This course will become read-only in the near future. Tell us at if that is a problem.


Who should take this course

This course is open to anyone who is interested in how people learn from video games. We will look at games from various perspectives: cognitive, social, ethical, design, pragmatic, etc. You do not need specific technical experience in developing games and you do not need to be a "gamer" to join us. We will pay special attention to the ways that games can be to support learning in K-12 schools.


By the end of the course, participants should be able to:

  1. Understand major topics in educational games and simulations
  2. Understand the difference between exogenous and endogenous games, and design a simple endogenous game that can be used to teach a specific topic
  3. Analyze and reflect on the potential of existing games and their potential in educational contexts
  4. Adapt games and game-like activities to support classroom learning, whether in or outside of school.

Course procedures

This course will run for 6 weeks and will follow a weekly schedule. Most (if not all) of our meetings will be asynchronous. In order to enjoy lively discussions and to support each other in learning, we should stick to the same schedule. In most sessions we will read an article or two related to games and learning and discuss it online. Since our "week" starts on Monday, we should all post our comments by the end of day on Thursday. This will leave several days for discussion and follow-up questions. As a guideline, we will post once, comment twice. That is, each week after you post, you should comment on at least two other people's posts.

Suggested books

All readings will be posted online, but these books offer more depth for the topics for our course.

Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games gave to teach us about learning and literacy (2nd Ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 140398453

Bogost, I. (2010). Persuasive games : the expressive power of videogames. Cambridge Mass.; London: MIT Press.

Hung, A. (2011). The work of play : meaning-making in videogames. New York: Peter Lang.

Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (2003). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge Mass.: The MIT Press.

Class sessions

Part 1: Understanding games

Week 1: Play, Learning, & Society

This week we will start thinking about what makes a game a game, and the role of games and play in our lives.

  • Sutton-Smith, B. (2001). The ambiguity of play. Cambridge Mass.; London: Harvard University Press. ch. 1, pp 1-16
Assignments due:

Please make your initial posts for these two assignments by end of day on Thursday.

games autobiography

Please introduce yourself to the group by uploading your "games autobiography." Tell us about yourself through the games that you have played in your life. You might want to consider what you learned from these games, their importance socially, the context you played them, and other details about how games interacted with the larger scope of your life.

online discussion: What is fun?

Choose a game (digital or not) that you are familiar with and enjoy. Write a statement about why it is fun, to you. Consider the mechanics of the game, as well as the circumstances when you play(ed) it. Before class, please make sure that you comment on at least two of your classmate's posts. (Post once, comment twice). Submit your first post by 8:00am on Monday morning. Submit your comments before the start of next class.

Week 2: Fundamentals of Game Design

Understanding game design will helps us to understand how games work, what makes them fun and/or challenging, and offers insight into how to analyze games.

Readings due:
Assignments due:
  • online discussion (see week 2 topics), questions created by the week 2 discussion facilitator

Week 3: Gender, Violence, & Video Games

In this session we will consider some of the more lasting criticisms of video games: that they are overly violent and reinforce a patriarchical, sexist society.

Readings due:
  • Jones, G. (2002). Killing monsters: Why children need fantasy, super heroes, and make-believe violence. New York: Basic Books. (Selections)
  • Ferguson, C. J. (2010). Video games and youth violence: A prospective analysis in adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
  • Spina, S. U. (2004). Power plays: Video games' bad rap. In S. R. Steinberg & J. L. Kincheloe (Eds.), Kinderculture: The corporate construction of childhood (pp. 254-283). Oxford: Westview Press.
  • Kafai, Y. B., Heeter, C., Denner, J., & Sun, J. Y. (Eds.). (2008). Beyond Barbie® and Mortal Kombat: New perspectives on gender and gaming. Cambridge: The MIT Press. (Selections)

Part Two: Games and learning

Week 4: Learning within games

Readings due:
  • Selections from: Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games gave to teach us about learning and literacy

Week 5: Simulations

Readings due:

Week 6: Final projects

Modified: Mon Oct 31 12:59:08 EDT 2011

Task Discussion