The Playful Learning Special Interest Group, that I co-chair with Nic Whitton, holds meetings each year in Spring and Autumn at different institutions around the UK. This allows existing and new members to join a meeting close to them, and also allows us to build on our thinking and ideas each time.
Last week we were hosted by Rosie Jones at the Open University’s Betty Boothroyd Library in Milton Keynes. Rosie has been a member of the SIG since its inception, and she and her talented team were the perfect hosts, preparing clever escape room challenges within the library for us when we arrived (thanks Cathy!).
We had our highest number of attendees, with 20 members (a good mix of veteran and new) traveling from around the country. Together we play-tested and discussed several new games and approaches from individual members (Amanda Hardy’s flexible Moodle Deck of learning design cards; Andy Walsh presented the work around using playful challenge cards with teams, that myself and Rosie have also been working on; and Katie Piatt crowdsourced questions from us for an upcoming sector chat about playful learning).
Ellie Hannan took us through a full session of her very clever SOTL game (see blog post from an earlier playtest) which increased our knowledge of research methodologies and saw us funding TV reality show research with dodgy ethics. We also helped Nic Whitton develop her very useful work around typologies of play, by looking at hundreds of images of activities to decide if they were playful or not.
On the final morning we asked the group to identify barriers against play in HE institutions, then set them up as small senior management teams (VC, Finance Director and VC Learning and Teaching) and tasked them with developing three institution-wide policies that would increase the capacity for play in staff and students. Some very interesting ideas emerged, including:
- Playful social spaces (including ballpools or other areas inviting free play)
- Email free hours each day or week / freeing up time
- Celebrating failure through institutional awards
- Removing a focus on metrics
- Creative and playful recruitment process to encourage innovative staff to embed playfulness
- 2 days a quarter for all staff to work on independent projects
- Playful elements in staff and student induction, to promote playful ways of working
- Playful facilitators (‘institutional jesters’)
Thanks to everyone who came and joined in the thinking, creating and play! The next live PLSIG meeting will be in May 2018, in Leicester.
If you’re interested in joining the SIG, see the Playful Learning Special Interest Group.