Games and socially inclusive classrooms.

Ingress digital badges

Ingress digital badges

At the moment I am actively playing Ingress. This is an augmented reality massively multiplayer online role playing GPS-dependent game. Playing Ingress is a load of fun and I am hooked in by the many challenges that this game offers. Its not just the game itself but the concept that many people in my local community are playing, as well as others on a truly global scale. I don’t know how long I will persist with Ingress but at the moment I am very engrossed by the sense of community while learning how to play the game.

While I play ingress, I am thinking about a perspective put forward by Gee (2005) that good games incorporate learning principles that I see as being highly relevant to 21st century pedagogy. These principles as per Gee’s perspective are worth listing, as they sound like a list of words to describe a good learning space such as a classroom rather than a a game. Games and learning, who would have thought!

Gee's viewpoint of good games

Gee’s viewpoint of good games

Please view Gee’s 2005 paper Good video games and good learning for a full explanation of each learning principle. My point is that this author sees in games some very valuable principles of learning – and therefore presumably views games as important spaces for learning. To accept such a point of view some of us may need to swim against the loud narrative present in online popular media that, more often than not, brings to our screen discussions on the detrimental effect of games. However, as educators we know that positive commentary is fairly easy to find, for example via a simple search of the twitter hashtag #gbl. Mind you, some of these positive viewpoints often come from corporations selling their wares not just enthusiastic educators or gamers who are reporting on their experiences. So, in popular media a tension arises when exploring the use of games in education. Professionally, I am finding this tension is eased via an exploration of more scholarly articles as such informed commentary is bringing to the fore a more positive and hopefully unbiased outlook, as typified by Gee (2005).

If we accept games as a positive place of learning, typified by the above principles of learning:

How might games be used to develop a more socially inclusive classroom or workplace using Gee’s viewpoint?

I would like to suggest two strategies, one easy and one more difficult.

Strategy 1: Use games in the classroom. Easy!

Games are fun and are known to build inclusive spaces. Certainly I have used games quite effectively in my classrooms. By effective, I mean they assisted with the building of a positive learning space. For example, during 20014 I taught a class that was heavily disengaged but any type of game playing would awaken their enthusiasm. Soccer and basketball were a hit but so was very regular use of mindcraft and other iPad games. Some professional educators will question such an approach with raised eyebrows, demanding more meaningful learning. However, at this stage of my own professional journey I am hanging onto the idea that games help to create inclusive classrooms where social learning takes place. In some contexts such learning is overlooked, to the detriment of our students.

Strategy 2: Redesign learning spaces both digital and physical. Difficult!

Games should perhaps be viewed as digital learning spaces that have been designed with the intent of engaging all participants. As I am learning, games such as Ingress have been designed to be extremely socially inclusive – this game is played by millions of people on a global scale. According to Gee (2005) they are also designed around good theories of learning and can engage deep learning. Hence these online collaborative spaces may be used as a point of reflection to aid us in redesigning not just pedagogy but also the digital and physical learning spaces where we teach. The idea is to start challenging how we teach in unison with explorations of built pedagogy with the aim of designing more socially inclusive spaces.

Professionally, I also think we need to move on from what Gee (2004) calls a ‘content fetish‘. Perhaps teaching and learning with games will take us down that vital path as current curriculum in Australia (that’s my context) are so fixated with content it’s no wonder most kids get overwhelmed and bored.

In summary games may be used as a tool to help us evaluate and re-design 21st century learning environments – with socially inclusive pedagogies in mind. Game designers appear to be doing it, so perhaps educators can too.


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

Gee, J.P. (2005). Good video games and good learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 85(2), 33-37.

Gee, J. P. (2005). What would a state of the art instructional video game look like. Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 1(6), 159.

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  1. Thanks for a comprehensive post, which I can see is strongly driven by your ongoing engagement with the subject both in terms of academic work AND practical games engagement. This is a real credit to you, and is clearly strengthening your thinking. You’ve also manage to wrap in some of the learning spaces thinking into your reflections – nice. You’ve become a master at this writing process, and are well prepared for the Critical Review assessment. Awesome work friend!

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