March 27, 2015

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Quest to Learn: A collaborative effort to design engaging game-like learning environments | Gaming Life


If you’ve played enough well-designed games, you know that they provide immediate feedback, are constantly challenging, promote learning by doing, and reframe failure as iteration. As most teachers already know, these are core principles of good teaching. This is a powerful relationship. When we make it explicit, and design from it, we see students engaged in playful, studious, and deep learning.

In 2009, the Institute of Play, a not-for-profit design studio founded by a group of game designers, […]

International Games Day @ your library

International Games Day

The American Library Association (ALA) is coordinating the annual International Games Day @ your library (IGD12) for Saturday, November 3, 2012. It is estimated that more than one thousand libraries around the world will showcase gaming programs and services in support of IGD12. This year marks the 5th annual event. In 2011, over 27,700 people played games at more than 1,400 libraries across the U.S. and in other countries.

Get Kids Designing with Student-Created Games | The Gaming Life


Over the last five years, as the gaming and library technology specialist for the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, an educational services agency that supports the libraries of 22 small, rural districts in western New York state, I’ve helped develop a gaming program that enables teachers, in collaboration with myself and the school librarian, to integrate non-digital game resources into their classroom curriculum.

The Competitive Edge: Online gaming can motivate students and make learning more fun

The word competitiveness often conjures up a negative image. Maybe it’s an athlete willing to do anything to be the best. Or perhaps it’s a corporate shark climbing up the workplace ladder by backstabbing co-workers. But being competitive doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. I’m a very competitive gamer and believe in giving my all to anything—especially a good game. But I always play by the rules. And if I win, that’s certainly a plus.

Playing competitive […]

Wii Learn: Surprise elementary grade students with a fun way to learn math

For the past two years, we have been using a tool to support math instruction in our schools that is as familiar to many students as riding a bike—the Nintendo Wii. Viewing the video game console through the eyes of an educator has opened up a world of mathematical applications through which students can master concepts, teachers can align with the Common Core Standards, and classrooms can reflect students’ experiences and interests.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative […]

Creative Tabletop Gaming: ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ and Libraries (Oh My!)

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) has been available for 37 years in a variety of editions, and it still remains the standard for tabletop role-playing games (RPGs). Like similar games, play largely exists in the imaginations of its participants. Play is aided by limited visual aids such as maps and tokens, and dice are used to determine the outcome of certain events.

The Dungeon Master (DM) plans, organizes, and describes the action, and each player (between 4 and 6 […]

What Is Systems Thinking?: Interactive Components of Video Games Are Perfect Examples

“Why didn’t we do this sooner?” This question was posed by a student at Franklin High School in Portland, Oregon, who was failing Diana Fisher’s math class. Many people dislike math because it is so abstract and just not a natural way to think about problems, Fisher candidly admits. So she’s on a constant quest to make it easier for her students. She found the answer by integrating a systems thinking model into her classroom.

Diana Fisher recently […]

New York Comic Con 2011: Video games take the spotlight at this pop-culture event

More than 100,000 attendees jammed the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in October for the East Coast’s largest pop-culture event—New York City’s 2011 Comic Con—featuring the latest in comics, graphic novels, anime, manga, video games, toys, and movies. Many of the standing-room-only sessions were geared towards teachers and librarians, providing information about video games in libraries, e-books, graphic novels as tools to connect with library users, and more.

Panels were packed with librarians, graphic designers, gamers, and comic […]

Board Game Design | The Gaming Life

Incan Gold

A pedagogical tool for inquiry and expression

“It’s about Barbie” the first girl began. I chuckled and then began to smile as the two high school seniors began to explain their game. They were just one of six groups in a class participating in a collaborative project facilitated by Kathy Wahl, Avon (NY) Central School Dis-trict’s high school librarian, the school’s statistics teacher, and myself that centered around utilizing board game de-sign as a method for inquiry and expression.

We divided the […]

First Amendment Rights | The Gaming Life

As marketing for National Gaming Day, November 13, 2010, began at the Haverhill (MA) Public Library, potential participants were enticed by the list of games that would be available.

