10 Games Every Educator Should Be Playing - Part 2

Picking up where we left off last week with Part 1 ...

Educators are rushing to figure out how to implement games into the classroom.

For the most part we should be; games and gamification, when implemented correctly, are a great way to increase engagement and knowledge retention for students. Also, who doesn't want their classroom to be more fun? (If you don't want your classroom to be more fun, you are probably reading the wrong blog). Instead of rushing to learn the latest gamification strategies, my advice is take a break and actually play some games! There's no better way to learn what works, what's fun, and what games you may want to bring into the classroom.

Not sure where to start? No problem, here's part 2 of 10 Games Every Educator Should Be Playing:


This silly dexterity game not only requires a steady hand, but also teamwork and clear communication. Sometimes it's okay to set aside a more advanced strategy game in exchange for an opportunity to strap a small crane to your head, link your head up with a partner, and try to move some geometric shapes around!



Historical aspects of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago brought to life in a fun game! Another example that any subject can use games as a teaching mechanism. True, this game was made by my friend J. Alex Kevern, but I'm not the only one who loves it... it was also a 2016 MENSA Select Winner.  



This cooperative game engages the experience of being in the trenches of World War I all without any blood or bullets, and rather taps into the psychology of being a soldier. For me, this game has brought to life many conversations about the difference between fun and entertainment in gaming and is one of the most fun and challenging examples of a cooperative game. 



This is one of my favorite hidden role games, where you keep your identify and goals secret from the other players. Is it bad to be good at bluffing? That's a philosophical question I don't have an answer to at this point. If nothing else the fun that comes from the finger pointing and (usually false) accusations in this game are well worth the play time. (But then again, only a Sab would say that!)


Programming moves that get revealed in sequence, RoboRally hearkens to coding by showing that details matter and small mistakes can compound into large errors. It also teaches you that even when you fall in a pit, you've got to get back up and trundle on! (I really should have worked more game related puns into these posts).


That's all for now, stay tuned for more game-related posts in the future. Have a board game you're really loving lately? Leave a comment and let me know what you're playing!

10 Games Every Educator Should Be Playing - Part 1

Games have the ability to transform a classroom and engage students. Whether rewarding desired behavior with points and recognition or when playing actual games (like my game Insight), educators everywhere are reaping great advances in engagement and retention by utilizing games. Conducting a twitter search for #gamification provides an endless supply of the latest and greatest advancements in the field. 

With all the tools, guides, and classes out there (like my class), guess what is still the best way to learn about games? That's right, by playing games! The world of tabletop gaming goes way beyond the classics we grew up on and there are games that meet any interests in theme, purpose, number of players, and style. Want to be a salmon trying to swim up stream? There's a game for that. Want to be an alien building a new space colony? There's a game for that. Want to be a European merchant selling goods in the 1800s? There are probably about 500 games for that. Check out The Hotness list on Board Game Geek to see some of the best. 

Educators, I encourage you to play games in your free time. 

It will keep your mind sharp, it's fun, and most importantly they can teach you some of the best mechanisms and concepts to use in your own classrooms. With that in mind, here are 1-5 of the ten games every educator should be playing:


A fun and award-winning game that sharpens the skill of word association and is great with a larger group of players. 





Like a cooperative mix of Clue and Dixit, players work together to solve a murder mystery using only the clues provided by the silent victim. Communication and deduction skills have to be on point to reach victory! 



Camel Up

One of the main mechanics that keeps games fun is chance and that is what drives the excitement behind every play of Camel Up. Simple dice rolls keep you on the edge of your seat in this game that is great for up to eight players. 



Simply put: this is a perfect example of how ANY subject can be made into a game. This is basically Chemistry: The Game, and has been the only thing keeping me up to date on the Periodic Table. 



This beautiful game shows that you don't have to make a game complicated to make it good. Players build flowers using cards that are perfectly designed to overlap. Simple yet exquisite. 






If you're in Chicago, I recommend picking up games at Cat & Mouse Games in West Loop or Bucktown; they're always happy to help you find exactly the right match or suggest something new. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 with games 6-10 coming next week!


Gamification Analysis: How Pokemon Go Engages All Four Player Types

There are many tools withing gamification (using games to solve real world problems) and one of my favorites is the player types referred to as Bartle's Taxonomy of Players. Similar to personality types, the taxonomy says that different players have different motivations and way to be engaged. I made a quick review of what the four player types are and how the popular mobile game Pokemon Go engages all of the player types, watch below!

Guest Post: What is Entrepreneurship by Yuliya Vanina

Thanks to the Coleman Entrepreneur Center at DePaul University, I had the pleasure of hosting Yuliya Vanina as a summer intern. Together, we streamlined, edited, marketed, designed, and brainstormed new ideas for my consulting business, making major progress in a number of areas. My business is a one person shop, so at the end of our time together, I was curious as to what Yuliya had taken away from this version of entrepreneurship. Here are her thoughts:

Entrepreneurship - What Is It? - Yuliya Vanina

I recently heard someone call entrepreneurship, “sexy.” I mean when you look at the positives, who wouldn’t?

