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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 13: The Role of the Game-Based Teacher


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No one I interviewed in The Tribe used games just for the sake of using games; instead, they designed experiences for students within their bell schedules. Many of those experiences happened to include students playing immersive games. After students played games, the teachers freely shared their best practices, lessons, and ideas with others. Darvasi provided procedural step-by-step instructions on his blog about the Gone Home unit. Sheehy had an open door policy for anyone to visit her classroom. Many others shared out student work on Twitter.

Members of The Tribe “see the learning through the eyes of the students” (Hattie, 2012, p. 111). They were excellent at both teaching and lesson design, adapting resources at hand to meet the goals of each learner (Hattie, 2012). Educational researcher John Hattie described how “excellent” teachers understand the influence they have in guiding young minds. Hattie wrote:

Teachers need to be aware of what each and every student in their class is thinking and what they know, be able to construct meaning and meaningful experiences in light of this knowledge of the students, and have proficient knowledge and understanding of their subject content so that they can provide meaningful and appropriate feedback such that each student moves progressively through the curriculum levels. (2012, pp. 18–19) ← 209 | 210 →

Meenoo Rami, manager of the Minecraft teacher community at Microsoft, spoke to me about teaching...

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