Episode 771 SEL Games Learning Life Skills Through Games

SEL Games: Learning Life Skills Through Games

The harsh reality of classroom life is that students and teachers both report lower motivation and morale right now. We must reengage students! Games can help us! SEL games can help you teach social-emotional learning skills and life skills. Today’s expert, Dr. Matthew Farber, gives us an interesting twist on games by integrating them with SEL. He has practical ideas for understanding and using game-based learning in the classroom. 

Games make a great addition to every teacher's toolkit. From board games, in-class games, or video games, students love them! So, let me encourage you to take some time to learn about SEL games today in this podcast.

Sponsor: Advancement Courses

Thank you Advancement Courses for sponsoring today’s show. This month, Advancement Courses is kicking off their annual Tournament of Teachers bracket challenge where educators can win up to $2,000 in prizes. This year’s “Mischief-Makers Edition'' features some of the most incorrigible students from literature and film, including Draco Malfoy, Veruca Salt, Bart Simpson, and Ferris Bueller. From now until March 20, choose which mischief-maker you’d rather teach and submit your bracket in order to play. Then from March 21-30, you’ll have a chance to come back and vote for your favorites to advance. Enter now and you could win prizes like a $1,000 Amazon gift card and more. Visit www.coolcatteacher.com/tournament/ to learn more and submit your brackets!
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SEL Games: Why They Can Help You In the Classroom

First, games are an excellent tool in the hands of a trained educator. As we seek to reengage students, games are a great way to not only teach but help students develop socially and emotionally. Today’s topic brings these two together.

“A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.”

SEL Games PodcastAccording to CASEL, Social-emotional learning is defined as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”  

Now, that is a mouthful. Research clearly shows the benefits of SEL 

Furthermore, other research shows parents agree with SEL principles. Understandably, this research is good news for those who believe in SEL.

Parents Don't Like the Term “Social Emotional Learning”

What is the bad news, you ask? Unfortunately, the name “Social Emotional Learning” has a negative response from parents.

What terms should we use instead?

Well, it looks like the term parents like most is life skills. Interestingly, “life skills” is most preferred by parents with a very distinct second “social-emotional and academic learning.”  Interestingly, Life Skills and SEL are teaching the same things, but for some reason, SEL seems to be a politically charged term. In this case, as is often the case, words matter.

What are the skills that parents want us to teach their children? For example, Setting goals and working towards achieving them and approaching challenges positively, in an optimistic way are two of them. I’ve also included a link to the longer list of parent priorities in this research.

Parents want a partnership with teachers who teach SEL

However, as we discuss SEL, we as teachers should remember that many parents, and rightly so, believe SEL skills – even if we call them “life skills” – should be developed in partnership with parents. At my school, we emphasize partnership with parents. Admittedly, this is not always possible. However, our goal should be a partnership. When parents and teachers partner together, positive things can happen in a child’s life.

Episode 771 - SEL and Game Based Learning Spotlight

SEL Games: Learning Life Skills through Games

Dr. Matthew Farber
Founder - SEL Gaming LAb

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SEL Game Resources Mentioned in This Podcast

More Game-Based Learning Teacher Resources

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About Dr. Matthew Farber - SEL Game Based Learning Expert

Dr. Matthew FarberMatthew Farber, Ed.D., is an assistant professor at the University of Northern Colorado, where he founded the Gaming SEL Lab. He has been invited to the White House, authored several books and papers, and is a frequent collaborator with UNESCO MGIEP and Games for Change. His latest book is GAMING SEL: Games as Transformational to Social and Emotional Learning.

Gaming SEL Book Description

Games enable children to practice emotions in spaces that are free from actualized consequences. With thoughtful guidance, games can help children manage emotions, perspective-take, demonstrate empathic concern, and exhibit prosocial behaviors.

Emerging research suggests that these competencies—also known as social and emotional learning (SEL) skills—are, in fact, teachable. In Gaming SEL: Games as Transformational to Social and Emotional Learning, Matthew Farber investigates the rich opportunities games have in supporting SEL skill development. Experts from the fields of education, game development, and SEL—including folks from CASEL, the Fred Rogers Center, Greater Good in Education, iThrive Games, Minecraft Education, and UNESCO MGIEP—share advice.

Games themselves cannot be responsible for children’s learning. Having a supportive educator or caregiver guiding experiences can be crucial. This book also includes recommendations for embedding games in classrooms in ways that support meaningful SEL skill development. Regardless of your experience, content area, or grade level, this book is for you!

Show Notes and Transcript - Dr. Matthew Farber and SEL Games

00;00;00;03 – 00;00;03;15

Announcer: This is the Ten Minute Teacher podcast with your host, Vicki Davis.

Social Emotional Learning Research Overview

According to CASEL, Social-emotional learning is defined as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”  

Now, that is  mouthful. Research clearly shows the benefits of SEL. To explain, I’ve included links to that research in the show notes at coolcatteacher.com/e771.

Furthermore, other research shows parents agree with SEL principles. Understandably, this research is good news for those who believe in SEL.

What is the bad news, you ask? Unfortunately, the name “Social Emotional Learning” has a negative response from parents.

