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  • The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter by Greg Toppo

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    Greg Toppo has been visiting my school for years— literally years.  He’s clocked an amazing number of hours speaking with my students and, more importantly, listening to them–observing their play, their struggles with literacy, and their social interactions.  My dear friend, Marianne Malmstrom (@knowclue)  would be proud of Greg— for he truly did “Follow the Learning” but he did so by following the play.

    Often Greg would stay and chat after the kids had exited —in earlier times the library, and more recently the classroom.  Sometimes he would talk about things he had observed and ask me, “What do ya think?”Other times we’d talk about what he had seen that I had not and he’d answer my poking, prying questions about other projects and sch1397414979002-tjn-0414-gameteach003ools.  In hindsight, I cannot recall him uttering a disparaging word about anyone or anything he had researched. Always the consummate professional— always the just plain good guy.

    We talked about the name of the book when he had unearthed it–we discussed the bodies of research he continuously relied upon as footing for his own.  We’d share bits about our families, our jobs, and I truly became very fond of Greg.  We became the kind of friends who could just pick up where we left off whether the interlude was a week or a year.

    At some point, he began revealing deadlines for the book with a curious combination of excitement and unadulterated panic.  But he made his deadlines. One day he called with some “aIMG_0106bsolutely last questions and fact checking.”  Next thing I knew, a pdf arrived for my final stamp of approval.  I remember reading it and thinking, “Who is gonna care about this part—get to the part where you talk about the kids–and the play!”–and indeed he does.   There’s more personal information about me included than I would have deemed necessary, but again, the quiet genius that is Greg Toppo uses it to paint the complete picture.  I guess I’ll just resign myself to the fact that the world now knows my age, failed marriages, and lack of high school diploma.  He got most of it exactly right.   Greg's signing

    Chapter 7,  appropriately named after a direct quote from one of my students, “I’m Not Good at Math, But My Avatar Is”  has little to do with math, and everything to do with the work I’ve been  fortunate to be able to do at Ramapo Central Schools with hundreds of kids and scores of teachers.  Yeah—that’s what it’s really about.  I’m honored he felt it important enough to devote an entire chapter to my work with kids.

    The Game Believes in You was released to instant rave reviews… and I’m not talking from some fly by night stand in who can whittle a phrase, but instead from the royalty of games in education such as Jim Gee, and Jane McGonigal.

    From the prologue (Hard Fun) right through to the Epilogue (Games Everywhere)  I was glued to this book.  Greg has dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s and just made so much sense PLUS he does so in a sometimes snarky, sometimes sweet, extremely readable way.  Buy this book and read it.  If you care anything about education, read it.  I promise your eyes won’t bleed from footnotes and rambling “academeese” terminology.  Yes, there are references to research(ers) but only when they solidify a point. Greg speaks with his reporter voice, and one barely notices how much deep, important information is being delivered  The book gave me hope.

    “I really hope gaming is not the next big thing in education, because the next big thing in education always sucks,” he said.

    Thanks Greg—and don’t forget to stop by.  You know you always have an open invitation to Room 339.  But (as you stated on p. 128),“REMEMBER! If a future you tries to warn you about this class, DON’T LISTEN!