Save the World While You Learn to Code: Dystopia 2153

Who doesn’t love a good dystopian graphic novel? I know I sure do. Give me an online one that also teaches coding and you just made my day. Dystopia 2153, is exactly that. A web-based graphic novel where you solve coding puzzles as you move through the story. Dystopia 2153 was created by TEACH Magazine. I explored the free version – Chapter one of Episode One.

In the Not Too Distant Future

Dystopia 2153 is set in the year 2153 after our world has fallen and is now run by tyrannical robots. The story focuses on orphans making a daring escape from Rathouse Orphanage.

Chapter 1 of Dystopia 2153 - Our world is broken.
Chapter 1 of Dystopia 2153 – Our world is broken.

You begin by reading the graphic novel, which is dark and beautifully illustrated. I also like the ambient music that helps you get into the story. As you flip through the pages you learn about humanity’s downfall and the rise of the machines we created. Then fast forward to Lance. Orphaned from the fall and living in Rathouse Orphanage with others like him.

An Advanced challenge from Chapter 1.
An Advanced challenge from Chapter 1.

Lance works in the garbage dump. For your first set of challenges, you use basic coding skills to help him take the shortcut through the halls to the dump. For the challenges, you use Blocky code to move Lance through the mazes. Your robotic squirrel friend, Chiclet, gives you hints and help along the way.

There are 10 challenges in the first set. They start with simple move codes and progress to include loops and variables. It took me a minute to solve the 10th level.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed the free chapter. The story is intriguing, the artwork is wonderful, and the challenges were, well, challenging. Dystopia 2153 is intended for middle school students. I think that is a fitting age.

I like the mix of story and puzzles that progressively get harder as you move through the story. The narrative gives purpose to the puzzle challenges. You are not just doing puzzles to learn how to code, you are solving the puzzles to advance the narrative. They are connected to the plot points of the story. I feel that increases students motivation to advance.

Currently, there are two episodes available with a third on the way. You can preview the first chapter of Episode one for free by creating an account. To continue reading and playing, you can purchase the home edition, which includes Episode 1, 2, and 3 for $24.99. The price of a new hardcover book. For teachers, you can purchase a classroom edition, which gives you one-year access to all three episodes for 30 students, for $124.99. It also includes additional classroom resources. However, it looks like, as I am writing this, they are running a sale. Home edition is now $12.49 and Classroom edition is $49.99. Go to their pricing page for more information and get yours at this great price! You can even purchase hard copies of Episode one if you prefer an IRL version. Buy that on Amazon.

In the Classroom

Along with teaching students to code, based on the first chapter, there are a lot of other STEAM concepts you can pull out of the story. Such as robotics, AI, and automation, the ethics of technology, environmental issues, politics, and the future of our planet. You could build other activities around the story in addition to having your students learn to code within the story. You could also use it to build their visual literacy skills as they analyze the story visuals.

Dystopia 2153 is a very interesting way to engage students in storytelling and coding. The story seems like it is a good one and the coding puzzles are pretty cool. Go to the website, create a free account and read chapter one for yourself. Like me, you will want to get the rest, just because you want to know how the story ends.


Oh, what the first week of 2018 had to offer!

We are only seven days into 2018 and I’m already overwhelmed by ideas, resources, lists of lists, and new people to follow. So exciting!

Here is a quick rundown of my favorite finds from the first week of 2018. 

2018 – Off to a Great Start!

We are only seven days into 2018 and I’m already overwhelmed by ideas, resources, lists of lists, and new people to follow. So exciting!

Here is a quick rundown of my favorite finds from the first week of 2018.

Classroom Ideas

Classroom Resources

List of Lists

New (to me) Folks to Follow

Whew! If that’s what the first week of 2018 had to offer, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

STEM Read Podcast Episode 3: Inquiry with Zack Gilbert and M.T. Anderson

All good things start with a question.

Listen to this episode of the STEM Read podcast and hear Gillian and I talk to social studies teacher and fellow podcaster Zack Gilbert ( and award-winning author M.T. Anderson ( about the power of inquiry.

Follow the link to listen to the episode and view the show notes.

STEM Read Podcast Episode 3: Inquiry with Zack Gilbert and M.T. Anderson

STEM Read Podcast – Episode 2

In case you missed it, episode 2 of the STEM Read Podcast dropped last week.

In this episode, we ask the question “What if?” with Hugo award-winning editor,  co-producer and editor of Uncanny Magazine, and all around cool person, Lynne M. Thomas and amazing author Aaron Starmer. Gillian and I did our best to not go completely crazy fangirl over Aaron. We are both huge fans of his work so it was cool to peek behind the curtain and see what goes on in his writing brain.