Rock Band and Mario Kart were featured, but a surprising number of children, some as young as ten, asked, “What about Call of Duty: Black Ops?, the highly anticipated game debuting a week before the event. When asked if they were allowed […]

Building an ARG | The Gaming Life

Alternate reality games challenge teens to use technology in new ways

Hi, my name’s Chelsie. I got this bracelet for my 14th birthday. My aunt says it’s from my parents, but the thing is that I haven’t seen them in a year. They disappeared after my last birthday. They were working on an archaeological dig and one morning they were just gone. The bracelet is the only link I have to my parents. […]

Lessons from the Trenches | The Gaming Life

Best practices for using games and simulations in the classroom

We know that educational games and simulations can be valuable tools to reach and teach 21st-century students. However, many traditional classrooms and media centers aren’t designed to support educators who want to use them. Teachers and librarians are often required to justify the purchase and use of games in the classroom. And they sometimes even ask themselves if they have successfully met their intended educational objectives when they do use games […]

The 7th Early Literacy Skill | The Gaming Life

In pursuit of gaming knowledge in the electronic age

As a children’s librarian and mother of three, I practice the six early literacy skills with children nearly every day. I sing alphabet songs, perform silly puppet shows, and read them picture books before bedtime. I also belong to the minority group of parents who champion video games because I recognize their educational value. I’ve often become excited about the possibility of training children’s librarians in Second Life. There is no question […]

Future City Competition | The Gaming Life

A hands-on challenge incorporating SimCity 4 with engineering skills

Novo Mondum, a city of the future near Reykjavik, Iceland, constructed by students from Bexley Middle School in Ohio, won the grand prize at the 2009 National Engineers Week Future City Competition™, sponsored in part by the National Engineers Week Foundation. Initially, more than 30,000 students from 1,100 middle schools entered the competition. After qualifying rounds in each of 38 regions across the country, one middle school from each area competed in […]

Games Have Stories to Tell | The Gaming Life

Storytelling can extend beyond the covers of a book

Readers become readers because they love stories. We often continue reading a book late into the night to find out what happens next. Educators recognize that great stories motivate children to read. Just look at the Harry Potter phenomenon—many young people who were never considered readers became hooked on the series of books, and in the process overturned conventional publishing wisdom concerning the acceptable length of a children’s book.

With the […]

Celebrating Scratch in Libraries | The Gaming Life

Creation software helps young people develop 21st-century literacy skills

What has a low floor, a high ceiling, and wide walls? While it could be a tricked-out RV, the correct answer is Scratch (, a free computer program from MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group that’s changing the landscape of how young people learn programming, engage in media-based project creation, and develop 21st-century literacy skills.

There has been a slow, steady movement by schools and libraries throughout the world to adopt Scratch. In pockets […]

Gamers Are Readers | The Gaming Life

Capitalize on the popularity of video games

Libraries across the country are jumping on the gaming bandwagon, and some librarians are thrilled with this revolution. We grew up playing video games. Although these games were not nearly as impressive as the ones available today, we still spent countless hours playing the original Super Mario Brothers—and we still grew up to be librarians. Video games did not rot our brains. But that begs the question: What do video games have to do […]

Share Your Story | The Gaming Life

A little marketing goes a long way

Are you really gaming in your library? Or, perhaps, a better question to ask yourself is whether or not you are telling people that you are supporting gaming in your library. It is critical to remember that there is a difference between what you are doing and what others know you are doing. Librarians need to take ownership of the expertise that they possess and the valuable services that they provide.
     But isn’t all […]

Tabletop Fantasy RPGs | The Gaming Life

Tips for introducing role-playing games in your library

Fantasy role-playing games (FRPGs) utilize a set of rules for a group of players and a game master (GM) to create characters and tell stories in fictitious worlds that are provided in the game or created by the group. During actual play, the GM describes the surroundings and the players explain their character’s reactions to the setting.

Most role-playing games (RPGs) can be divided into two overarching groups: rules heavy and rules light. […]

Zero Budget? | The Gaming Life

You can start a gaming program without spending a dime

Video gaming is becoming more and more mainstream every day. It’s definitely an accepted part of library programming, and game clubs are becoming part of school extracurricular activities. If you want to start a program through your school library, it’s likely that your administration will be happy to approve it. However, they will probably inform you that there is no money in the budget to fund it. That’s no reason that […]