Cycle 2 Readings

As the first cycle of Games and Learning readings wrapped this past Sunday, I wrote at length about our course’s emerging and open annotation-as-discussion practices. I observed how certain types of annotation both transcend and also echo social practices found in more traditional LMS-based discussion forums. Just as annotation may support peer-to-peer questioning – a routine familiar to many who facilitate online learning – so too can annotation express the playfulness and personality of readers. I’m curious about how our annotation-as-discussion practices will continue to grow and change this cycle. What norms will subsist? What annotation practices will diminish? And what will emerge?

This post is less analytical and more administrative as I introduce readings for our course’s second cycle focused on affinity spaces and participatory culture. Students in Games and Learning will soon begin their semester-long affinity space project – an opportunity to join, observe, and participate in a games-related space of their choosing. This cycle’s readings provide a number of theoretical and empirical entry points for learning about affinity spaces, addressing questions like: What are affinity spaces? How is knowledge and expertise generated, and circulated, in affinity spaces? And where and how can students begin participating in the social and cultural practices of such spaces?


  • Gee & Hayes (2008) introduce the concept of affinity spaces within the context of game-based learning. They provide over a dozen features that distinguish how these spaces support learning, social cohesion and development, and the “nurturing” of expertise. Students will likely revisit this reading throughout the semester as they join an affinity space and analyze their own participation and learning.
  • Jenkins and colleagues’ (2006) seminal MacArthur report articulates what has become a theoretical pillar in the broad field of digital media and learning – the idea of participatory culture. Students are encouraged to read at least the report’s first half (from the “Executive Summary” through the section titled “What Should We Teach? Rethinking Literacy”), and to then focus on other sections based upon personal interest (for example, one or more of the “Core Media Literacy Skills”).
  • Stevens and colleagues (2008) present a highly-regarded ethnography of “everyday cognition” and social interaction, illustrating how children’s game play spans multiple settings and types of activity, with consequences for their divergent identity and skill development. The chapter is included in Salen’s (2008) edited volume The Ecology of Games.


  • The interview with Jenkins (2008) delves more deeply into fan communities and affinity spaces.
  • The piece from Squire (2006), and accompanying video, previews the importance of design within game-based learning, a topic that our course will explore in greater detail during Cycle 3.
  • And the short video from Gee attaches a personality to one of our course’s central authors.

Here’s another reminder that links to reading websites and PDFs can be found on the course Readings page.

Introducing Cycle 1 Readings

The following briefly summarizes readings for our course’s first cycle, a general introduction to games and learning. Links to websites and PDFs can be found on the course Readings page.

Required readings:

  1. From James Paul Gee’s (2004) Situated Language and Learning we’ll be reading the first chapter (“Introduction”) and also chapter 5 (“Learning and Gaming”).
  2. From Katie Salen’s (2008) edited volume The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning we’ll read her introductory chapter “Toward an Ecology of Gaming.”
  3. And from Fred Goodman (2010), his essay “Games, Gods and Grades.”

Recommended readings and other media:

  1. For students less familiar with games and gaming terminology, consult Katie Salen’s (2008) “Glossary” (pages 267-273 of The Ecology of Games).
  2. Bedwell and colleagues (2012) is an illuminating example of an empirical expert study. Note the detailed descriptions of game categories and attributes that begin on page 739 through 743.
  3. And from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (2013), Games for a Digital Age: K-12 Market Map and Investment Analysis includes a “Game Taxonomies” section (beginning on page 15 through 23). This is a useful summary of commercial digital/video games.