Using Games to Support Inclusive Classrooms - A Panel Discussion

Brief Abstract

How do we incorporate critical questions and uncomfortable issues, while maintaining an inclusive and comfortable classroom? In this panel presentation, panelists will share games, activities, exercises, and assessments that can be used to spur the critical consideration of cultural and ethical issues. We will also discuss some of the general requirements for addressing effective conversation in the classroom, such as encouraging active listening, building trust in the room, and tactics for engaging in positive confrontation and positive disagreement. In this panel, we will discuss, and at times disagree, about some of the questions to ask, techniques to use, topics to broach, and successes achieved in challenging students' perspectives as they relate to cultural competency, ethics, empathy and games. We will consider, specifically, which learning objectives and questions are most critical, and which games, examples, readings, tasks, exercises, assessments, and pedagogical techniques can support these goals. While the specific ethics-related topics that are most relevant and most difficult to discuss change over time, they are often notable for inciting controversy and even discomfort in the classroom. However, this discomfort can often foster more inclusive dialogue, practices and design considerations. Current examples of topics include systemic bias and representations of gender, race, class, sexual identity, and disability in games; empathy and emotion; harassment and bullying, and transgressive play, and discussions of ethics in games journalism and #gamergate. Other examples include incorporating independent games and commercial games that challenge and introduce different social experiences and new mechanics centered on them; for example, games like Dys4ia and Triad, which remix traditional game mechanics in novel ways to understand and think about sexuality and transgendered experience. Such topics often invite controversy and even discomfort for students (and educators). Techniques will be shared on how to best support an inclusive classroom for critical conversations and reflection. The presentation will share specific learning objectives, challenges, best practices, and questions related to incorporating ethics and cultural critique using games in the classroom. It will provide illustrative examples, "wins" and "fails," exercises and techniques, assessment tools, and tips on how to support effective conversation, such as encouraging active listening, trust, and constructive disagreement. The panel (anonymized) will be comprised of experienced educators who incorporate games into their classrooms, and consider how best to support inclusive classrooms. Some questions we may discuss include: What are some ways K-12 educators and college educators can use games to create more inclusive and equitable learning and development environments? How do we effectively talk about race and inclusion, belongingness and empathy through games? How do we best discuss and probe topics such as sexuality, identity, or gender through games? How do we help our students confront their presumptions or biases without losing their attention (or worse)? How can we foster dialogue and multiple perspectives using games to create more inclusive learning environments? What are some cases of successful or unsuccessful classroom activities around games and culturally responsive design?


Karen Schrier is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Games & Emerging Media program at Marist College. Prior to Marist College, she spent over a decade producing websites, apps, and games at Scholastic, Nickelodeon, BrainPOP, PBS/Channel 13 and SparkNotes/Barnes & Noble. She is the editor of the book series, Learning, Education & Games, published by ETC Press (Carnegie Mellon), and co-editor of two books on games and ethics. Her latest book, Knowledge Games: How Playing Games Can Help Solve Problems, Create Insight, and Make Change, was published in 2016 by Johns Hopkins University Press, and has been covered by Forbes, New Scientist, and Times Higher Education, Radio NZ and SiriusXM. She holds a doctorate from Columbia University, master’s degree from MIT, and a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College.

Extended Abstract