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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 5. Play-Based Learning

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This chapter reviews the educational and psychological history of play and games. I consulted several experts on play, including Bernie DeKoven, author of The Well-Designed Game (1978). He was an early influencer of the play movement. DeKoven’s book was quoted often in one of the most comprehensive game design textbooks, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman’s Rules of Play (2003). He shared with me his insights on how freedom promotes play. This is especially useful in a constructivist classroom. Being free to play explains the enduring popularity of LEGO and Minecraft (DeKoven has consulted for LEGO). I also interviewed Claire Greene and Wendy Smolen, co-founders of the Sandbox Summit, an annual toy, game, and learning conference, and Rex Ishibashi, CEO of Originator, developer of mobile games and digital toys such as Endless Alphabet and Mr. Potato Head Create & Play. Finally, I talked with TeacherGaming’s co-founder, Santeri Koivisto. TeacherGaming distributes the “official” educational modification of the world’s most popular sandbox, Minecraft.

Playing in school can often be considered to be ancillary—a sidetrack to “serious” learning. According to the extensive research and writings from Maria ← 87 | 88 → Montessori, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky, play is integral to a child’s development. Play occurs within the context of a game (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003). In other words, you play a game; however, not all play has the structure of a game (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003). The Cooney Center’s Jessica Millstone pointed out similarities to me. We spoke in January 2014. “There...

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