Exploring “Practical and theoretical insights” with a global audience

Our latest DEFI webinar explored The Future of Gaming in Education, with an international panel from Denmark, the US, the UK, and Italy:

  • Prof Thorkild Hanghøj, Professor of Games and Learning at Aalborg University in Copenhagen, one of Europe’s best-known researchers on the topic of gaming in education
  • Lisa Petro and Lorenzo Raffio, colleagues at Generation Global, part of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, who joined us to share the Ultimate Dialogue Adventure
  • Marianne Pickles, Head of Assessment Development at Cambridge University Press & Assessment (CUPA), where she focuses on digital innovation to assist English language learners.

The session was moderated by DEFI’s own Dr Imogen Casebourne, Research Lead at the DEFI Innovation Lab, who developed learning games earlier in her career.

More than 200 individuals registered from around the world. “We had registrants from more than 50 countries and I loved how they were able to engage in a lively conversation that blended practical and theoretical insights into our topic of Gaming in Education,” said Jude Hannam, communities manager at DEFI.

Prof Thorkild Hanghøj – Games as spaces for dialogue and expertise

The session began with Prof. Hanghøj discussing a common perception that the benefits of gaming in education are often oversold. Indeed, one participant shared their recollection that World of Warcraft was once hyped as a language-learning tool, with little practical application for teachers.

Thorkild also suggested a few websites as a follow-up to his presentation:

Watch the presentation from Prof Thorkild Hanghøj

Lisa Petro – Developing Global Citizens through gamified dialogic practices

Next, Lisa Petro, shared the new educational game from Generation Global, the Ultimate Dialogue Adventure, which aims to provide students with self-guided learning in safe online spaces, to equip them with fundamental knowledge about important topics.

Petro explained that their game was backed by research and standards from three main bodies: ISTE student standards, EEF Home Learning Approaches, and W3C Four Principles of Accessibility. The Ultimate Dialogue Adventure takes students on a pathway from discovering relevant shared topics, through dialogue spaces and ultimately to video conferences with other students around the world, as shown in the slide below.

More from DEFI

Watch the presentation from Lisa Petro

Marianne Pickles – Learning English in Minecraft

The online chat really picked up when Marianne Pickles began her presentation, which combined two topics that are well-known to many educators: English language learning and Minecraft, the massively popular online game with more than 140 million monthly users. Pickles is part of the team at CUPA which built an English learning game in Minecraft, allowing learners to practise language skills while playing a game with which many of them are already familiar.

DEFI centre manager Kevin Martin commented that he has “already circulated Adventures in English to colleagues who are helping to re-settle refugee children in the area,” continuing, “(the game) is a brilliant resource which builds off of interactive social experiences – it offers social currency (seems nearly every child plays Minecraft) while also supporting ESL.”


Watch the presentation from Marianne Pickles


Participants were eager to share resources both Minecraft-related and for teaching English as an additional or foreign language. Here is a short summary of suggestions made by our attendees:


Discussion and resources for English language learning

  • Another teaching strategy for EFL could be to build on children’s existing vocabulary learned through games. Here is a study from a colleague, which documents this positive correlation: Study of Dutch young English Language Learners
  • Interesting to hear about the evidence base for English language learning and teaching with games – it’s a very underdeveloped area I think, with more focus on research than actual practical applications in the classroom.
  • Anyone interested in language learning and games: https://llpjournal.org, a journal and community of researchers and teachers

Discussion and resources for teaching with Minecraft

  • This event may be interesting for some of you: Online event featuring Minetest/Minecraft and Game-based learning, taking place 4-7 July, 2022 …website in German, Google Translate will help. There is one day on Minetest/Minecraft and another on Game-based learning.
  • If you can’t use Minecraft due to lack of funds, you might want to look at the Minetest dashboard BLOCKALOT. The website is in German but Google Translate will help. The basic functionality of BLOCKALOT will be deployed, too.
  • Is it possible for Minecraft educational to be used privately? Yes, it’s available on the commercial version of Minecraft (Bedrock). I believe there’s also a way for individuals to register for Minecraft Education Edition

Questions and answers about Gaming in Education

Following the presentations, it was time for a lively discussion, both amongst the presenters on Zoom and in the online chat. Here are the topics that were answered live by the panellists during the session (click on the timestamp to jump directly to that question in the webinar recording on YouTube):

  • 33:04– Are there free games that can be used in schools?
  • 36:46– Is the terminology “gaming in education” different from “gamification?”
  • 41:26– Games for technical, professional, or entrepreneurial education
  • 44:14– Can the Adventures in English game be played in multiplayer mode?
  • 46:15– How can teacher training help to develop skills for games-based learning?
  • 52:26– Have you noticed differences in games uptake between countries and cultures?
  • 58:04– Are there any known negative impacts for using games in education?
  • 1:03:21– Any specific papers to recommend on gaming in education?

Additional resources for gaming in education

Here are some additional thoughts and resources that webinar participants shared in the chat:

Research and real-world insights on gaming in education

“It was fantastic to hear from speakers with a strong
theoretical grounding combined with insights
from real world educational games”

In just over one hour, our participants gained insight into the current landscape of Gaming in Education, learned about two specific games-enhanced educational tools, and shared a remarkable amount of research, online resources, and ideas with one another. As session moderator Dr Casebourne said, “It was fantastic to hear from speakers who combined a very strong theoretical grounding in the research with the ability to share insights gained from developing practical real world educational games some of which many people across the world are playing as we speak.”
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Barry Fuchs

DEFI Communications Officer

Barry manages online communications and events for DEFI. He experienced digital education through an online degree programme and has helped several organisations to create and improve their digital education offer.