Tag Archives: community

ALT-GLSIG July 2014: Manchester

For this latest gathering of ALT-GLSIG (the Games and Learning Special Interest Group, hosted by the Association for Learning Technology and chaired by myself and Nicola Whitton), we returned to Manchester. This time, a little further down the road at the University of Manchester’s excellent Alan Gilbert Learning Commons building: an extremely well thought-out and provisioned study/learning space for students next to the main library.

A small corner of the Learning Commons

A small corner of the Learning Commons

These regular SIG meetings are a chance for members to meet and share practice, play games, share ideas and collaborate on projects and writing; but we also like to include the local context: incorporating themes or groups from the host university. Rosie Jones, Commons Manager and long-term SIG member, was our accommodating host, and had invited colleagues from the university along to present and join in with the meeting, which added value to an already packed programme.

Curate-a-fact in full flowWe kicked off on Thursday lunchtime, with 14 members new and old: to get everyone straight into the spirit we played a quick game of Curate-a-fact (the winning group coming up with the intriguing history of ‘Llama Nut Ball’), and ‘people bingo’ (where we each had a list of traits, and had to find people with matches for each): two great ways to get everyone to find out random facts about each other, and start the proceedings in a playful way.

Our first session proper was a discussion about conference games: using games to help attendees network, and engage with the conference themes. This contributed to planning for the FOTE 2014 conference, which members of the SIG were invited to create a game for within the atmospheric surroundings of Senate House. More of this in a later post.

The first of our guest speakers, David Jackson (Manchester Metropolitan University) introduced us to Storyjacker in both digital and paper versions: a fun group writing activity which helps people to collaborate together on a narrative. We had great fun, and generated some impressive prose; with the paper and digital versions offering different experiences. Our second guest speakers were Jonathan Slater and Glenn Painter (NHS Nottingham) who wheeled in an intriguing set of giant boards. Ten minutes later, we were walking through a journey into the minds of recovering therapy patients, played out through a giant game board. It was a great example of how playful experiences can help to bring people together, and open them up to ideas and discussions they might otherwise find difficult.

Picture of painted boards

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy through a board game

Continuing the discussion and games into the evening, we finished by playing the brash but hilarious/cringeworthy Cards against Humanity over a meal in a local hostelry. The Friday began with Katie Piatt asking us to solve the STEM quiz she had devised for a Sussex childrens’ science fair, which was great fun and resulted in puzzle designs for future events. Rosie and her Learning Commons colleague Jade Kelsall then provided us with a challenge: we had to design games to help students engage with eLearning resources. To add further competition, good designs were awarded cubes of plasticine – which were added to growing tall sculptures (the highest structure at the end was awarded a highly detailed plasticine dinosaur: the perfect prize?). It was an excellent, fast and creative way to generate ideas – resulting in some great approaches.

A conference planning session was next up: there is a dearth of conferences covering adult learning games and play (or, indeed, any learning games) for both researchers and practitioners in Europe, and so we brainstormed the possibility of a focussed conference in 2015. A working party, and plenty of playful ideas for structure, themes and other events emerged. Watch this space.

The event finished with a round up of SIG news, and we headed off around midday, to arrive home in time for tea.

All attendees, both existing SIG members and new / invited guests, said how much they had gained from the event – and as ever we were bowled over by everyone’s enthusiasm, creativity and examples of their own, local work. Our next meeting is in November at the University of Hull, where we expect something completely different, yet just as playful.

If you are interested in the work of the ALT-GLSIG, sign up to our group at: http://gamesandlearningsig.ning.com

 

 

 

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EduGamesHub

A slightly overdue mention of a great resource and group in London who are focussed around educational game development and use. Set up by Kirsten Campbell-Hughes in 2011, with Martha Henson joining her in 2012 after working on some of the fabulous games in the Wellcome Collection (amongst other great things), edugameshub is an informal blog collecting together some great posts from designers, developers and teachers around educational games. They also run  #LEGup gatherings in London for educational game developers and designers, for those in or visiting the area.

I was invited to write a blog post for the hub last month around the use of games in adult (/higher) education, which can be seen here:

..but the rest of the site (and the meetups) are well worth checking out while you’re there.

Twitter and Student Networks

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.

Museum Label 2.0

For some time now I’ve been thinking about visitor interaction with museum objects, and the possibilities this offers for sparking reflection and conversation around a certain object and space (though any span of time).

This interest was fuelled by a (faltering) project to use QR codes within a local museum, and by my experience with museum objects as clues within Alternative Reality Games; this was juxtaposed against the plain, traditional object labels I was seeing in museums up and down the country during conference season.

