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Gamify Your Classroom

A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning


Matthew Farber

This book is a field guide on how to implement game-based learning and «gamification» techniques to the everyday teaching. It is a survey of best practices aggregated from interviews with experts in the field, including: James Paul Gee (Author, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy); Henry Jenkins (Provost Professor at University of Southern California); Katie Salen (Founder, Institute of Play); Bernie DeKoven (Author, A Playful Path); Richard Bartle (Bartle’s Player Type Theory); Kurt Squire (Games + Learning + Society Center); Jessica Millstone (Joan Ganz Cooney Center), Dan White (Filament Games); Erin Hoffman (GlassLab Games); Jesse Schell (Schell Games/Professor at Carnegie Mellon); Tracy Fullerton (University of Southern California Game Innovation Lab); Alan Gershenfeld (E-Line Media); Noah Falstein (Chief Game Designer, Google); Valerie Shute (Professor at Florida State University); Lee Sheldon (Author, The Multiplayer Classroom); Robert J. Torres (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Asi Burak (President, Games for Change); Toby Rowland (MangaHigh); Jocelyn Leavitt (Hopscotch); Krishna Vedati (Tynker); and researchers at BrainPOP and designers from Electric Funstuff (Mission U.S. games). Each chapter concludes with practical lesson plan ideas, games to play (both digital and tabletop), and links to research further. Much of the book draws on the author’s experiences implementing games with his middle school students. Regardless of your teaching discipline or grade level, whether you are a pre-service teacher or veteran educator, this book will engage and reinvigorate the way you teach and how your students learn!
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Chapter 2. What Are Games?

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Is Minecraft, which is basically a digital version of LEGO, a game or a digital toy? Or is it both? There are several definitions for what a game actually is. This chapter features a brief discussion of Johan Huizinga’s and Roger Caillois’s mid-20th-century definitions, leading up to Jane McGonigal’s more recent interpretation. I asked some leading experts including Richard Bartle, Bernie DeKoven, Jesse Schell, and James Gee for their input and interpretations about requiring students to engage in supposedly fun activities. Surely you can’t tell a group of children, “Have fun! By the way, your grade depends on it!”

Game design has more to do with human behavior than coding. It can be defined as “the process by which a game designer creates a game, to be encountered by a player, from which meaningful play emerges” (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003, p. 80). Much of the field grew in the 1990s through the 2000s without intersecting with the learning sciences. There were, of course, a few exceptions, but they were far and few between. To master a game requires learning the rules and the system. Looking back, the parallels become more obvious.

Game design is a growing academic discipline. Rather than coding and programming, it applies human behavioral psychology to create fun experiences. This chapter takes a close look at the theory and makes connections to practical classroom applications. To play a game—or better yet, to win a game—takes a level of mastery. It can...

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