This commemoration of the Mexican army’s victory over France on May 5, 1862, in Puebla, Mexico has become a time to honor Mexican heritage and traditions. Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Mexican culture, appreciate the influence of Mexican traditions on American culture and investigate the long, fascinating history of Mexico.
Believe it or not, much of Mexico’s culture and traditions hail from the Maya and other ancient civilizations. In fact, if you’ve played through our latest game Mayan Mysteries—an authentic, historically accurate learning game for kids ages 11 and up—you’ve certainly spotted some aspects of Maya culture that still exist today. Here are a few cultural components of Mexico that spawned out of ancient cultures like the mysterious Maya:
Some of Mexico’s most distinct and recognizable foods hail from the Maya people. Have you had a taco recently? That corn tortilla you ate is virtually identical to the tortillas the ancient Maya made. Corn, called maize in Spanish, was a central element of the Maya diet, as it still is in Mexico and other Central American countries. The Maya had large farms of maize, which they planted together with beans and squash. They would grind the maize kernels in their basalt metates and then use the flour to make tortillas, which were fried on a comal (an ancient griddle). Avocados, beans and chili peppers were also part of the diet of the ancient Maya and their neighbors to the north, the Aztecs.
If your clothes are made of cotton you have something in common with the ancient Maya. There were no wool-producing animals in ancient Mesoamerica, so the Maya cultivated cotton for clothing and other fabrics. While Maya clothing and colors varied from region to region, its influence on the area remained strong across Mexican state lines. Symbols embodying the civilization’s trademarks, like the calendar, and the Maya’s cultural emphasis on its ancestors, the universe, and nature, were all used commonly in stitching patterns, many of which can still be seen in clothing today.
Chocolate was popular in Mesoamerica way before Hershey bars. Cacao beans were used to make a chocolate drink that the Maya and Aztec used in rituals and celebrations. If you’ve ever had Mexican chocolate, you know that it’s a little different than what we’re used to: Mexican chocolate is stronger and much less sweet. It also sometimes has honey, cinnamon or chilis in it, which is exactly how the Maya prepared their chocolate. The sweet, creamy chocolate we know and love in this country was developed after cacao beans were brought back to Europe and mixed with sugar and milk or cream (something the Maya didn’t have).
So as you recognize Mexico’s great heritage and culture on May 5th and throughout the year, take a moment to also celebrate its direct societal ties to some of the world’s most influential ancient civilizations, including the Maya. This year, don’t just celebrate Cinco de Mayo, celebrate ¡Cinco de Maya!
Apr 01, 2013
This week, Common Sense Media held its first annual ON for Learning Awards in San Francisco, in conjunction with the international Game Developers Conference. We are very proud to announce that Roman Town, was honored as one of the most educational, engaging games that is transforming learning for kids today! We were one of 51 ON for Learning Award winners, joining the likes of industry giants Microsoft, Nintendo, PBS, and Scholastic; not to mention, we aced the very intense Common Sense Media review process.
A recent poll by the digital media outlet found that while many parents believe technology can provide learning benefits, they’re skeptical about some of the claims made by companies, regarding their products’ potential for learning. To combat such questions of corporate credibility, Common Sense Media deploys a team of highly trained reviewers to analyze digital media products for core academic content, like reading, math, and science. Analysts also dig deeper for critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration, social skills essential in childhood development. Of course, the team also reviews the technology on its levels of entertainment and engagement.
We were confident Roman Town would stand up to the test that Common Sense Media’s team had in store. Following the in-depth analysis, Roman Town earned a five-star learning score in its review, which commended the computer game’s educational potential. The game also earned a five-star quality score, confirming our mission at Dig-It! Games to produce interactive learning tools that are both fun AND educational. You can check out the full rating and review, by Common Sense Media’s Christopher Healy, here.
“In addition to getting an insider’s view of daily living for children of the era, players will also learn about technology of the time,” said Healy. “In Roman Town, history comes alive as kids dig up artifacts and play mini-games that call upon strategic and analytical thinking.”
Roman Town has already earned honors from such organizations as Creative Child Magazine, National Parenting Center, and National Parenting Publications Awards. We can’t wait to add the ON for Learning Award to our growing list of industry praise, and hope you find just as much value in playing the game, too!
