Last week on Twitter, I was asked for some recommendation for critical readings on games and learning. There are lots of enthusiasts for games in the classroom out there (myself included, of course) and tons of great places to start if you’re interested in learning more about bringing games into education. These are only the tip of the iceberg–there’s a particularly rich conversation in game studies surrounding serious and persuasive games, which is decidedly interwoven with educational games.
Here are a few books I suggest for getting started:
- Games, Learning, and Society: Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age. Edited by Constance Steinkuehler, Kurt Squire, and Sasha Barab. If you’re looking for one book to get started on games and pedagogy, this is at the top of my list. The included roster of designers and scholars covers a lot of the field of games and learning, and since it’s a fairly recent volume it’s valuable for both its insight into recent practices and assessment and a sense of historical perspective on games and education. This is definitely more valuable as a critical framework than for application.
- Video Games and Learning: Teaching and Participatory Culture in the Digital Age. Kurt Squire. As an accessible introduction to games for education, Kurt Squire’s book is helpful both for entering the general discourse and finding some ways to get started with games. It’s not a hefty read, which makes it a great starting point. His discussions of teaching with Civilization are particularly valuable for thinking about the different layers of expertise and learning that get involved when you bring complex games into the classroom.
- What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. James Paul Gee. It’s impossible to write a list like this without including Gee’s landmark work that dove into the world of video games and considered their potential. While it’s outdated now, the revised edition looks at some games that are still popular (like World of Warcraft) and a lot of the thoughts on games as spaces for deep learning are still quite relevant. However, the work is definitely more anecdotal than evidence-driven, and it’s certainly more theory than practice.
- Digital Games and Learning: Research and Theory. Nicola Whitton. Whitton’s recent critical work (priced rather dauntingly in hardcover, but reasonably in paperback) is a rich exploration of the many forms games can take: experimental spaces, explorable worlds, motivational tools, learning technologies, and many more possibilities are examined. It’s particularly valuable for thinking about games not as a broad category but as a wide range of genres and mechanics with very different educational potential and value.
- The Art of Failure. Jesper Juul. Juul’s critical works on games are all valuable, but his work on failure is particularly relevant to educators: willfully and repeatedly failing is an essential part of gaming, and one that often seems less desirable (or even impossible) in traditional learning environments. While his book isn’t particularly related to games as educational spaces, it’s a great study of why we persist in the face of frustration and incompetence.
If you’re looking for something less dense, Natalie recently collected links to a number of great ProfHacker posts on games.
Have your own favorite reads on games and learning? Share them in the comments!