About five years ago Nicola Whitton and I sat down to rethink the academic conference, based on thinking of opposite approaches to many of the standard but no longer useful elements that we all accept grudgingly. Three examples:
- Why are almost all keynotes and panels composed of older white males?
- Why do we accept people standing in-front of slides, reading out what’s written on the screen as we all sit and listen?
- Why are sponsors more prominent than conference themes, ethos or the community?
We started applying our rethink to elements of existing conferences, and then decided to develop our own. Five years on, and we’re preparing for the fourth Playful Learning conference, at its new home in Leicester: still based firmly on that ethos of focussing on modern academic needs and ethics.
We’ve not been alone in that journey: indeed, none of this could have happened without a community of playful people who shared our ethos. From our first event manager who cut through a sea of corporate-ness to deliver what we needed, to our keynotes who embraced the playfulness, and our game makers and helpers who helped us to deliver engaging experiences, this has been a communal development.
We’re therefore delighted that we’ve been able to encourage and support members of this community to put down their practical experience, advice and reflections into a new manual of Playful Learning: Events and Activities to Engage Adults – just published by Routledge. In many cases, this is the first published work from these authors, and we’re immensely proud of what they’ve produced.
In the book you’ll find our ethos, based in play theory, but – more crucially – how that has been applied, experimented with, and delivered at a number of high and low profile events across education and business contexts. We’ve also included no less than 36 practical case studies, to provide examples for any context.
Buy, beg, borrow or steal a copy and start to think about how you could change your own events, teaching, workshops or other activities to be both engaging and more focussed on the needs of the participants.
Shiny new copies of a rather special book arrived in the post today.
Around a year ago, I started to seek out examples of games used in education that eschewed the usual focus on digital, and instead focussed on more traditional forms: using cards, or dice, or group activity, to engage learners and teach them through playing.
With my co-editor Nic Whitton, we uncovered thirteen fascinating examples of truly creative game design – all built around learning aims, but with a focus on core game design principles. In most cases, the development costs were minor: materials used ranging from blank cards and felt-tip pens, to short-run boxed board games. More importantly, none of the creators are professional game designers – they are teachers, lecturers, trainers who identified a need in their own context.
What this book presents is therefore something we’re very proud to have assembled: thirteen important, fascinating and useful case studies which span a range of educational levels and modes, that provide anyone interested in developing good, engaging (and most of all, fun) learning games with a wealth of ideas and advice. As a coda, the book finishes with a chapter by a professional board game designer who describes the tricks of the real trade.
It’s available later this month direct from Routledge, or from Amazon (with a Kindle version to follow soon).
Posted in information, Publications
Tagged board games, card games, case studies, education, games, higher, learning, primary, secondary, traditional games
Together with Nicola Whitton, Manchester Metropolitan University, we are guest editing a special issue of Simulation & Gaming on the important theme of Engagement, Simulation/Gaming and Learning.
We are seeking submissions from a range of viewpoints and theoretical bases, using a variety of research methods and approaches, as well as articles that provide a practical perspective grounded in research. We hope that this symposium will offer a holistic and critical analysis of engagement – as well as related ideas such as motivation, commitment, immersion and flow – and an evaluation of its relevance and value in the sphere of educational game and simulation design, implementation and debriefing.
We encourage a variety of different types of articles related to engagement, simulation/gaming and learning, including topics such as:
- engagement theory from different disciplinary perspectives
- the relationship between engagement, games and learning
- factors influencing levels of engagement with games and simulations
- case studies evidencing engagement in games and simulations
- ways in which to evaluate and measure engagement
- engagement in reflection and debriefing with games and simulations
The full call for articles can be downloaded here (pdf).
A paper in which I revisit the research I conducted into the most engaged players in the Alternate Reality Game (ARG) Perplex City has just been published in the International Journal of Games Based Learning (IJGBL), Vol. 2, Issue 3, pp32-50.
The paper takes a fuller look at the data I presented at ALT-C in 2008, and – drawing on more recent research into ARGs since – reaffirms the seven key features I feel can be transferred to higher education to improve engagement with learning:
- Problem solving at varying levels (graded challenge)
– enable students to pick their own starting level and work up from there
- Progress and rewards (leaderboard, grand prize)
– this could also be assessment
- Narrative devices (characters/plot/story)
– doesn’t have to be fictional: academic subjects have histories, themes, news etc.
- Influence on outcomes
– as researchers we don’t think that we are working towards a known answer or statement; and we would like our students to think in the same way: by letting them decide or influence some aspects of their course, this helps to scaffold their path into a critical academic thinker
- Regular delivery of new problems/events
– key to maintaining engagement. Thinking about ways to keep things moving without putting extra pressure on staff
- Potential for large, active community
…which is self-supporting/scaffolding – the potential is less the smaller the group and the narrower the subject interest/specialisation.
