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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 11: The Case for Experiential Learning


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Playful situations for constructivist and experiential learning were baked into The Tribe’s teaching. According to John Dewey, meaningful experience should be the goal of schooling (Alexander, Dewey, & Hickman, 1998), and games can be used to create meaningful experiences.

“There are a lot of us that believe that experience is really important—especially those of us on the sociocultural and situated cognition side of things,” Benjamin Stokes, an assistant professor at American University, explained to me in late 2016. Stokes was a cofounder of the Games for Change nonprofit. He continued:

We want our learning to be as close to the experience as possible—partly because of reasons of transfer, reasons of engagement, and passion. It goes back to the authenticity of people—that awful and terrible and great term that gets tossed around so much. To me, I think that experience is incredibly important, but it’s also incredibly expensive. It’s expensive in terms of time and actual money. A fantastic K12 learning experience might be hiring a private jet for someone and they can fly anywhere around the world they want with 5 of their friends, and 2 teachers. But we’re not going to be able to create that, or to have everyone go to the Smithsonian all of the time.

In the children’s series, The Magic School Bus, the eccentric teacher Ms. Frizzle whisked off children to far-away places...

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