The final spark was a conversation on Twitter with a couple of museum-friends from the British Museum about museum audiences and dumbing down/maintaining academic standards.

So, on the eve of Museums and the Web 2009, I present my first thoughts on an object label for the Web 2 generation. Notes follow the diagram. (0) is obviously the name of the object.

Museum Label 2.0

  1. Key facts (location, age, cultural link etc.) – standard on contemporary labels in most, but not all, cases
  2. Clear image of the item: helps to give visitors a sense of the whole item when the object itself is very small or very large. Also good for take-away options (see below)
  3. This section of the key facts is numerical, and standard across all objects. It serves a dual purpose as a top trumps-style game for children (see below)
  4. Timeline. This shows roughly where the object sits in relation to key events, to give a broad frame of reference.
  5. Quick information in large type: designed for young visitors, those with poor sight, those in a hurry, those with only passing interest, etc. Pictures accompany where useful.
  6. More information: expands on the Quick information, for those who want a little more detail.
  7. Further information: the full catalogue entry (or a reduced section of it) for those wanting a detailed description or who have an academic interest.
  8. More Info: the QR code and short web address both provide access to the main catalogue page on the museum’s web site. This could be augmented with audio visual or discussion options (see 9).
  9. Discuss: this is for visitors to provide their own comments or opinions on the object. They have the option to send an SMS message, send a message or start a realtime discussion via Twitter, or mention it on blogs, Facebook or other web2 platforms which support tags (the #bm_snake text). These comments/messages would be aggregated in real time to the info page (8) to allow other visitors past, present and future to read and comment on them.
  10. Braille title for the object, at low level and always in the bottom right corner.

This hypothetical label is clearly a little over the top, and packs a lot of ideas in. However, it’s not particlarly unclear, and with work and testing could form the basis of a very workable method of labelling objects for a wide audience, and encouraging engagement in contemporary ways (but largely new to museums).

As an additional option, copies of the labels could be provided as cards for visitors to take away – allowing them to look in detail, access the Info/Discuss options when they have a web connection at home, school or work, and use them in a trading/swapping game (see 3). Copies might be in stock next to popular/major items, but available to print on demand within the museum’s shop or at the exit to galleries (a small charge for the cards/printing would help offset the relabelling costs too).

Thanks for the above ideas go to:

  • The Cambridge Museums group, for inspiration on the top trumps-style game coming from their excellent collectable cards series.
  • Terhi Nurmikko, British Museum, for the idea of physical cards, and for feedback on the prototype.
  • The British Museum, for the excellent information available on the Turquoise serpent used in the example (note that some incorrect information has been added to the core record: see here for the full version).

Immitters and Irritation

A little while back I came up with the idea of an immitter – essentially a twitter account which would deliver appropriately spaced and relevant tweets to those new to twitter, allowing them to gradually see the usefulness of the tool without having to build up an instant and relevant friend network (which takes some time).

In the context of higher education, the immitter might pull in subject- or topic- specific feeds from elsewhere, mixed with comments from tutors or course administration: all focussed on a particular subject cohort.

However, since this idea was formed, the commercial world has woken up to Twitter, and companies and PR agents are now emitting swathes of marketing tweets and – worse – using searches on vaguely relevant words to follow and retweet our own posts (I recently received a horde of lesbian porn followers when I used the word “bi” in a very much unrelated tweet; and the reporting of a toy robot race with my daughter which included the word “scientific” was retweeted to a wide audience by the rather too eager @ScienceTweets organisation). It is now getting more and more difficult to keep your Twitter followers in check, and keep your feed relevant and free from spam – indeed, many people are starting to protect their updates to protect their sanity, which rather goes against the Twitter ethos.

So, I go back to the original aims for the academic immitter, and suggest that some of the companies looking to utilise Twitter for their own marketing emitter should take note:

  • volume of information is critical: 1-4 tweets a day depending on maturity of twitter audience;
  • content of information is even more critical: all tweets should be either directly relevant, or recipients should be able to see the link to their own interests;
  • to achieve the above two aims, the target audience must be a coherent interest group or community;
  • may be automated (via relevant feeds etc.), manual or a mixture of the two. Some manual input probably required to ensure relevance of content.

Student superbrains: learning from guild play

I was reading the very interesting article from Douglas Thomas and John Brown in the newly formed IJLM online (http://ijlm.net/missives/doi/abs/10.1162/ijlm.2009.0008) : Why Virtual Worlds Can Matter.