What terms should we use instead?

Parents Like the Term “Life Skills” instead of SEL

Well, it looks like the term parents like most is life skills. Interestingly, “life skills” is most preferred by parents with a very distinct second “social-emotional and academic learning.”  Life Skills and SEL are teaching the same things, but for some reason, SEL seems to be a politically charged term. In this case, as is often the case, words matter.

What are the skills that parents want us to teach their children? Setting goals and working towards achieving them and approaching challenges positively, in an optimistic way are two of them. I’ve also included a link to the longer list of parent priorities in this research.

However, as we discuss SEL, we as teachers should remember that many parents, and rightly so, believe SEL skills – even if we call them “life skills” – should be developed in partnership with parents. At my school, we emphasize partnership with parents. Admittedly, this is not always possible. But our goal should be a partnership. When parents and teachers partner together, positive things can happen in a child’s life.

Dr. Matthew Farber, SEL Games Expert is Today's Guest

In today’s show, game-based learning expert Dr. Matthew Farber discusses how to teach the vital life skills our students need to know using game-based learning. 

00;01;54;22 – 00;02;28;23 – sponsor

Thank you, Advancement Courses for sponsoring Today's show

Today's episode is sponsored by Advancement Courses in their Tournament of Teacher's Bracket Challenge. Stay tuned at the end of the show to find out how to play and win up to $2,000 in prizes. 

Vicki: So today we're talking with my friend Dr. Matthew Farber, an assistant professor at the University of Northern Colorado, where he founded the Gaming SEL Lab and his new book, GAMING SEL: Games as Transformational to Social and Emotional Learning is out.

00;02;28;23 – 00;02;40;15

How can games teach SEL and Life Skills?

Vicki: Now we're going to divide it into two parts. Matt, first, how do you relate games and social-emotional learning?

00;02;40;15 – 00;03;04;08

Matthew: Well, thanks for having me on. I've been doing this work with you UNESCO and GIEP, as well as Games for Change for years and I've discovered that games can be really powerful ways to teach social-emotional learning because you're active in a game, right? You take agency and because when you take agency over what you do in a game, there's a certain emotional palate with that.

00;03;04;17 – 00;03;27;23

Matthew I've also found for talking to many, many game designers, including those who make SEL games like Daniel Tiger apps to commercial games like Minecraft, that really good games are designed with the player's emotional experience in mind. And that's a great starting point because that's the same starting point, as well as emotional identification and emotional awareness.

00;03;28;18 – 00;03;48;14

Vicki: I love that, emotional experience. You know, I've been reading your books for a long time teaching students to design games, but that's fascinating. 

Examples of Life Skills That Can Be Taught with Games

So let's take some examples of individual SEL skills and relate those to games. So what would be the first one you would pick to talk about?

00;03;48;14 – 00;03;58;06

Empathy Can Be Taught with Games

Matthew: We could take empathy as the first one to talk about because a lot of people take that grant assumption that you take on a role of an avatar or a character in a game. Therefore, you may have empathy.

00;03;58;12 – 00;04;02;05

Vicki: How do you help kids develop empathy with gaming?

00;04;02;20 – 00;04;43;18

Matthew: Well, great questions because they immerse you. They transport you into amazing fictional worlds. Some games are serious in content, some are not, but they take you on that hero's journey. 

In games, you can have empathy for unique situations and experiences from others. You may also develop what they call in the literature virtual empathy for nonplayable characters that range from the cube and portal that players formed an emotional attachment to through other non-playable characters in games that kind of like assist you as you go Those are amazing ways in safe practice spaces to develop skills like empathy, but I don't want to oversell it.

00;04;43;18 – 00;05;10;03

Matthew: Of course, you know, it's like anything else you can learn empathy from reading books as well could also learn empathy from watching movies. But what I find is that games do something called proceduralization. They break things down into concrete steps. One of the psychologists I spoke to in my book calls it e v o o, turns out and it's in this order, he said, it's empathy, validating feelings and offering options.

00;05;10;14 – 00;05;31;19

Matthew: So there's a game called Kind Words where you send anonymous notes to one another. There's another one. Lots of teachers play in classrooms called Class Craft, and they have kudos where you can send gratitude notes. And when you want to express empathy, there are actual steps that are involved in expressing empathy. Right. And then validating that those emotions are real.

00;05;32;02 – 00;05;52;15

Matthew: Lastly, offering options. Because teachers are not trained clinical psychologists, so what they can do is offer options. You know, send to the guidance counselor, for instance, or, you know, if they're struggling with homework, offer different strategies. Right. EVOO and some games really do that. They break things down into those steps.

00;05;53;00 – 00;05;58;17

Teamwork Can Be Taught with SEL Games

Vicki: Okay. So what's another SEL skill as it relates to games.

00;05;59;02 – 00;06;23;00

Matthew: I guess I could jump around here, but another one is teamwork. That's one of the impetus for me. Writing this book is teamwork. I didn't want superficial skill. It's very easy to say okay to kids in a Chromebook while we check off the teamwork box. Right. Many games do, particularly role-playing games is something called asymmetrical design is that basically means one character could do one thing, the other character cannot.

