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Seven years ago, the Educator ran a story about the Panama-Buena Vista Teachers Association member, who used “Dance Dance Revolution” (DDR) to lose 75 pounds, introduced exergaming — the use of video games for physical activity — to her students at Sandrini Elementary School in Bakersfield, and broke the Guinness world record for playing DDR at more than 15 hours. She has since set even more impressive world records while raising funds to fight childhood obesity.

In 2017, Swidecki expanded her exergaming teachings into STEAM lessons: Her sixth-graders created their own “Just Dance” video game, studying choreography, learning about lighting, using a green screen, and shooting and editing video. They skyped with the Paris-based team from Ubisoft that created Just Dance, and produced a vlog documenting their experience. The project won the National Student Power Showcase at the national CUE conference.

“It was STEAM education at its best,” Swidecki says. “Not only did it focus on the importance of physical education, but it opened the window to prepare my students for careers in technology.”

Swidecki sees her accomplishments as helping teachers “to use STEAM education and video games in the classroom. We’re closing the gap to truly prepare students for careers in the language of today — video games.”

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