  • You create your own schedule

  • You are your own boss

  • You make the rules

  • No one can fire you!

That does sound nice, who wouldn’t want that?

Though what I learned about entrepreneurship has shown to be quite the opposite.

  • Your job is basically your life

  • Weekends. What are those?

  • You live for the opportunity

  • You make incredible sacrifices

  • You stay positive even through the most difficult moments in life

Despite these characteristics, entrepreneurship comes down to 3 things in my humble opinion. Despite popular belief, I don’t think just anyone can be an entrepreneur. I think it takes a special kind of person, someone who has all the above and the following, a passion, a real work ethic, and ability to make sacrifices.  It sound like a description for any job out there but let me explain.


In entrepreneurship this is probably the leading characteristic. Entrepreneurs cry over the love they have for what they do, they live it and breathe it, and I believe that this passion needs to be so strong that it over rules everything else in order to fuel a leading business.

Work Ethic

This isn’t a 9 to 5. This is a 9 to whenever you are done, and maybe even an all-nighter. Despite the fact that most entrepreneurs are awful at time management, they are persistent and determined. They first have the passion and secondly a deep rooted desire to get shit done, that in return fuels their work.


The first two are important, but this last one is necessary. To be an entrepreneur you have to make sacrifices, both financially and personally. Your love life will suffer, and so will your wallet, but it is all for a greater good. The hardest part is managing it all. I honestly think starting entrepreneurs have more grey hairs than CEO’s, but whose counting, right?

I think it’s a hard job being an entrepreneur; it is both challenging and fulfilling. When you see what you have created with your own hands that is one of the few most rewarding feelings in life. It isn’t sexy, but it sure is rewarding. 

Moving Past a Culture of Hate

Someone asked me, "Don't you teach on diversity and awareness/acceptance, what do YOU think of the Orlando tragedy?" And it's inspired me to share some thoughts to add another positive outlook to the mix of perspectives.

The event is absolutely terrible. I usually try to take in as much news and reports about an incident as possible, regardless of the piece's severity, so that it stays visceral to me, but some of these videos have been too painful for me to make it through. It goes without saying that it's devastating, not just for the act itself, but for what it says about our society... as some public figures and celebrities have pointed out (again), we're falling into a pattern with these events and that adds a whole other layer of sad mad frustration.

What do we do about it? I mean, what do you do about hate? Well let's go back to guns for a quick sec, just to say that my take is we don't need automatic weapons in society. However, I'm looking beyond just guns because even though I think it would be good to minimize the access to extreme killing tools, people are still going to do bad things, that's been the case forever.

We have a culture that is full and love and acceptance and progress, but also one that fosters hate, othering, exclusion and violence. We allow objects that represent hate to exist in every day society and we allow people that preach it to hold positions of power and influence. Why? That's more complicated than I can get my head around but I think it has something to do with masses of people that hold those same ideals and values. So progress, when you're talking about a cultural shift, is super hard, though I believe possible.

What do I think any of us can actually do? Well, for now, my answer to that is the same takeaway that I gathered when a group of us got together in my living room in the weeks following Ferguson to ask that exact question. The main theme was this: we all have our own circles, spheres, and methods where we CAN make a difference and jeeze do I think it is a waste of time to debate which ones is more important. For some people that is posting on facebook, for others it's getting out in the streets, and for some it's working in official systems and on policy. It also might even be sharing it with one stranger or even friend...or family, which might be the toughest at all.

I see the consistent and widespread practice of acceptance, inclusion, and compassion as the way to PROACTIVELY head off more of these events.

Who knows who might be affected for the better because of a smile or conversation they received. Or seeing someone stop some verbal abuse on the street, or shutdown some harassment online. The little stuff adds up, and we all have the ability to participate in that elusive cultural shift.

Small Business Majority Leadership Summit 2016

I'm honored to have been invited to attend the Small Business Majority Leadership Summit 2016 in Washinton DC, May 8-11. I am looking forward to four days of discussing and building with entrepreneurs, business leaders, and national policy makers. I intend to bring the message of abundance and collaboration that we strongly believe in and practice at Coffee & Conversation.



Radio Guest Speaker: Small Business Week on Radio Islam

I had the pleasure of joining Radio Islam during Small Business Week (early May 2016) to talk about Coffee & Conversation and the culture of abundance we have been fostering for over two years. Their hour long segment runs daily from 6-7pm; I joined them for a short conversation. Click here or on the image below to listen to the segment; I come in around 14:10.

