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Game-Based Learning in Action

How an Expert Affinity Group Teaches With Games

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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 7: Playful Learning

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PLAYFUL LEARNING

Why are playful affordances so ubiquitous in The Tribe’s teaching praxis? What is it about play that is so important to learning? Perhaps it is because playfulness—the act of playing—creates the zone of proximal development for children (Bodrova, Germeroth, & Leong, 2013; Vygotsky, 1978). The zone of proximal development is “the distance between the [child’s] actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). As games increase in difficulty and complexity, new knowledge is distributed or scaffolded (Bodrova et al., 2013; Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Koster, 2014; Vygotsky, 1978). Play is a social activity that occurs within the construct of a game (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003). Play “drives learning” (Squire, 2011, pp. 138–139).

“Any time a student is playing, they are also learning,” Mark Suter told me, early in 2017. “Play, in my mind, is something someone chooses to do. It’s not necessarily playing a game—it’s a mindset.” Suter’s computer technology classroom engages students with playful game design tools, like GameMaker: Studio. “When I am playing with computer code, I am experiencing what I cobbled together to make a simple game or app.” He continued: ← 113 | 114 →

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