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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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Part II: A Close Look at The Tribe in Action


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In late 2015, I embedded myself into Peggy Sheehy, Paul Darvasi, and Steve Isaacs’ classrooms. I had the unique opportunity to observe them in action as they taught with games. Each used games differently: as a text to be critically analyzed, as a shared experience, and as a model with which to draw inspiration for student designs. After my visit I interviewed them, and surveyed their students. Lastly, I coded my data and looked for lessons learned from these leaders and experts in this game-based learning community. The analysis appears in Part III, which expands to include more interviews with others in The Tribe.

After my field research, I reunited with my original dissertation participants at the 2016 Games in Education Symposium (see Figure P 2.1). I had discovered that game-based learning was baked differently into each of their classrooms. “Steve, Peggy, and Paul all use games, and have different approaches,” Marianne Malmstrom, told me in late 2016. She reflected on the variations game-based learning takes. “Game design is a huge piece of it. Or games like World of Warcraft—for narrative and a whole range of literacies. You can connect it to literature to help with writing. Or do what Paul Darvasi does [with Gone Home] and take them on a whole intellectual journey to get them to think differently—not only at literature, but at the context of their...

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