Matthew Farber

Matthew Farber

Matthew Farber teaches social studies at Valleyview Middle School, in Denville, New Jersey. He is also an adjunct instructor for the New Jersey City University (NJCU) Educational Technology Department. Mr. Farber holds a Master's Degree in Educational Technology from NJCU, where he is currently is pursuing a Doctorate in Educational Technology Leadership. He is also on the board of directors for the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies (NJCSS). He also blogs regularly for Edutopia. His book, Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning, is out now via Peter Lang Publishing.

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In the business world, gamification has become something of a buzzword. The idea is to take elements from digital games and add it to enhance a customer’s experience. In consumer websites and mobile applications, this can mean digital badges, leaderboards to track scores, levels to unlock, and other reward mechanisms.

Children in school grow emotionally, as well as physically and intellectually. A child’s ability to understand his or her own individual emotional growth is formally known as Social Emotional Learning (SEL). The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines this competency as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

How can teachers use games to teach complex issues? New Jersey social studies teacher Matthew Farber discusses how the latest games can be used to help students learn about the principles of ethics.

Game designers use cause and effect loops to reward players when they advance in a game. Conversely, penalties exist if a task is a mission is failed. For example, when Batman defeats thugs in an Arkham game, the player -- who takes agency over the character -- may earn a digital badge or a power up. The “fail state” is a setback penalty to the most recent save point. Designers use causal loops with the intention of affecting player behavior; intrinsic satisfaction is typically rewarded right away. Of course, decisions in real life are much harder to define.

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