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Gamification of Sustainability: Hybrid Play

"The Sustainability Balancing Act: Society, Economy, and Environment"

Based on Prof. Polyak's research presented at the 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies, we propose a hybrid board game based approach for teaching sustainability in courses that wish to emphasize the multi-disciplinary nature of sustainability. The focus is on the design process to help in the discovery of potential subjects and topics that could benefit from gamification. It targets an integrated teaching method focusing on active learning that evolves around gamified and interconnected sustainability topics and real-world scenarios. Through reasoning, problem solving, critical thinking and research, students construct their own comprehension while they are engaged in a competitive and collaborative activity (Polyak, 2016).


Sustainability is covered by various sciences and specific disciplines in classrooms independently, many times focusing only on issues that can be clearly defined inside these disciplines (Jabareen, 2011). Jabareen argues that the lack of conceptual frameworks has led to vague themes and inconsistent goals in sustainability education, as well as established an isolated approach of the three main pillars: economy, environment and social equity (Jabareen, 2012). UNESCO’s recent curricular efforts based on findings under the “Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future” umbrella suggest that sustainability is a complex system with subsets of interests that have the tendency to bias thinking towards their own needs and in conflict with other interests. Therefore the collaborative multidisciplinary approach is necessary in the discovery of conflicts and ultimately in the integration of controlled and nested models in sustainability development.

The primary goal of this project is to incorporate sustainability challenges through collaborative games in classrooms in ways that requires information sharing, analysis, evaluation and decision making between students and multiple disciplines, aiming the engagement of students with diverse backgrounds, skills and interests. Ultimately the project is a stepping stone towards a digitally interconnected sustainability education platform between institutions and communities without boundaries.

Sarah Albright, Zoe Winton, Madison Tart, Kelsey Huff, Cassie Sun, Eilish Thomas, Bethany Cantrell, Kierston Morrison, Matthew Gluf, Amanda Grace, Simon Park, Julia Lineberry, Monica Nguyen, Kimmie Zoll, Blake Hall, Emily Parker, Lucas Gargano, Connor Shipway, Isabel Hennes, Dylan Bryant

Emil Polyak, Assistant Professor, College of Design, Department of Art+Design NCSU

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