From Playing to Making in STEAM: Immersion through Collaborative Game Design


by Jeffrey Sens (Pixel Arts) and Will Lewis (PIGsquad)

A frequent question by parents about gamesbasedlearning is, “do they just play games?” Considering the long history of educational games and the recent celebration of games as coding literacy, parent’s perceptions of games as play should not be surprising. While we consider play a crucial experience for learning, we also advocate for a term shift toward game making. By marking a shift from consumption to creation, game making encourages a new front to synthesize connected learning with emergent practices, domains of knowledge, and theories of social learning. We offer this presentation as a way for practitioners to address a key question in formal learning, “how can game design serve as a pathway for STEAM in formal learning?” For practitioners who seek to leverage games for learning, we highlight best practices within a broader framework for research, assessment, and improvement.

In our presentation, we provide a framework of learning practices based on research assessment of game design camps by Dr. Erica Kleinknecht, Professor of Psychology at Pacific University. We detail the assessment in terms of creating a “connected learning community” based on group mentoring. Unlike relationship based mentoring that is typically 1on1, longterm, and intimate, group mentoring emphasizes “momentary intimacy” through relationships of collaboration and facilitation. We then align group mentoring to three metrics for student learning: academic identity, growth mindset, and prosocial skills. Finally, we share a detailed dive into our STEAM exposure curriculum in terms of it “immersive” capacities: 1) the movement between handson and digital; 2) individualized learning, and 3) project based connectivity.