Level-Up Your Games and Learning Knowledge: 6 Resources

Greetings everyone, and welcome to another edition of the TESOL Games and Learning Blog. This month’s post highlights books and journals that are some of my favorite games and language learning resources. These are the resources I recommend to others looking to enhance their game design knowledge, level up their games in language learning knowledge, or stay current in games and language learning research.


Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games
by Tracy Fullerton

Tracy Fullerton’s book is a rich primer on the fundamentals of games and game design. Each chapter covers a step in the game design process with interstitials featuring interviews from notable game designers and developers. Read this book as a guide to the mechanics of games or as a tutorial on how to create more engaging games for your classroom, or use it as a guide for a project-based assignment where students design, playtest, and balance their own games.

Challenges for Game Designers: Non-Digital Exercises for Video Game Designers
by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber

Brenda Braithwaite’s book is always within arm’s reach as I work on game-related materials. It is a fantastic hands-on approach to building games and pairs exceptionally well with Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop. Braithwaite fills each chapter of the book with challenges around a central theme that guide readers through varieties of games such as chance, strategy, and twitch games. Besides a great guide to building games, this book too can be used as the foundation for a project-based class where students design their own games.

Serious Play: Literacy, Learning and Digital Games
edited by Catherine Beavis, Michael Dezuanni, and Joanne O’Mara

Serious Play pairs well with Language at Play. Where Language at Play features a focus on game software, Serious Play documents student experiences around using games in education. The case-study nature of each chapter provides an active research description of how teachers use games in learning and how students perceive the use of games for learning. Though the book is not exclusively focused on language learning, each chapter provides valuable insight into how to effectively leverage games for the classroom.

Language at Play: Digital Games in Second and Foreign Language Teaching and Learning
by Julie M. Sykes and Jonathon Reinhardt

The stated goal of this book is to introduce educators to digital game-mediated second language teaching and learning. It’s a solid reference work for fundamental concepts around games and language learning and features a wide array of games that could be used as part of classroom activities. Interspersed through the chapters are practical activities and reflection exercises for language teachers to improve and refine their approaches to integrating games into their classroom practice.


Language Learning and Technology

Language Learning and Technology (LLT) is a research-focused mainstay in the area of computer-assisted language learning. Its back catalogue is a wealth of games and language learning-related research, and the journal frequently features reviews of games and language-learning books. For those looking to develop their own bibliography of games and language learning research, LLT is the place to start.

Ludic Language Pedagogy Journal

Ludic Language Pedagogy (LLP) is a relatively new open-access journal with perhaps the most insightful understanding of games in any of the academic literature. One of the most pressing issues in games and language education is the view of games as text that teach and educators using them in much the same way they would books or film. Yet, games’ true potential rests in the understanding of them as spaces that prompt social interaction and transformation. LLP journal highlights the transformative aspects of games that make it a go-to resource for critical ideas around games and learning.

I hope these recommendations make their way into your professional reading rotation as each can help level-up your understanding of games and how to use them in the classroom. Until next month, keeping reading and play more games!

About Jeff Kuhn

Jeff Kuhn is the director of esports at Ohio University. He frequently delivers talks and keynote addresses on games and learning, game design, and the need for games literacy in educators. He is one of the founding moderators of the Electronic Village Online’s Minecraft MOOC, a community of practice for teachers learning to use Minecraft in the classroom. He has served on the TESOL CALL-IS steering committee, as the Gaming Special Interest Group chair for CALICO, and in the U.S. Department of State’s English Language Specialist program. His research interests include game-based learning, second language writing, and computer-assisted language learning.
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