Tag Archives: Manchester

Playful Learning 2016 #playlearn16

I’m deep in the planning phase of launching a new and playful conference this July, with my co-chairing colleagues from Manchester Metropolitan University (Nic Whitton and Mark Langan).

Our simple concept is to see what engaging things happen at the intersection of learning, play and games. We’re planning the conference around this, eschewing standard ‘paper reading’ sessions for more playful workshops or interactions; arranging some playful activities and surprises around the sessions and through the evenings; but most importantly setting up an environment where the surprising might happen.

Come and join us! http://conference.playthinklearn.net/

We’ll be posting more details on Twitter as the event approaches, too: https://twitter.com/playlearnconf 


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




ALT-C 2009: Manchester

The Hilton, ManchesterMy thoughts on the way to ALT-C this year were rather mixed. The problem with all previous ALT-Cs I’d been to has been the predominance of technology-focussed papers, with little in the way of pedagogic thought, evidence-based practice or strong research – so this was a real risk again. On the plus side, I knew many more participants this time round (almost all through my Twitter network) and was looking forward to meeting them and networking; but also, with my day job now taking a focus on distance learning, I was on the lookout for a new range of topics.

Oh, also, I was to be staying with my brother and sister-in-law-to-be in the rather swanky Hilton which now dominates the hitherto rather confused Manchester skyline. Thanks to them, I had a very comfortable base.

So to the conference itself. I’ll cheekily fit into the ALT-C mould by first noting the technology I used – of note only because it’s the first time I’ve conference’d with an iPhone, which rather revolutionised the way I interacted with it, socialised and recorded (see a fuller description here if you’re that way inclined).

I’ll deal with the game-related sessions in a separate post, and focus on the main education themes here. I was aiming for those on feedback and assessment methods, mobile learning and open and distance education (including Open Educational Resources, OERs) in the main. These, sadly, largely disappointed.

Using CRS for fieldwork

Using CRS for fieldwork

On assessment methods I saw nothing of interest; on feedback the presentation of a forced feedback-read for students within BlackBoard before they can receive their mark, by Stuart Hepplestone et al from Sheffield Hallam, was interesting – although there was no solid data yet on how the students reacted to or benefitted from it. A nice side-idea from this project was getting older students to write the instruction guides, rather than staff. I also took part in a great workshop on alphanumeric portable CRS (classroom response systems) which used a mixture of well structured questions and instant feedback in the field and back in the classroom to develop and reinforce learning – an impressive improvement on previous use of simple ABCD devices I’ve seen which don’t encourage deep learning.

The most interesting OER project was the OLNet.org project at the OU, which aims to gather together existing resources in a useful and searchable way, emphasising reuse rather than creation. The questions from the floor afterwards were particularly good, with a suggestion that open pedagogies for using the open content would be a very useful addition. A project worth watching.

There were sadly no mobile learning papers of note that I could see (surely a huge omission), but one online project to support students at point of need by involving tutors in the use of google talk and wikis to help exam revision was interesting (Manish Malik from Portsmouth) though short on details/feedback. The most thought-provoking session of the conference for me, though, was Dave White’s update to Prensky’s digital natives, with his ideas of Natives and Residents (I’ve followed – and liked – this idea for a while): great discussion after. Oh, and our Twitter paper went down well too.

The keynotes (viewable here, go to Sept 8/9/10) were good overall: Michael Wesch started with a great anthropological study which moved from Papua New Guinea to the ‘I want to be on TV/Youtube/famous’ attitude of the contemporary 18-year old. Martin Bean gave an upbeat first keynote of his time as OU vice-chancellor; but Terry Anderson finished off with the best of the three: a fast-paced but always interesting look at the nature of the modern student and how they arrive at university with their own already formed ideas of the tools and information which is relevant to their life (it is up to us to widen and expand this view) and a plethora of open resources and tools which it will take an interesting week or two to work through.

LizardThe venue was good, if a little inflexible in terms of workshop/symposium-friendly rooms; the locale perfect for social meetups (plenty of bars serving great beer at proper northern prices) including the excellent Manchester Museum across the road, with its tyrannosaur, fabulous anthropological and egyptian collections, and collection of live lizards and frogs (through which Alan Cann gave us a guided tour). F-alt ran its usual collection of slightly disorganised but well attended and lubricated sessions, and putting faces to, and sharing drinks and ideas with, Twitter friends made it the most social ALT to date.

Overall, a very good three days. A noticable increase in pedagogically-driven papers, if not always supported by good evidence, but it’s a move in the right direction. And socially/network-wise, a cracker.

Mmm... beer

Mmm... beer