Introducing Good Steps: Curated Entrepreneur and Impact Resources

Entrepreneurship is hard, but staying connected to people and resources can help anyone advancing their project overcome obstacles. As the leader of Coffee & Conversation and through many coffees, meetings, and events I have seen people ask the same questions over and over again about the self-starting process. There are many great places out there to get help and answers, but I didn't one place that collected everything...or at least as much as possible. 

My friend Molly Black and I approached that challenge as an opportunity, and as a result I am proud to present Good Steps: A curated collection of tools and resources for the impact community in Chicago and beyond. 

Careers in Focus: Gaming - Chicago Public Library

Careers in Focus: Gaming

On Saturday, February 6, I joined the Chicago Public Library's awesome YouMedia space along with many other gaming professionals from the Chicagoland area for a day focus teens interested in careers in gaming. I got to play my game Insight with a lot of motivated and curious youth and talk about their interest in games. We used Insight to look at their own skills and interests and discuss the many ways they might use them to pursue a career that makes the most of both. 

I also participated on a panel of people who all work with games in different ways; some as storytellers, some video game designers, but all of whom shed light on games being much more than just "fun". They are fun! However, I know they would all agree with my statement, that games can "solve anything".



How do you decide what to work on? Podcast with Idea Lemon

Idea Lemon is my two friends' company that helps people discover their inner awesome. I had the pleasure of joining them recently for an episode of their podcast series, and you can now catch the results here!


We had a pretty candid talk about the good problem of having too many interests to follow, and how that creates a confusing situation of not being sure what to work on next, or even where to build your career.

I always leave my talks with them feeling one step farther along with whatever I'm working on, so check out the episode if any of that sounds familiar for you!

Tips for Starting a New Job

This post was originally published March 31, 2014.

A week ago I left the simultaneously uncomfortable and comfortable bliss of unemployment, put on my big boy pants, and went back to work at a 9 to 5 position.  It’s a great opportunity; I’m happy to be back with a consistent income and I’ll get to use a lot of my organizational development skills while continuing to advance my own work on the side.  It also gave me a chance to reflect upon the experience of entering a new workplace.

If one counts the numerous times I’ve been a temporary employee, which one should when counting these things, I have started new jobs many times.  We all know what this is like, you get dressed up in your most appropriate and professional outfit, ready to wow your boss and make new friends that are somehow only friends for eight hours of the day.  Yet, you usually spend most of the week feeling like you’re sitting by yourself in a high school cafeteria.  The first week at work is usually awkward and sometimes embarrassing, but I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that bad!

As follow up to a post with tips on surviving unemployment. I present Levi Baer’s top four tips for starting a new job:

1. Ask Questions

Don’t just sit there like a bump on a log waiting for the next thing to be handed to you or hoping you don’t screw up!  Ask questions along the way to make sure your supervisor knows you’re actively engaged.  A “what’s next?” or “am I doing this right?” can go a long way towards establishing rappot.  Not just with your boss, but also with your coworkers (ask them questions too), who probably won’t appreciate working with a slacker. Besides, you’ll probably be less bored if you stay busy rather than sit there dodging assignments and watching the clock.  I used this concept last week when I doubled checked, “you want me to make this purchase with the company credit card, right?”.

2. Don’t Ask Questions

Try stuff and see what happens, don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  This is one of the fastest ways to learn the ins and outs of your role as well as the organizational culture.  Lots of people could do the tasks you’ve been hired to do, but it’s up to you to make yourself be the right fit.  As important as it is to ask first to make sure you’re doing tasks correctly, it’s also just as important to explore a little bit and test your boundaries.  A heads up manager will recognize that a change in the workplace, such as a new hire, will actually cause a temporary downturn in productivity as people get used to the change.  If they’re doing their job well, you shouldn’t be afraid to take some lumps while you learn yours.

3. Give Feedback

Not only should you expect to receive praise and constructive criticism from your supervisor during your first week, but you should also be prepared to give feedback yourself.  It is really important to set the tone of your communication habits by letting your superiors and colleagues know up front what works and what could be done differently.  We typically feel pressure to say “yes” to anything handed our way, especially when we’re trying to set a good impression.  One method I use is to accept new assignments, but make sure my manager knows where the new works fits into my current to do list.  For example, I’ll say “yes, I can absolutely finish those TPS reports, but unless you feel otherwise, they will have to wait until after I send this time sensitive email.”  

4. Relax

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  You don’t have to be liked by everyone the moment you walk in the door.  Be the lonely cafeteria kid for a few days; we should embrace the rare moments in life when we get to remember what it feels like to be alone (Louis CK says this better than I can).  In the grander scheme of things, it won’t last that long.  By the end of the first week you’ll be giving high fives to the cool kids.  They hired you because you’re the right person for the job and you should be satisfied with that understanding.  I said it last week and I’ll say it again now, take a deep breath, look ahead at what’s next, relax, and have fun getting to know your surroundings.