Their description of guilds within World of Warcraft (the study of which is not new of course: see Steinkuehler 2004, Dave White’s Community Development in the Pursuit of Dragon Slaying and several others) really grabbed me though.

For those not in the know, serious World of Warcraft (WoW, or any of the other massive multiplayer online roleplaying games, or MMORPs) players form into groups or guilds, and work together in these units to solve bigger problems, fight larger battles, and generally enjoy the community aspect of the game (which can sometimes extend into real life meetings etc.).

Thomas and Brown suggest, from a study of WoW, that individuals within these guilds solve small problems or make small discoveries (such as finding out how a particular magic artefact works) – they then pass on this discovery to others in the guild, hence sharing knowledge across the community. But then comes the good bit. In doing so, other members of the guild will apply their own thinking and skills to the problem and solution, improving on or widening the original solution to make it more effective or applicable (such as casting a particular spell when using the artefact to boost its power). Solutions are therefore improved over time, re-shared across the guild, and recorded for future use.

It really excited me to think about this in terms of student groups. The idea that each individual student could solve a small problem, but then share that with their peers, who would use their own skills and contexts to adapt and improve the solution; but always ensuring that the group as a whole knew the latest solution, the history and the applicability for the future.

Instead of understanding magic artefacts, imagine that the problems are related to research skills or problems, induction issues, or pertinent subject disccussions. Each student in a group gets to work on one of the problems/issues, but all students get to see and apply/improve all of the problems over time, forming a community of practice as they do so.

Now, for somewhere to put this idea into practice…

Will this twittering come to any good?

Twitter is suddenly flavour of the month, as even your Grandmother will tell you (mine told me yesterday, at any rate). Boosted in recent months by high profile twitterers Steven Fry (http://twitter.com/stephenfry) with 122,000 followers and counting, a reformed Jonathan Ross (http://twitter.com/Wossy) with 56k and US President Barack Obama (http://twitter.com/BarackObama) topping the lot with 225k – although since his inauguration he’s been rather quiet. Both Fry and Ross also recently brought Twitter into the real world, the former tweeting (via a proxy) a speech in Apple’s London Store, taking questions from Twitter as well as a live audience (see the #fryappletalk tag stream); the latter taking a random word from Twitter and planning to insert it in the Bafta ceremony on 8th Feb. To give it the final official sanction, the BBC ran a major news item concerning the microblogging site last week following tweets covering the US plane landing in the Hudson River.

At the University of Leicester we’ve been trialling our own Twitter revolution, providing small groups of students with iPod Touches (courtesy of a succesful bid to the JISC HEAT3 scheme) for four weeks, and asking them to tweet their location and activity, and (optionally) anything else they wanted. The aim was to find out more about the modern student experience (where and how they go to study and relax). This is not the first use of Twitter in education, I should note (see Diane Skiba’s roundup and check out the Twitter stream to any conference worth its salt nowadays), but it is still a fledgling area.

Working with Alan Cann (who introduced me to Twitter last year and gives a good intro to it) and Jo Badge in Biological Sciences, and Stuart Johnson in the Student Learning Centre, we have so far trialled the service with a first year undergraduate science group, and (currently) a postgraduate cohort in Museum Studies.

The undergraduate group took a little time to get started, but started to introduce study and social tweets in amongst their location/activity ones (such as ” is rather worried about the assessment tomorrow and is preparing herself for failure” and the rather illuminating “has the words ‘russian bride’ written on his hand, and can’t remember much of last night…. Now for chemistry revision”). 

What’s been fascinating me, though, is the postgraduate group in my own Faculty. A group of ten Museum Studies students, all taking a module on Digital Heritage which I teach on, they launched themselves into Twitter from the word go. It has become their way of discussing seminars, bouncing ideas, co-ordinating study sessions, sharing links and references, etc. (“Reading about kandinsky and art and music. How apt on an iPod”; “will send you those articles about e-games and museums”; “we’ve re-arranged for Wednesday at 3pm” ): watching the Twitter stream is a fascinating insight into the way modern postgraduates operate. Furthermore, their tutor created a special Twitter account of his own, and uses it to make them aware of his availability or any extra sessions or events: in turn the students use it to ask quick questions and clarify points of study.

It will be very interesting to see whether this constant and clearly useful dialogue continues when the iPods are returned in a week – I suspect it will, given that many tweets are sent from mobile phones or laptops rather than the devices themselves – but regardless, it’s a wonderful example of how an engaged, specialised peer group have embraced and turned Twitter to their own advantage.

More results and reflection to follow.