Mar 21, 2013
Last week, hundreds of innovators from around the world gathered to share, network, and celebrate the constantly changing education environment. The annual event is called SXSWedu, and it took place in conjunction with the popular South by Southwest (SXSW) experience in Austin, Texas.
While we at Dig-It! Games weren’t able to make the trip this year, we also didn’t want to miss all of the buzz and excitement. So, we tapped into social media and took a virtual field trip to the conference. News aggregators, audio and video posts, and Twitter streams served as our digital guides, tuning us in to all of the sights and sounds of SXSWEdu. Here are some of the top takeaways:
What better place than SXSWedu for Skype to announce that it is making its popular Group Video Calling – a paid premium feature – available to teachers at no cost? We’re already thinking about how it can be used in a special “Dig-It! Games” kind of way. With just the click of a button, classes in Washington, D.C. and Mexico City can compare their understandings of the Maya culture. Students can pit science fair projects up against kids across the room and across the globe. And teachers can invite exhibit curators from museums around the world to bring in their favorite artifacts for a virtual show and tell. The possibilities are endless and we can’t wait to see what teachers do with this exciting new feature!
Skype’s big announcement—coupled with other new product releases (like this cool tablet and this student-engagement app)—really sparked brainstorming for us and those in attendance at SXSWedu: How else can the educational technology field improve? What innovations or areas of emphasis can further the industry?
We are certainly seeing an increased emphasis on STEM subjects—a handful of speakers focused on science, technology, engineering, and math education—but how else can students get engaged in the subjects that warrant more and more attention in this generation? Alternative instruction methods, like hands-on experiences and interactive learning games can open children up to potential interests they never before realized.
A student data panel introduced the concept of digital report cards akin to electronic health records. We like this idea! Digitally collecting student data provides teachers, parents, and students themselves, with a streamlined, real-time approach to gauge student achievement. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the trend of student digital reporting.
We were on the edge of our seats as we watched Bill Gates deliver his much-anticipated keynote address Wednesday morning. And if you missed the keynote—or any of the other SXSWedu speakers—the audio recordings are available here.
“I think this is a special time for technology and education. I think we’re on the verge of really making a difference for lots and lots of students,” said the Microsoft chairman in the packed Austin Convention Center ballroom.
Gates acknowledged the gradual transition educators are making from traditional teaching resources to more versatile, digital instruments, but challenged attendees to push the boundary by incorporating more dynamic technology. He then introduced listeners to several other CEOs, each representing outside-the-box thinking to benefit student instruction, which leads us to our last point…
Throughout the event, attendees—comprised of near-equal part K-12 educators, higher education instructors, and business leaders—contributed to the ongoing debate of who should be driving innovation in education: entrepreneurs or educators.
This SXSWedu recap by The Chronicle of Higher Education summed up the topical industry discussion, which reached its apex during Gates’ address and the conclusion of the summit. The Chronicle’s Jeffrey Young, who attended the festivities, noted that support for both teaching and development professionals exists within the field.
“During the talk, some participants tweeted their frustration with the strong focus on business,” wrote Young, who also observed pro-entrepreneur sentiment. “Many participants applauded the interest of companies, it should be noted, and some said that at a time when many state governments are cutting spending on education, new players will need to find ways to support their efforts.”
SXSWedu 2013 featured distinguished guests discussing trending topics, major tech companies releasing new products and services, and established industry professionals working and playing together to better the educational landscape. Through the growing power of the worldwide web, we at Dig-It! Games were able to witness all the collaboration and excitement from the comfort of our office, and we can’t wait to track it all again next year!
Photo credit: Lyndsey Taylor
Mar 19, 2013
Spring Break is here! A little vacation time provides a lot of opportunity to explore the world around us. And believe it or not, there are plenty of activities families can do together that are fun and educational. Here are a few ideas for keeping the brain cells active during a break in school:
• Travel through time at museums
Uncover the past by exploring ancient artifacts at a museum or science center. The Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., boasts amazing archaeological exhibits like Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt. The museum’s expansive display of fossils—ranging from dinosaurs to mammals to plants—is a must-see. Visit museumlink.com to find a museum near you!
