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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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Chapter 1: The Tribe


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The Tribe is an affinity group of true practitioners, an affiliation of teachers that evolved to become a thriving community of practice.

When you speak to leaders in game-based learning communities, you may hear about how education can be transformed by the play games afford. When observed in the classroom, these transformational teacher-leaders lead from behind, as foot soldiers, putting their expertise into practice. I discovered classrooms that resembled Petri dishes to test new products and ideas. This chapter begins with an origin story. Next, I analyze how this group of likeminded people mentor one another, both online and in person.

Red Bandanas and Educational Anarchists

Search Peggy Sheehy’s résumé on LinkedIn and you will discover the following entry: “Team Leader of the Red Bandana Project.” So, what exactly is the Red Bandana Project? Fortunately, there is a description:

The Red Bandanas community supports this site, and the awarding of the red bandana is in recognition of educational change agents. These are people brave enough to break out of the constraints of our systems and whose work has inspired others to ← 9 | 10 → greater risk taking and new adventures. In the end, it’s all about creating the best of learning environments that we can offer our kids! (Sheehy, 2013)

I contacted Marianne Malmstrom in December 2016 to learn more about the Red Bandana Project, which she cofounded with Sheehy....

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