00;06;23;05 – 00;06;44;28

Matthew: They get abilities. The board game Pandemic does this, Dungeons and Dragons does this, the old Lego video games and like the Nintendo Wii one character can build the blocks, the other one can jump. And you got that asymmetrical design. It gives you a feeling that you can do something that the other cannot. And it really forces you to be part of a team.

00;06;45;02 – 00;07;04;25

Matthew: It'll only work if you work together. I think games can do that very well. They cannot just teach what teamwork and collaboration is by explaining it, but by doing it, right, you really are part of a team. When I spoke to some of the folks at CASEL Collaborative for Academic Social Emotional Learning, one of the things they emphasized was developmental SEL, as they call it.

00;07;05;10 – 00;07;14;15

Matthew: So you need a certain amount of perspective, taking empathy for your teammate as you work on a team. So a lot of these skills interplay and they're interwoven.

00;07;15;06 – 00;07;19;21

Kindness and Compassion Can Be Taught with SEL Games

Vicki: So how about kindness and compassion? Is that something you can teach with games?

00;07;20;01 – 00;07;44;15

Matthew: You can and with certain types of games, right? Often we talk about games that big, broad strokes, right? But we don't do that with movies, right? Last year's Academy Award-winning NOMADLAND. Much different than going to see an Avengers movie. So there are many, many different types of games. And some of them are really effective at teaching kindness and compassion through affecting you prosocially to want to make change in the world.

00;07;44;25 – 00;08;09;14

Matthew: Kind Words that I mentioned earlier. That's why we send notes of kindness to one another. There are many others that involve understanding how others feel and what they're going through. We've studied the game here and in India and in the United Arab Emirates called Bury Me, My Love Text Adventure Game. It looks like you're on a chat app like WhatsApp on your phone, but it's a husband and wife who are Syrian refugees.

00;08;09;14 – 00;08;32;07

Matthew: You communicate with each other in real-time. Sometimes you have to wait. I'm at a border crossing and you're just waiting. 

In fact, I found that a lot of games with SEL, they're not very transactional at all. What they are. They're called situational game design, which is a certain framework about the heuristics that are in the player's mind before they make any actions.

00;08;32;07 – 00;08;40;03

Matthew

Like, I wonder what's going to happen if I click here, and that's where we can start to transform players for the better, I think.

00;08;40;04 – 00;08;45;09

Ethical Decision Making Can Be Taught with Games

Vicki: So one more. What do you want to pick? Ethical decision-making. Is that a good one?

00;08;46;07 – 00;09;10;21

Matthew Yeah, that's a great one to pick because there's a lot of work around games that ethics games themselves are ethical machines. As Sherry Jones @autnes told me, she's very active with ISTE, they imposed through their rule sets and framework you know what they want you to do. And if you think about the trolley experiment, some people on one trolley track and another, and you could pull the lever right.

00;09;10;22 – 00;09;33;02

Matthew: It's one of those dilemmas, right, that is impossible to solve. And a lot of games actually put that into their systems. Those are great conversations. Starters for classrooms.

How to Teach Using Nintendo Switch Games

Take actually a lot of games can be played on a Nintendo switch. If a teacher has to switch, just get an extra dock to the classroom, unplug it for the SmartBoard, the HDMI cable, put it in to the switch. (Teacher Resource: How to Hook Up a Nintendo Switch to Projector)

00;09;33;10 – 00;09;57;04

Matthew: You only need one controller and treat it like this impossible field trip like interactive documentary. Right, you pass around the controller, students will play for five, 10 minutes and then they have meaning that they can bring to the conversation, to the book they're reading to whatever content they're there, are learning for perspective, taking in ethics. I recommend Quandary, which are full disclosure.

00;09;57;04 – 00;10;13;27

Matthew: I'm on the advisory board, but they are free. It's from the MIT Education Arcade. It's also on brain pop, and it's an ethical decision-making game that also involves perspective-taking, and it's made for classrooms across different content areas.

00;10;14;10 – 00;10;32;02

Vicki: Wow. This is fascinating. The book is Gaming Scale Games is Transformational to Social and Emotional Learning by Dr. Matthew Faber. Thank you so much. You've given us some great ideas and some great games, and we'll have to take a look at these. Thanks, Matt.

00;10;32;19 – 00;10;33;19

Matthew: Yes, thanks for having me on.

00;10;34;13 – 00;11;12;07

Advancement Courses Tournament of Teachers

Vicki: Thank you. Advancement courses for sponsoring today's show. This month, Advancement Courses is kicking off their annual Tournament of Teachers Bracket Challenge, where educators can win up to $2,000 in prizes. This year's Mischief Makers Edition features some of the most incorrigible students from literature and film, including Draco Malfoy, Veruca Salt, Bart Simpson, and Ferris Bueller. From now until March 20th, choose which mischief-maker you'd rather teach and submit your bracket in order to play. Then, from March 21st through 30th, you'll have a chance to come back and vote for your favorites in advance.

00;11;12;27 – 00;11;30;27

Vicki: Enter now and you can win prizes like a $1,000 gift card and more. Tournament of Teachers Bracket Challenge

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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