• Explore history with a good movie
Arrange a family movie night and watch a film that incorporates history and entertainment. Movies like Indiana Jones, National Treasure, and even Jurassic Park, while fictional, draw from archaeological elements and combine action and adventure to keep everyone on the edge of their seats with excitement.
• Journey to an ancient world through video games
Playing interactive, archaeological-based games, such as Dig-It! Games’ Mayan Mysteries and Roman Town, seamlessly blends fun and learning. In Mayan Mysteries, players are transformed into real archaeologists and go on an adventure through history where they solve hundreds of puzzles to gather clues that lead them to a secretive thief. Since Mayan Mysteries can be played on PCs, Mac computers, and tablet devices, it’s a great activity whether you’re at home or on the road.
What do you plan to do during Spring Break? Whatever you decide, be open to adventure and discovery!
Dec 11, 2012
We are so excited to announce today that Mayan Mysteries is now available wherever you go! The game, which turns players into real archaeologists as they uncover the secrets of the ancient Maya civilization, is available for iPad. Click here to check it out.
Mayan Mysteries is a one-of-a-kind puzzle-based game that takes kids on an exciting journey through history to learn about the Maya. The game seamlessly blends fun and learning as players engage with a dynamic cast of characters and solve puzzles to gather clues hidden across ancient Maya sites.
Designed for children ages 11 and older, Mayan Mysteries takes players on a thrilling expedition with “Team Q” to catch a secretive thief. Immersed in a long-term gaming experience with more than 300 challenges and questions and approximately 12 hours of play, they visit excavation sites, decode glyphs, identify and carve dates into the Maya calendar, use real archaeological tools such as trowels, picks, sifters and brushes to uncover authentic artifacts, find hidden objects, and use the Maya number system to buy and trade.
The concept for Mayan Mysteries grew out of founder Suzi Wilczynski’s personal experience as a trained archaeologist and former middle school teacher. There are not a lot of options for teaching children about the fundamentals and importance of archaeology. Now, both parents and teachers can help kids learn about the ancient Maya with an entertaining, interactive game that can be played again and again.
The game is an authentic and historically accurate representation of the Maya, incorporating detailed factual information about the ancient civilization contributed by world-renowned Maya expert Robert J. Sharer. It was important to us that we create a game that was enjoyable while remaining true to history. We think we did that very well and hope you agree.
Let us know what you think of the game and the app!
For pricing and licensing information, visit http://www.dig-itgames.com/store.
Dec 10, 2012
Have you ever wondered why archaeologists keep studying artifacts long after they've been uncovered? Well, it's because you just never know what you might learn from them. Take the Chinese Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an, for example. First unearthed in 1974, the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, is filled with thousands of clay warriors. Each one of them carried a real weapon. How do you make tens of thousands of bronze arrowheads, spearheads, swords and axes in a short period of time in 200 BC? Well, a new study shows that they were made in several different workshops. Each workshop would have made huge batches of weapons, which were then delivered to the mausoleum site. It was originally thought that the weapons were made in pieces and then assembled at the site, but that's not the case: metallurgical analysis shows the weapons were delivered intact. That would be a pretty impressive feat even today with all our modern technology and communications tools. That the Chinese managed such an amazing act of coordination in 200 BC is astounding. Just as impressive is the study undertaken to figure all this out. Perhaps next they'll figure out the sources of the metal and trace the delivery routes. There's always something new to learn, even from very old things.
To read more about the study, click here:
To learn about Qin Shi Huang and the terracotta warriors, visit: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/441
Dec 06, 2012
There is a major milestone for the Maya people coming up in a few weeks: the end of the 13th bak'tun. A bak'tun is a period of approximately 400 years. According to the Maya calendar, 13 bak'tuns make up one Great Cycle, 5128 years all together. For the Maya, the end of the 13th bak'tun is similar to a millennium ending, only even more rare. So for the Maya in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador, this year's winter solstice calls for a massive celebration. But that's causing a bit of controversy: the Maya would like to have celebration rituals at ancient sites like Chichen Itza and Tulum in Mexico, but those sites are now protected archaeological sites. So which is more important: preserving an ancient cultural heritage site or allowing people to celebrate their religion in their own way? There's no clear-cut answer. For more on the topic, check out this article:
Dec 03, 2012
We're hearing a lot these days about the Maya calendar. It certainly makes a great story: "Ancient Civilization Predicts the End of the World!" Thankfully, that's not true. So what is "The Maya Calendar," really? We've all seen the big stone circle with the glyphs on it, but that's just part of the story.
