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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 4. Iterative Design

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Lesson plans evolve over the years. I know mine have! They are constantly revised and iterated. I tweak what worked and what didn’t, note how long activities actually took, and account for what was engaging for students to do. (If you are a pre-service teacher, prepare for students to derail your best intentions!) That process—trial, reflection, and revision—is design thinking. Your lesson plans are your design document.

Many learning institutions have learning designers on staff. The Institute of Play, which founded the Quest to Learn school, defined design thinking as a “set of skills, competencies or dispositions relating to the highly iterative collaborative process designers employ when conceiving, planning and producing an object or system” (Institute of Play, 2014). One of James Gee’s Learning Principles from games pertains specifically to design. He wrote that games help people to “appreciate design and design principles” (Gee, 2007, p. 221). A game is a designed object to be explored and tested. When I interviewed Gee, in April 2014, I asked him to explain the concept further. He said:

What we’ve come to understand is that game designers are designing experiences that kids can have that can lead to learning. But so are teachers. I see teaching as a design act. You’re designing good interactivity for learning. [Teachers are] doing something ← 65 | 66 → very similar to game designer. It doesn’t mean you have to design a game. Good teachers have always been trying to design good experiences.

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