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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 III: “Go Where the Game Takes You!”


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Peggy Sheehy, Paul Darvasi, and Steve Isaacs tended to seek open-ended games with affordances for playfulness and gamefulness. Students had a sense of identity play and agency over their learning. These playful conditions brought students to their zone of proximal development in a self-directed way.

Part III of this book starts with a reflection on the observations I made during the previous three chapters. It is a discussion about how teachers in The Tribe are not just practitioners delivering lessons, they are designers of meaningful experiences for their students. Games are used as high-quality curriculum, adapted to meet learning goals. As Tribe member Zack Gilbert once told me, “When teaching with games, you must be ready to go where the game takes you!”

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