English, School of Liberal Arts

Online games are just for fun, right? Or are there deeper lessons to be learned?

David Seelow, Ph.D., adjunct lecturer in English, recently published Games as Transformative Experiences for Critical Thinking, Cultural Awareness, and Deep Learning: Strategies & Resources (CRC Press), which examines the learning values of a wide variety of video, board, and online games for high school and college students across multiple disciplines.

“All games are potentially transformative experiences because they engage the player in dynamic action,” said Seelow. “When repurposed in an educational context, even highly popular casual games that are usually played just for fun or to pass the time can engage players in a way that deepens learning.”

Seelow, who has given workshops on this subject in the United States, England and Ireland, hosted a New York conference on games in learning. His most recent book highlights classroom experiences, community and culture, virtual learning, and interdisciplinary instruction. It features practical exercises, resources and lesson ideas, and explanations on how to use a diverse range of games for self-improvement and classroom situations.

Some examples: Bury Me, My Love, about the Syrian refugee crisis; This War of Mine from Poland, to teach about the current situation in Ukraine and, in the past siege of Sarajevo; and The Amazing Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne to examine social anxiety among college students.

“When video games first emerged on a global scale as entertainment, I anticipated that the next explosion would be using these games as a learning tool, considering the number of young people who play them,” he said. “They can be played anywhere, at any time, and students are highly motivated to use them.”

Students can use games to develop critical thinking, creativity, problem solving and ways to address social-emotional topics such as anxiety, depression and developing empathy for others. 

Seelow’s website Revolutionary Learning offers more content on games in learning. He has also edited Lessons Drawn: Essays on the Pedagogy of Comics and Graphic Novels.