Tag Archives: research

Denmark Research/Teaching Trip

Over nine days at the end of March, I was honoured to be invited over to Denmark to work on two projects connected to my research and teaching.

Monumental statues by Thomas Kadziola on Lolland island

The first was the HistBattles project, being developed at the wonderful Lolland-Falster museum in Nykøbing Falster (on one of the two southern-most islands of Denmark). Erik Kristiansen, who I had worked with on the Transforming Thresholds project, is leading a project to create twelve alternate reality games (ARGs) to teach the local history of the islands to 13-18 year olds.

A rune stone

A rune stone at a church on Lolland island; one of the sites for the game.

Each ARG will cover a period of Danish history, and will be connected to one of the sites covered by the museum across the two islands. I was there to help scope out a framework for the game, and to help local staff start to design the puzzles and meta game. No further spoilers, but I’ll post more details as the project develops. The aim is to launch the first game in the Summer.

The second project was a guest teaching role at Aarhus University, firstly for the Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media (CUDiM) – where I talked about online learning and curriculum design for the digital age; and then as a guest speaker for the House of Game//Play and Game Design Masters course, I ran a talk/workshop around Alternate reality and pervasive games. Both days were really interesting, with engaged students and staff entering into some deep discussions around both areas. The organisers,  Rikke Toft Nørgård and Claus Toft-Nielsen, then introduced me to their Coding Pirate workshops, where younger students (9-16) were creating their own computer games, and building mazes for robots and LEGO models. My thanks to Rikke, Claus and all the students and staff at the Centre for such an interesting and welcoming two days.

Students playing game

Students playing my ARG-cards game.

All of this playful activity was the perfect precursor to Counterplay 2017, which I’ll be reporting on in a following post.

Experiential Education, Augsburg 2012

As part of an interesting collaborative research theme I’ve been exploring with experiential educator Jule Hildmann (Train the Trainer) around the links between ‘initiative games’ in experiential education, and the development of deep context in games for education, we co-authored a paper for the Internationaler Kongress für erleben und lernen (International conference for experiential learning), Augsburg, Germany, 28-29 September 2012.

Jule has developed an idea called ‘Simple Things’ which gives trainers simple tools to develop, structure, run and reflect on initiative games, in order to achieve learning objectives. Initiative games are often used in experiential education, and might be as simple as building the tallest tower with blocks – through to complex team challenges such as getting everyone safely across a fast-moving stream. Jule’s approach, and one which chimes with my own research, is to use metaphor around such activities, structuring them so that they reflect real situations, surroundings and challenges from participants’ own contexts. So crossing the river is not simply a group challenge: the river might be a strong weakness which the team are keen to overcome in real life, and the opposite shore the new direction they want to take.

A card-sorting initiative gameWe ran a 3-hour workshop around the exploration of these themes in Augsburg, in both German and English. By asking the participants to play a couple of short initiative games, and then apply metaphor to the games for their own context (which they visualised in some impressive plasticine and pipecleaner models), we encouraged participants to develop activities with the learning context in mind, rather than applying outcomes to preset activities.

A metaphor-modelThe workshop was a great success, and encouraged us to continue our conjoined research in this area: look out for more work in the future. The remainder of the conference was interesting to me as something of an outsider to the field, and allowed space for a lot of reflection on how approaches and features might move from the predominantly outdoor/active space of experiential education, to the more formal classroom or online spaces in HE.

Augsburg, one of South Germany’s oldest towns

New journal article: An Alternate Reality for Education?

IJGBL CoverA 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.

Meeple in the Pub: or The Games and Learning SIG is launched

At the last ALT-C conference, Nic Whitton and myself floated the idea of a Games and Learning special interest group (SIG) with the powers that be; to be greeted with much enthusiasm.

Fast forward three months, and a group of researchers and practitioners within higher and further education who all shared an interest in the use of games within learning (either directly, or indirectly through research) met together in a first SIG online meeting. And there was much rejoicing.

Between then and now, we’ve been working on a variety of projects to consolidate our approaches and develop new research and outreach; including creating a web site and membership scheme to allow anyone interested in the area (games for adult learning) to join in. We are pleased to announce that this is now open to all:

What about the pub?

GLSIG members 'on task'

The first challenge: open the Lego packets

Last week, the core members of the SIG met for the first of what we aim to be six-monthly ‘face to face’ events. I hosted at the University of Leicester, and we spent a fabulous 24-hours (including a sleep and university catering-supplied bacon butties) packing in a whole host of work including, but not limited to:

  • competing in a lego-building ‘contextual’ challenge

    Lego figure

    Make my day, punk

  • setting out the aims and structure of a planned white paper on games and learning
  • discussing Aaron Dignan’s Game Frame (see Nic’s thoughts here, which matched the discussion pretty well)
  • pooling research ideas and opportunities
  • playing and critiquing my course design board game (very useful feedback) and  decamping in the evening for beer and some highly competitive games of Carcassonne, Ruk Shuk and Pass the Pigs.
Playing course design board game

Playing the course design boardgame

Long live the GL-SIG!

iGBL 2011, Waterford

I was invited to speak at the inaugural Irish Symposium on Game-Based Learning by a colleague who has long shared my interest of games use in education, Patrick Felicia. Held in Waterford, Ireland, by the Institute of Technology’s Game-based Learning research group, the symposium aimed to generate discussion and forward planning around existing research and practice in the area.