- Based on simple, existing technologies/media
– rather than high-end simulations or graphics
If you can’t access the journal article from your institution, you can get the gist of the paper from the 2008 conference paper in Publications, and I hope to be able to provide the new full paper here in due course.
An educational board game I’ve been working on for over a year has finally gone into ‘production’.
Of Course! was designed to solve a problem I have with new course teams designing a new programme (especially for online courses). Normally it would take 3-4 meetings to get all staff to forget their normal teaching/admin processes, and focus on the new market/student base/subject needs. I designed a simple board game which matches materials, pedagogic, assessment and administrative elements to the learner and market context, adding in competition, scoring and a small ‘vindictive’ element. The game, although the rules needed streamlining, worked wonders in that it generated huge levels of discussion within the course team, and helped focus the team together within an hour – rather than those 3-4 meetings.
After several prototypes and playtests with other course teams, instructional designers and games designers (thanks to my ALT-GLSIG colleagues) I looked for ways to produce the final version. I came across the rather wonderful gamecrafter.com – which allows you to create professional finished board games in single or small numbers as well as large. The downside proved to be the postage (both cost and time, as the package spent a long time in UK customs) but the finished product is rather wonderful and well worth the wait.
You can find out more about the game, and download or purchase it on the Of Course! page; you can also read more about the design process, contextual games, and playtesting of this game in the following paper:
Moseley, A. (2010) “Back two spaces, and roll again: the use of games-based activities to quickly set authentic contexts”. Proceedings of ECGBL 2010, the 4th European Conference on Games Based Learning, Copenhagen, Denmark, 20-21 October 2010, pp. 270-279. Available: http://hdl.handle.net/2381/9103 [Accessed 29/8/2012].
My first book, co-edited with Nicola Whitton, and co-authored with esteemed games research colleagues across the UK and US, has just been published!
We set out to produce a clear, usable guide for anyone involved in teaching (whether teachers, lecturers or trainers) who is interested in the benefits of using games and game design elements within their sessions or courses, but lack the knowledge/availability of suitable games or technical ability to create their own: the chapters therefore cover design and effective integration within curricular elements. To this end, we also interviewed ten experts, drawn from the games design industry (including Jesse Schell, Jacob Habgood, Richard Bartle, Nikki Pugh and others), and the book features tips and advice from them throughout.
For a limited time, Routledge are offering 20% off the price of the book on their own site: use code AC2012 and the link:
Note: to get free postage on the Routledge site you need to spend over £30 – but you can add other books from their huge selection at the same discount to take it over this threshold. Why not add Nic’s earlier book Learning with Digital Games, to get a good gaming pair?
It’s also available through Amazon, including a Kindle edition:
A shiny and rather playful new book dropped on my doormat this morning: Museums at Play, the latest in MuseumsEtc.’s quick-to-press up to date publications for the museum sector.
I contributed a chapter on the use of pervasive or alternate reality games (ARGs) in museums, drawing on a very interesting interview with Georgina Goodlander about her work at the LUCE foundation on the two ARGs Pheon and Ghosts of a Chance; and the work Juliette Culver did with Bletchley Park on our charity ARG for Cancer Research UK, Operation:Sleeper Cell. I strongly feel that ARGs provide a compelling approach to museum education, due to their low-tech and cheap budget (yet highly engaging) nature. Hopefully my chapter will encourage other museums to try this out.
The rest of the (mammoth, and expertly woven together by editor Katy Beale) book has an incredible variety of theoretical and practical approaches, case studies, and thought pieces. They cover game approaches from simple card games and treasure hunts, to multiple actor staged events and high-end digital installations; with many involving the museum audience in co-creation or collaborative outputs.
It’ll take a while to read through them all, but I challenge any museum education officer not to be inspired by at least one approach.
Twitter’s 5 today, so it was nice to hear that, a year after we last had contact with the journal JOLT (the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching), they have just published a paper I wrote with Alan Cann, Jo Badge and Stuart Johnson on our use of Twitter with students in 2008/9.
It would be difficult to repeat the same approach now – Twitter being ubiquitous, with many student users; whereas when we ran the project it was still in its infancy – but there are some interesting results, particularly in the ways the undergraduate and postgraduate student groups used the service differently. There is more work to be done around how microblogging can affect the relationship between tutors and students, and assist in the formation of small communities of practice – tantalising glimpses of which are included here.
The results of a study I made with colleagues at the University of Leicester on the use of Twitter with undergraduate and postgraduate groups (see earlier post) has had its first results published in the Alt-N online newsletter:
Twittering the student experience
by Alan Cann, Jo Badge, Stuart Johnson and Alex Moseley
This is the first, short, article describing some of the background, methodology and outputs. Further analysis will be provided in forthcoming publications.