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Gamify Your Classroom

A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning – Revised edition


Matthew Farber

This completely revised and expanded field guide is packed with new innovative ideas on how to implement game-based learning and gamification techniques in everyday teaching. With nearly two dozen more experts than the first edition, this book contains interviews with more than 70 authorities in the field, including academics such as James Paul Gee, Kurt Squire, Mizuko (Mimi) Ito, Lee Sheldon, Jordan Shapiro, and Mary Flanagan. The author also shares conversations with experts from numerous organizations such as Common Sense Media, iCivics, DragonBox, Connected Camps, GlassLab Games, Schell Games, Institute of Play, Games for Change, BrainPOP, Tiggly, Toca Boca, ThinkFun, BrainQuake, Filament Games, BreakoutEDU, Kahoot, Classcraft, and more. Featuring a new introduction, as well as a foreword from USA Today’s national K-12 education writer Greg Toppo, this book provides new practical lesson plan ideas, ready-to-use games, and links for further research in each updated chapter. Included are best practice recommendations from star game-based learning teachers, including Steve Isaacs, Peggy Sheehy, Michael Matera, Rafranz Davis, Zack Gilbert, and Paul Darvasi. Regardless of your teaching discipline or grade level, whether you are new to game-based learning or if you have experience and want to take a deeper dive, this book will engage and reinvigorate the way you teach and how your students learn!

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Chapter 2. What Are Games?


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There are several competing definitions for what a game actually is. As mentioned in Chapter 1, games have been used to teach people’s shared cultural history for thousands of years. Modern research about play and games dates back to the early 20th-century alongside the emerging fields of child psychology and human behaviorism. Almost all of the modern-day discussions of games are rooted in the essays and observations from Johan Huizinga and Roger Caillois. Both were among the first to connect the significance of structured play to childhood development.

This chapter breaks down how games function as interconnected systems. The approach, known as “systems thinking,” is ingrained in the mission of Quest to Learn, a school that included the Institute of Play as its founding partner. Games model real-world systems, which can help make learning concepts more relatable. The ability to discern how parts interplay—like characters in a novel, weather patterns, or cause-and-effect patterns in history—is a 21st-century workforce skill. The section includes strategies and tips to implement systems thinking in your classroom. ← 23 | 24 →

Defining Games

In 1938, Johan Huizinga published Homo Ludens (Gr., “Man the Player”). Huizinga, a Dutch historian, wrote about play as a competitive act, as well as how play promotes socialization. He recognized that humans—like other animals—engage in playful activities. For example, cats hunt toys around people’s homes as practice for tracking down live prey;...

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