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.
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.