ISTE Game Based Learning documents in thumbnail view

I received my ISTE Certification a few years ago, and I’ve been working in the standards since they were published. One of the things I love about the ISTE Standards for Students is the universal application to any subject or class. The standards are clearly aligned to modern work skills, and can be used to guide teachers on outcomes for their learners. What if game based learning (in any content area) met a whole host of standards? In fact, it does.

I’m not talkingĀ gamification here. Gamification is when teachers award status for completing tasks. Kahoot, Class Dojo, Quiziz, and old-fashioned star charts are popular examples of gamification.

Game based learning is when students learn through, because of, and in the game. Maybe they’re learning how to balance chemical equations – in Minecraft. Maybe they’re learning how important step-by-step directions are in Sneaky Sasquatch. Maybe they’re learning about family histories in What Remains of Edith Finch. But they’re playing a game, and learning content at the same time.

(Learn more about gamification vs GBL from my friend Steve Isaacs in this great podcast from 2019.)

I’ve been spending a lot of time in game based learning for the past five years or so, and for the past year I’ve been focused on esports. I was thinking awhile ago about the incredible opportunities offered to students through these two pedagogies, and how they clearly align to the ISTE Standards for Students.

With more and more teachers asking me for help “convincing” their IT department or school leadership that game based learning or esports are valuable for students, I thought it might be valuable to take a new approach. After all, I also get asked what student outcomes teachers can expect after implementing games for learning.

Over the weekend, I had a long drive and I started brainstorming. I rewrote the indicators (1.1.a, 1.1.b, etc) as they apply directly to game based learning. Then I noticed a theme between what role students were playing in meeting these standards. I came up with five key player roles to meet the seven standards.

Five colored circles each containing one game role plus aligned ISTE standards: Game player Game designer Game tester Game streamer Game changer

These five key roles aren’t necessarily in order, but they certainly could be.

A game player is learning not only the content in the game (knowledge constructor) but also figuring out how to be a player. Game mechanics and game narrative hold the player in the game, and the student understands what they need to do to achieve goals (empowered learner). The students also need to be taught how to appropriately create and manage game profiles and avatars, as well as their data (digital citizen).

A game designer is a student who begins building games. This requires innovative design, and uses the design process. For example, Microsoft MakeCode Arcade has an entire course for AP Computer Science Principles based on game design, written by my friend Kelli Etheredge.

A game tester is a student who is playing games looking for bugs. Computational thinking is a huge part of game testing! This student could be playing their own game or, better, someone else’s.

A game streamer is someone who shares their gaming experiences through creative communication. It might be live broadcast through Twitch or posted recordings in Flip. Students should consider safety and privacy standards before broadcasting to wide audiences.

A game changer is someone who works to understand others: culture, perspectives, and experiences. They work with others outside their communities or circles to learn, then create learning experiences for others. A game changer is someone who impacts the world.

These key roles are represented in the ISTE Standards for Students, and I’ve written a new version that includes game based learning indicators. This version is not official or endorsed by ISTE, but feel free to use (and distribute) the link to the document if it’s helpful for you!

If you’d like to ask me more about game based learning, my GBL version of the ISTE Standards, or esports, connect with me anytime. I love to visit schools, speak with educators, and inspire others to try new things with their students.

Download the full PDF of my ISTE GBL standards for students from or by using the button below.

Button to download standards document

Creative Commons License
ISTE Standards for Students Game Based Learning Edition by Becky Keene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at ISTE Standards for Students