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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 8: Gameful Learning


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Filament Games produced the election simulator Win the White House for iCivics. Anecdotally, I knew my 7th grade social studies students loved it. Often, the day after playing in a class period—it can take about 30 minutes to complete—students requested to play again the following day. (Take that, worksheets!) Louise Dubé and Carrie Ray-Hill of iCivics shared insight in a (2016) blog post about the design decisions embedded in the game that encourage replay. They wrote:

We also wanted to make sure that the game was replayable. Students have multiple opportunities for customization. They can select their party, they can select different issues within that party and even run as a maverick! Within the game, they can also choose to run more positive or negative ads, and try different state strategies. Multiple plays not only provide more practice at the game, it allows for greater exposure to content and strategy. (Dubé & Ray-Hill, 2016, para. 16)

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