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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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Middle school teacher Steve Isaacs was the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2016. That year he was also New Jersey’s PBS Digital Innovator, and he became a Microsoft Innovation Expert. Isaacs has been twice invited to the White House, met with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, and he helped to organize Minefaire, a Minecraft-themed convention. Peggy Sheehy is another transformational teacher-leader. In the past several years she has led keynote addresses in Sydney, Australia and Mumbai, India, and USA TODAY’s Greg Toppo devoted an entire chapter of his (2015) bestselling book The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter to her teaching. In her 6th grade humanities class, students learn by playing by the massive multiplayer online (MMO) video game World of Warcraft. Toronto-based English teacher Paul Darvasi is the more cerebral educator of the three, having authored several articles about his use of pervasive and serious games. In late 2016 he wrote Empathy, Perspective and Complicity: How Digital Games Can Support Peace Education and Conflict Resolution for UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP). The CBC Radio’s The Current, in Canada, highlighted Darvasi’s findings in a feature titled, Can Video Games Promote Empathy?, in March 2017. ← 1 | 2 →

Isaacs, Sheehy, and Darvasi are three teacher-leaders making international inroads to evangelize how and why games drive learning. In late 2015, I embedded myself into each of their classrooms....

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