“Game On? Brain On!” by Lindsay Portnoy

Game On? Brain On!

Lindsay Portnoy, PhD
Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. (2020)
ISBN 9781951600426
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (1/2021)

The game of play is an important part of our development, it not only gives us a sense of purpose and relatedness, but it invites engagement and deeper learning.  Author, Lindsay Portnoy seeks to break down the research walls and incorporate these concepts into the classroom in her newest book, “Game On? Brain On!: The Surprising Relationship between Play and Gray (Matter).”

Portnoy begins by unpacking the inner workings of the brain, then begins to move through play as it relates to shared agreements, parameters creating play, the motivations behind it, the failure and feedback it provides as well as the collaboration and communication present, finally concluding with an extremely exciting chapter that includes resources on how to invite students to design games online and via the upcycling of products.

Offering an intriguing and informative look at classrooms this read is unquestionably targeted towards teachers.  It is clear the displeasure the author has for standardized tests which measures one day, at one point in time rather than the constant learning cycle game play can offer.  Using her own background in the classroom, Portnoy offers insights, study guides and resources to invite play in every classroom whether via fraction Uno in math class to molecule matching in science.  “Game On? Brain On!” provides a short, yet interactive read for teachers to apply in their own classrooms.  Each chapter is peppered with QR codes linking to YouTube examples, or the author’s own website which provides assessment tools, questionnaires, and interactive guides for introducing more play in students’ learning. 

While this read is dense with the positive aspects of play and includes modern examples such as Fortnite and Minecraft, I would have loved to see discussion surrounding the “screen time” argument or negative impacts gaming may or may not have in electronic formats.  Only the positive views of gaming were provided, but one could argue sedentary gaming or solo game play may not provide all the benefits mentioned within, as all examples provided included a wide social network of connection and involvement.

Ultimately, “Game On? Brain On!” targets classroom teachers as the author’s primary goal is to break down the “ivory-towering” walls of research and begin applying learning through play across more classrooms.  In a standardized, assessment heavy learning environment, she invites a creative and engaging new way to teach. 

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