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Game-Based Learning in Action

How an Expert Affinity Group Teaches With Games


Matthew Farber

How are expert educators using games in their classrooms to give students agency, while also teaching twenty-first century skills, like empathy, systems thinking, and design thinking? This question has motivated Matthew Farber’s Game-Based Learning in Action: How an Expert Affinity Group Teaches With Games showcasing how one affinity group of K12 educators—known as "The Tribe"—teaches with games. They are transformational leaders outside the classroom, in communities of practice. They mentor and lead newcomers to game-based learning, as well as advise game developers, academics, and policymakers.

Teachers in "The Tribe" do not teach in isolation—they share, support, and mentor each other in a community of practice. Farber shares his findings about the social practices of these educators. Game-Based Learning in Action details how the classrooms of expert game-based learning teachers function, from how they rollout games to how they assess learning outcomes.

There are plenty of lessons to be learned from the best practices of expert educators. These teachers use games to provide a shared meaningful experience for students. Games are often the focal point of instruction. Featuring a foreword from James Paul Gee (Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies, and Regents’ Professor), this book comments on promises and challenges of game-based learning in twenty-first century classrooms. If you are looking to innovate your classroom with playful and gameful learning practices, then Game-Based Learning in Action is for you!

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The purpose of this book was to understand how expert teachers in a game-based learning affinity group used games in the system of their classrooms. These teachers applied Vygotskian and Montessorian approaches, which put students in engaging and playful experiences led by discovery and exploration of content. The goal of using games was often to create meaningful experiences for students, followed by teacher facilitation to connect to the curriculum. Members in The Tribe, as a community of practice, were adroit at designing lessons and assessments. It is entirely likely that the participants would be excellent educators even without games.

The teachers in this book did not teach in isolation. They were passion-driven leaders and practitioners. The Tribe is the unofficial nickname for this affinity group, which is also a community of practice of game-based learning educators. These teachers viewed themselves as changemakers, leading a transformational paradigm shift in modern education. They are vocal leaders in communities of practices. Many have amassed thousands of followers on social media (e.g., Twitter), and are leaders in online game-based learning affinity spaces. Topics discussed in online forums (e.g., design thinking strategies, student choice) were observed being applied to practice. Members of The Tribe shared best practices online, and they also mentored new teachers in professional learning communities. ← 221 | 222 →

In the classroom, those in The Tribe led from behind, as servant-leaders. They used games and game design tools rich in playful affordances. Students were colearners with teachers, and...

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