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Explore Like a Pirate: #gbl & game-based course design

I’ve gotten to know Michael Matera over the last few years as we both went down the path of using games in the classroom. We read each other’s stuff and chatted once a while via social media. He’s connected with some of my good friends and colleagues like Kevin Honeycutt and Wes Fryer.

As a classroom teacher, Michael spent a ton of time perfecting the concept of game-based learning in the trenches with his middle school students. All while sharing his ideas and thoughts via and @mrmatera.

And just so you know – if you haven’t seen his stuff – Michael’s got the juice. He’s a guy who believes in #gbl and is pulling it off with a ton of success with actual, real live kids.

So if he ever writes a book that describes how teachers can use game-based learning and gamification in the classroom, buy the book. Seriously. You’re gonna get smarter and your kids will learn more.

You already know where this is heading, don’t you? Yup.

Just a few months old and for sale at Amazon with a 100% five star rating is Michael’s new book titled  Explore Like a Pirate: Gamification and Game-Inspired COurse Design to Engage, Enrich, and Elevate Your Learners.

The back cover should be enough to push your brain into #gbl overdrive:

Are you ready to transform your classroom into an experiential work that flourishes on collaboration and creativity? Then set sail with classroom game designer and educator Michael Matera as he reveals the possibilities and power of game-based learning. In Explore Like a Pirate, Matera serves as your experienced guide to help you apply the most motivational techniques of gameplay to your classroom using strategies that work with and enhance (rather than replace) your current curriculum.

Part one debunks common myths and fears about gamification and explains why and how game-based learning effectively engages students in any subject or grade level.

Part two focuses on how you can empower students to take control of their learning. You’ll also learn all about the different kinds of players in your classroom – and how to inspire them to set and achieve big goals.

Part three is an all-in-one treasure chest, tool box, and field guide. Packed with ideas and examples that can be applied or adapted to any classroom – from badges and points, to mini-games and yearlong adventures – this is a resource you’ll return to again and again.

I love the myth debunking section. So many teachers, admins, and parents are still not convinced that using games and simulations as learning engines is good for kids. This section also clears up some of the misconceptions that many educators still have about the process. A sample?

Girls don’t game.

The truth? Girls not only game, they dominate the game world. In 2014, 52 percent of the gaming community was comprised of females. Thirty-eight percent of players are women over the age of 18, compared to 17 percent boys under the age of 18. This kind of data is handy when confronted by reluctant principals and parents.

The cool thing about the entire book is that it is practical and immediately useful. This is not theory for theory’s sake. Michael has done this. With 12 and 13 year olds. Every day. For years. So you’re going to walk away with specific suggestions and strategies.

But I do like that there is some theory here. The research is here – and I really like how Michael uses the term “game inspired course design.” Most of us who have been messing with games for a while see the connection between research-based instruction and a well-designed video game. The principles are the same and Michael does a good job of connecting the two.

Explore Like a Pirate is part of the Dave Burgess Teach Like a Pirate universe and follows a similar pattern. The book is broken into chunks such as plotting a course, getting to know your crew, setting sail, and X marks the spot. It’s a fun way to organize a lot of information in an easily consumable way.

Michael also has a book site with some resources. Head over there for his book blog and be sure to connect with his Twitter chat book study at #XPLAP. It looks like he and Tisha Richmond host the chat every Wednesday at 7:00 CST. Jump in tomorrow for chapter three. (Get the Chapter One and Chapter Two Twitter summaries at Storify.)

Explore Like a Pirate joins other useful gaming books such as The Game Believes in You and Gaming the Past as non-negotiable resources that we all should be reading.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. MJ #


    Funny I was just researching gamiification. I am Curriculum Coordinator and I work with the SLC’s in our high school. I was thinking of introducing a game system like “Classcraft” to use as behavioral intervention for the freshman house.

    What I was looking for was some sort of reading to introduce the concept to the teachers. It sounds like the myth debunking section is what I am looking for.

    I’ll take you for your word Glenn and get it. You haven’t steered me wrong yet 🙂

    January 26, 2016
    • glennw #

      Okay. I will take either the blame or credit for your purchase! (Hoping it’s the credit!) But I think you’re right – the debunking section would be good for starting a fun conversation about the gbl process.

      Maybe make a combined list of the myths and truths – then ask teachers (or students) to pick out the myths from the list.

      Good luck! Let me know how it turns out.


      January 26, 2016

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