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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 2: Learning From the Experts


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As discussed in Chapter 1, The Tribe enables members to learn together, to discover new games and ideas, and to share personal experiences through the lens of game-based learning. When they collaborate and share common interests, members branch out, creating new communities (e.g., the MinecraftEdu community; Wenger, White, & Smith, 2012).

This chapter begins with anecdotes from members of The Tribe who recount how they moved from outside the community into the inner circle. I speak with community of practice expert Bron Stuckey about what we can learn—and what we cannot learn—from experts. Then I continue with a conversation with Caro Williams-Pierce and Seann Dikkers, both alumni of the Games Learning Society program, which had run at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Inner Circle

Etienne Wenger in known for his seminal work in situated cognition theory, and the importance of communities of practice. One of the benefits of belonging to a community of practice is that there is often a meaningful exchange of ideas. “Etienne might describe The Tribe as the inner circle of a community ← 27 | 28 → of practice, which is very important to the health of the community,” Bron Stuckey began, in late 2016. “In a community of practice, the first thing you establish is an inner circle of practitioners.”

Members of The Tribe serve as mentors to teachers new to game-based learning. The community...

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