Game-Based Learning, Rubrics, and Rigor

The Overview

Game-based learning (GBL) can be a powerful classroom tool and pedagogy. First, let's distinguish between GBL and gamification:

This article, which the AVICHAI Foundation introduced us to, also clarifies the difference between gaming and gamification and discusses how games are being used in education:

Will Gaming Save Education, or Just Waste Time?

The truth is, we got interested in gaming the classroom because of a very inspiring TED Talk we saw:

Jane McGonigal talks about the importance of games in her book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, and TED Talk:

Edutopia on GBL

As usual, you can't go wrong on Edutopia's website. Here are its resources for GBL. And here's how to get started in using GBL in your classroom:

GBL in Jewish Education

Owen Gottlieb of ConverJent, a Jewish GBL organization, has written extensively on games in the classroom. You can also check out his organization here.

And here's a blog post about a SIM CITY class at The Frisch School, a class where students chose a city sector to develop throughout the year:


A Game Design Master's?!

Game Design Master's Programs are growing popular. For example, you may now get a game design Master's at NYU's Game Center.


If we're engaged in PBL and GBL, where the project is the learning, then assessment needs to look a lot different than it does today. We think the following graphic illustrates this point well:

Rubrics keep projects focused and clear. In fact, having students design their own rubrics is a great way to have them internalize and articulate their learning goals.

Rubrics for Teachers is a good resource for all types of pre-made rubrics, and RubiStar lets you create and customize your own rubrics. Of course, check out BIE's selection of rubrics. We love this Creativity and Innovation rubric from BIE; it's even Common Core-aligned!

A lot of educators express concern that students won't learn certain content and skills with PBL. It's easy to make sure students are meeting all their learning goals if those benchmarks are built into the PBL unit. Simply include them in the rubric. 

In fact, it's not only educators who wonder how PBL can be rigorous or academic enough. We addressed this concern in a previous blog post, where we also posted the rubric Tikvah Wiener created for a collaborative English final that asked tenth grade students to write a video script using the texts, ideas, and even grammar they had learned throughout the year:

Deep Learning MOOC

We learned a lot about rigor, deep learning, and beautiful work by participating in this Deep Learning MOOC:

To give you a sense of what we gained, here's Ron Berger, author of An Ethic of Excellence and a PBL and deep learning practitioner, demonstrating with elementary school children what rigorous learning looks like:

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