Games, Learning and Society Conference #gls14 – Part 6 Social and Emotional Learning

After watching my students play Minecraft for the past few years, it has become obvious to me that they gain so much from game play. It provides a space for them to connect, to be and to grow as young men and women. It completely delights me when I hear how supportive they are of other players, taking on roles of mentors, community builders and leaders. Demonstrating in each instance behaviours that are often not openly captured easily in face to face interactions by their teacher or other significant adults. Behaviours that identify strong values and beliefs around equity, fairness, trust and acceptance of difference.

Having opportunity to watch without impacting on their game play is truly remarkable. We have a dynmap (dynamic map, a map of the Minecraft server worlds that shows where they are and their in-game conversations) set up so I can do this without interrupting their play, without impacting with my presence. They are all aware that I use it to watch, and I do say hi, as I believe it is important that they know I’m around. By using the dynmap it just means I’m not physically appearing in the game, so their play is not impeded by me. This vantage point has enabled me to see the value games have in a learning context with regard to self esteem building, negotiating ones way around social interactions and building resilience. As a result of this, I was particularly interested in attending the paper presentations on Social/Emotional Skills.

Jessica Berlinski presented on SEL and the game IF, an overview of SEL and the game can be found here (click on the pic for a spreecast, it is a bit sketchy at times):

jessica berlinski

We want our students to develop:

  • self awareness
  • self management
  • social awareness
  • relationship skills
  • responsible decision making

The game IF, which can be found at, and information about the game can be found at

The game allows building of identity. It provides for failure to enable self awareness building. Through the game play children can explore and participate in taking different perspectives, building empathy. This game is primary school focused and does provide for parental involvement.


The other presenter was Richie Davidson, whose biography can be found here He spoke about compassion as a learnable skill. He mentioned that 1 1/2 hours of game play can change the structure of the brain, which incorporates the understanding of neuroplasticity. To gain a better understanding of what he presented it can be found here:

Richie Davidson commented that we are born with the seeds of compassion and goodness. We need the opportunity for these to develop – just like language. We need to regard wellbeing and kindness as skills. He made further comment to mindfulness being vital, as without it all forms of learning are compromised. Richie Davidson has been working with the Games Learning Society with regard to Crystals of Kaydor and Tenacity ( and


1 Comment

  1. MasterMrDamion says:

    Very cool post. I totally agree.

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