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Gaming SEL

Games as Transformational to Social and Emotional Learning

Matthew Farber

Games enable children to practice emotions in spaces that are free from actualized consequences. With thoughtful guidance, games can help children manage emotions, perspective-take, demonstrate empathic concern, and exhibit prosocial behaviors.

Emerging research suggests that these competencies—also known as social and emotional learning (SEL) skills—are, in fact, teachable. In Gaming SEL: Games as Transformational to Social and Emotional Learning, Matthew Farber investigates the rich opportunities games have in supporting SEL skill development. Experts from the fields of education, game development, and SEL—including folks from CASEL, the Fred Rogers Center, Greater Good in Education, iThrive Games, Minecraft Education, and UNESCO MGIEP—share advice.

Games themselves cannot be responsible for children’s learning. Having a supportive educator or caregiver guiding experiences can be crucial. This book also includes recommendations for embedding games in classrooms in ways that support meaningful SEL skill development. Regardless of your experience, content area, or grade level, this book is for you!

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Foreword by Anantha Kumar Duraiappah, Founding Director, UNESCO MGIEP


In one of the most viewed TED Talks to date, the late Ken Robinson illustrated how schools kill creativity. According to Robinson, a one-way instructional style—the “teacher knows best” approach—prevents learners from exploration, curiosity, critical thinking, and innovation, all the while making learning a mundane and boring activity. However, learning must be fun, and it must make one happy. As Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, eloquently stated, “Life is more fun if you play games.” Now, imagine a world where we can infuse creativity in learning while making it fun and rewarding. Here is where this book comes in.

In Gaming SEL, Matthew Farber attempts to define how to achieve these two lofty goals—providing ways for learners to accomplish success through games while having fun in the process. However, Farber does not stop there; he has a bigger purpose, and this, I believe, is the unique contribution of this book to the education community.

This book focuses on games that build social and emotional learning (SEL) skills, what many call “soft skills.” In actuality, these are the hardest skills to develop, and Farber does a brilliant job explaining how they can be cultivated with games. ←xi | xii→

The young of today are digitally native citizens. They are practically born with a screen console in their hands and are constantly connected with the virtual world of information, people, and places. Students today want to be involved, want meaning...

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