This was a fun episode. Not only did we get to talk to two amazing people, we also got to talk about unicorns. It’s always a good day when you can spend your time talking about unicorns. Am I right?

All About Unicorns

Special shout out to my Independent Study teacher, Dodie Merritt. She was that one teacher who allowed me and so many others, to ask what if and follow my curiosity. For me, her program taught me how to learn. She was doing project-based learning before it was cool. I still have the unicorn book that I created back in 4th grade as well as my book from 1st and 5th grade. You could say her program was life-changing. In my 1st grade book, I wrote about another student in the program who was building a telegraph. That telegraph kid is now my husband of over 20 years. Further proof that curiosity leads to amazing things.

So, take a few minutes and give this episode a listen.  Hopefully, we’ll spark some ideas for how you can inspire your students to embrace their curiosity and ask “What if?” Who knows where the question will take them.

Follow this link to STEM Read Podcast Episode 2. Don’t forget to explore the show notes for resources and fun stuff.

Summer Reading List

This summer my goal is to make more time to read. So far, so good. Here is what I’m reading (or finished reading) this summer.



  • Challenger Deep & Scythe – Neal Shusterman – Both of these books were fantastic. So very different but both amazing reads. In Challenge Deep, you follow Caden into the abyss of a psychotic break. This deeply moving books gives you a window into his mind as his reality and fantasy worlds intertwine. Scythe takes place in a world where disease, war, hunger, suffering, and natural death no longer exist. Humankind enjoys the benefits of immortality. However, to keep population growth under control, people must be gleaned every year. This is the job of the Scythes. Two young apprentices reluctantly learn the art of killing and experience the complicated life of a Scythe. Learn more about both of these books and many others on Neal Shusterman’s website –


  • Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student, John Spencer and A.J. Juliani – I cannot say enough about this book. There is so much good stuff in here. Authors Spencer and Juliani walk you through their take on design thinking, the Launch Cycle. They provide practical advice and examples of how to encourage your students’ curiosity and get them asking questions, collaborating on ideas, and developing solutions to problems. I spend a lot of time teaching the engineering design cycle to both teachers and students. I’ve started incorporating many of the tips and concepts from Spencer and Juliani. I highly recommend this book. It would make a great book study for a district. Also explore their website ( for loads of ideas, lesson plans and freebies or follow them on twitter (@spencerideas and @ajjuliani).

In Progress

  • Born, Jeff VanderMeer – A Giant flying murderous bear, a girl, her ever-changing, child-like, talking sea-anemone-like friend, a boy, his swimming pool lab teeming with bio tech, and general destruction. Just a little story about friendship and survival. I’m about half-way through and loving it.


  • The Innovator’s Mindset: Empowering Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity, George Couros – I meant to read this as part of the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC that kicked off a couple months ago. I joined the Facebook group, subscribed to the e-newsletter, and was pleasantly surprised that I already had the book in my Kindle library. However, life had other plans. So, I have follow the community posts for a while (they are very active and informative) but have not had a chance read the book or participate in the online community (aside from lurking). I finally have a chance to read and I’m just getting started with this book. Based on what I’m seeing posted on social media and what I’ve read so far – I have high hopes. Check out the Facebook group and follow George Couros on Twitter (@gcouros) to get a taste of The Innovator’s Mindset. 

In My Stack

I have an ambitious “must-read” list. Especially if I want to get them read before the end of summer. So, this might become my fall reading list.

  • Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning, John Larmer, John Mergendoller and Suzie Boss – The ins and outs of creating, implementing and assessing high-quality Project Based Learning (PBL) activities. Brought to you by the Buck Institute for Education (
  • The Little Prince, Antonie de Saint-Expery – Because I need a little whimsy and childhood nostalgia.
  • Lumberjanes Vol 1 and Nimona, Noelle Stevenson – You might know her as comic artist and illustrator, Gingerhaze. My daughter has followed her and read her webcomic for several years. I’ve heard very good things about her comics. It’s about time I read them for myself.
  • Tomorrowland: Our Journey from Science Fiction to Science Fact, Steven Kolter – My daughter is currently reading this one and loves it. An exploration into how the incredible technology from science fiction has become the possible technology of today.
  • Feed (Re-read), M.T. Anderson – Read this one about five years ago. Hard to believe that it is over 15 years old. It is time to re-read to see what new things I can find.

What’s on your summer reading list? I’d love to hear what you are reading. I’m always looking for suggestions.