The Maya believed that time happened in repeating cycles and their calendar kept track of those cycles. What we refer to as "The Maya Calendar" is actually several calendars that Maya kings and priests used in tandem to track time and predict events like eclipses and the best days for planting or for going to war. A 260-day calendar called the T'zolkin was used to keep track of birthdays and religious ceremonies. Then there was the solar calendar called the Haab that was 365 days long like our calendar. In the T'zolkin every day (called a k’in) had a name and a number, while in the Haab days were referred to by a combination of a number and the month name.
The T'zolkin and the Haab together create the Calendar Round: a period of 52 years in which there are no repetitions of the number day-name and number-month name combination. The Calendar Round is usually shown as a set of three interlocking gears. There is a small gear for the T’zolkin day number inside a larger gear for the T’zolkin day name, which interlocks with the really big gear of the Haab number-month combination. Together the three gears give you a day that has both a number-day name (e.g. 3 Tuesday) and a number-month name (e.g. 4 June). There are so many different combinations of those that the Calendar Round takes 52 years before a combination repeats.
The Calendar Round is a common concept in ancient Mesoamerican cultures. What makes the Maya unique is that they had an additional cycle called the Great Cycle that started at the beginning of Maya history over 5,000 years ago. Maya kings kept track of how long it had been from the start of the Great Cycle (the one that ends Dec. 21, 2012). So when the Maya wrote down a date they were saying: “it has been this many months (winals), years (tuns), decades (k’atuns) and centuries (bak’tuns) since the start of the Great Cycle.” Archaeologists call this system the Long Count, I imagine you can guess why.
Dec 01, 2012
It's all over the news: the ancient Maya predicted the world will end in three weeks! I haven't heard anyone say how it'll happen, though. That seems a little suspicious. The Maya were pretty scientific about astronomical things. They predicted eclipses and built temples to align perfectly with the location of the sun on a specific day. You'd think they would have mentioned at least something about how we all meet our end. A flood, perhaps, or maybe an asteroid like the one that killed the dinosaurs? Do you know why we don't have any details other than a date? It's because the Maya didn't actually predict the end of the world!!
That's right, all that stuff you read on the internet--they got it wrong (try not to fall off your chair). The Maya calendar does end in three weeks. That part's right. But the Maya never said anything about the world ending too. For the Maya, time happened in cycles. Short cycles of 260 or 365 days, longer cycles of 52 years, and the Great Cycle: 5,128 years without a repeating date. So when do you think the last Great Cycle started? That's right: 5,128 years ago! So, it's not the end of the world, just the end of a Great Cycle. Still a big deal, but I'd hold off on stressing about that emergency preparedness kit for now.
Apr 20, 2011
Common Sense Media is a respected nonprofit that provides millions of parents with information to help them make decisions about what media – including games, TV, movies, DVD’s, and websites – is appropriate for their kids. "
"ROMAN TOWN does a fantastic job of presenting world history in a fun and entertaining context for kids. Part simulation game, part puzzle game, part mystery -- and with a great variety of mini-game material thrown in -- this is an educational game that shouldn't bore kids for even a second"
Apr 10, 2011
"By creating a game based around simulating an archaeological dig, adding in a mystery to solve about what happened to this town and then magically adding children who lived back in 79 A.D. as characters in the story, "Roman Town" has found a winning combination. This is educational software kids will want to play. As they play to unearth rare finds, their parents can celebrate too for finding this hidden treasure of uncommonly good learning software."
Roman Town is what motivated our oldest (11) to get his book work done on time. He loves this game, and has learned so much about the tool used to dig with, why they are used, and how to use them. He is also learning about the artifacts that he is finding…
- Video Games Thirteen Blog