Games and Learning

Learning about Games and Learning

Before starting this course I was very ignorant about the use of games for learning. I thought that teachers only use games that are designed specifically for education in their classrooms. We use a significant amount of simulation at the college I work for, but never thought of them as “games”, they were simply learning tools. I also don’t have any experience with the K-12 system in America as I grew up in Canada and don’t have children of school age. The only thing I knew came from anecdotes from my husband (who attended private school).

Immediately, in the first week of the course, I learned that games are so much more! Games other than “edutainment” can be used for all kinds of learning. Jim Gee goes into detail about how someone learns through game tutorials (in this case: Rise of Nations) in his Learning and Gaming chapter from his book Situated Language and Learning; this made me reflect on my own learning and how I learn through games and game tutorials. Katie Salen’s “Litmus Test” from Toward an Ecology of Gaming resonated with me as well; I’ve encountered many “Can I try it?” scenarios with video games, but never reach the “Can I save it?” key moment because the game is just not that engaging for me.

In the second cycle of the course I was responsible (along with @KirkLunsford) for leading our course discussion through (learn more about our use of here). Although I felt great pressure and responsibility in leading these discussions, I feel that learned the most so far during these two weeks. Frequent interactions with my classmates allowed me to tap into their expertise, and learn from them as well as learning from the text.

Another thing that I’ve found helpful during this course is our use of Twitter. Our instructor @remiholden has introduced us to various groups on Twitter, and is having us participate in “Twitter Chats”. I was very uncomfortable in the first Twitter chat that I joined. The topic was Global School Play Day (#games4ed), and having absolutely no experience or knowledge of K-12, I really felt out of my element. However, my plans for that evening fell through and I thought to myself: Why not? I have nothing to lose, only knowledge to gain! There were so many great ideas exchanged, and I hope I contributed to them. I learned a lot about Global School Play Day in that hour, and when my children are of school age I hope to convince their teachers and administrators to implement it. I did bring it up at my child’s daycare, the director said she would look into it, but I don’t think she did anything with the information. I’ll try again next year.

@gameofkittens our shared card game play session
@gameofkittens our shared card game play session

Another element of our course that I am really enjoying (and learning from) is our play sessions. We have had two shared play sessions (where we all play the same game) and one personal play session (game of choice). So far I have been the teacher for one game, an absolute beginner in another, and more of an observer in the third (I let others explain the game). I’ve experienced joy in pride in teaching others to play my favorite game, frustrations in learning a new game and getting most of the rules wrong, and observing others learn from each other in a casual setting.

One question, I’m still pondering, but have discovered some answers to is: How do we use games in higher education? I’m not referring to simulation games, or “edutainment” games, I’m referring to popular games (board games, video games, card games). I stumbled upon one answer in my cycle one critique of “Wargaming in higher education: Contributions and challenges” by Philip Sabin. Dr. Sabin uses board games (specifically wargames) in his undergraduate and graduate history courses to teach his students about decisions made during significant war battles of the past. I immediately saw the benefit of these games for humanities studies, however I still want to learn if we can apply these principles to other disciplines such as STEAM.

Another curiosity I have is how we can learn through games in our professional life. I have taken multiple professional development courses with the inclusion of “gamification” and have myself implemented this tactic (without success) but I have never been given a game to “play” as professional development. I learned this cycle that “Gamification is Bullshit” (Ian Bogost) unless we can make it relevant to everyone taking the course (Scott Nicholson), maybe I need to rethink my gamification, and turn it into an actual game. I am continuing this research further in the next cycle; I already have my article picked out for my critique and it examines the use of a board game on the administrative side academia.

In my introductory blog post about my play history I mentioned that I’m taking this graduate games and learning course because of my son. He learns everything through play and I want to understand why, and why, as adults we have moved away from learning through play. I am still curious to know why as we get older there is a shift away from learning through play to a more stagnant way of acquiring knowledge. I am now examining my son more closely as he “learns through play” and trying to somehow relate this to learning as an adult.


Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated language and learning: A critique of traditional schooling. Psychology Press.

Salen, K. (2008). Toward an ecology of gaming. The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning, 1-20.

Sabin, P. (2015). Wargaming in higher education: Contributions and challenges. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 1474022215577216.

Bogost, I. (n.d.). Gamification is Bullshit. Retrieved February 16, 2016, from

Nicholson, S. (2012, June). A User-Centered Theoretical Framework for Meaningful Gamification. Paper Presented at Games+Learning+Society 8.0, Madison, WI.

About Lisa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>