Waterford street, by akahodag

Waterford street, by akahodag

Getting to Waterford was an interesting game in itself, myself and fellow speaker Nicola Whitton travelling the opposite way out to the eastern coast of Essex, for the daily flight from London Southend to Waterford. However, safely arriving in the Viking hotel (complete with Asgard bar) after a rather beautiful flight over lamp-lit coastal villages, we were prepared for the following action-packed day.

An opening keynote from Michael Hallissy of Dublin’s Digital Hub set the tone  of the event, with tales of ambitious games-design projects for young adults which led to further questions about the roles of technology, pedagogic design, and the benefits and pitfalls of games-based approaches. The symposium then split into two streams, allowing participants to cross streams after each paper via changeover periods (a good model which many other conferences could take note of).

The range of papers in the two streams was impressive in both breadth and depth. In the space of an hour, I heard a fascinating and detailed physiological discussion of the use of ‘sonic spaces’ to enhance student immersion and engagement from performer and researcher Flaithri Neff of Limerick Institute of Technology; and a case study in the use of a simple board game to introduce key concepts in genetics teaching to students and younger learners. The board game, presented by Eoin Gill of Waterford IoT, was produced as part of a European 2Ways funded project with the GENIE CETL centre at the University of Leicester (and, embarrassingly, was the first I’d heard of it, but I shall be off to see them this week!); and it was an excellent example of the use of a simple game to quickly set a complex context, through the use of simple targetted elements: players receive an alien body and a pen, and move around the board adding random mutations to their body whilst watching their population grow and shrink.

Eoin Gill and the genetics boardgame

Eoin Gill and the genetics boardgame

The board game formed an excellent case study for my own paper, which centred around the use of simple games or game-based elements to set up authentic contexts – following up my earlier work (see Moseley, 2010 in publications) and focussing on their use in course design and delivery.

A few research postgraduates presented their work, which added some fresh and detailed studies to the mix – Karen Orr, graduating from Queen’s University Belfast, provided one of the most interesting with her psychometric tests and scale to determine people’s attitude to games use in education. She determined three factors: benefits (perceived usefulness), self-efficacy (not wanting to look stupid), and boastfulness/confidence (in own ability to play and learn from games). It will be interesting to see papers which result from this thesis in due course.

Patrick Felicia followed this with his own initial analysis of data gathered from a survey of Irish educators in Higher Education, on the use and attitudes to games-based learning in the classroom. There were some interesting early outcomes, including a lack of difference by gender, and a dip in effectiveness if games-based approaches are over-used.

Ryan Flynn, lecturer in games design at the University of Greenwich, presented a fascinating paper on the development of a ‘realistic’ simulation for Social Work training, and the decisions taken about levels of realism and immersion appropriate to the project. Ryan is developing a R.E.A.L. framework which considers the various factors influencing the level of realism required for any application – one to keep tabs on as it develops.

The day finished with an extremely positive round-table discussion about consolidating expertise and moving the games-based-learning agenda forward in Ireland. Some real strides were made through discussion in the room, and we could certainly do with these levels of energy and positive action in England.

Packed around these highlights were some interesting discussions over coffee and home-made cakes, demonstrations of games-based applications by IoT Masters students, and (to finish off the day perfectly) a fabulous meal in a cosy restaurant in Waterford centre. All in all, a fascinating, friendly and energising symposium – congratulations to Patrick and Waterford.

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.

Twittering the Student Experience

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.

Games in the Midlands

In late May, I joined in a research/workshop event organised by the ARGOSI (Alternate Reality Games for Orientation and Student Induction, based at Manchester Metropolitan University) project team, at Aston University in Birmingham.

As well as wrapping up the project, and working out how it would continue and spread (Brighton may be taking it on next year), we pooled our various experiences together to think about ways in which immersive/alternative reality games could help solve two perennial problems in higher education: induction (ie. becoming a student), and research skills (becoming an effective student). We also looked at new media or digital literacies too, being another hot topic which fits nicely into the ARG-online sphere.

Several coffees, chocolate muffins, Werthers Originals and live-linkups later, we came up with an interesting little project which I can’t reveal too much about, but suffice to say it combines principles from Facebook-style games, online searching and online treasure-hunt style games (like http://thenethernet.com/) to teach prospective students about university life, research skills and digital literacies. More information to follow, I hope.

Nightlife consisted of reimagining various ‘classic’ tabletop games (principally due to lack of instructions) like Kerplunk and a card-based football game, before settling on a grand Scrabble match. The Manchester crew were surprisingly lurid in their choice of words, I have to note…

In addition to the above, we wrote and tried out several sample puzzles for the project – here’s one for you to try from Scott Wilson:

  1. Where Am I From?
  2. Where Am I From?
  3.  Where Am I From?
  4. What links the three locations above?

We also scoped out a new collection of essays, on the use of alternative reality / immersive games in education, covering some very exciting areas: again, more of this to follow.

All in all, an excellent event: many thanks to the ARGOSI team for organising and funding it. These short research gatherings are a great hotbed for ideas – unfettered by talks or strict agendas, but focussed on a particular theme. I look forward to more of the same in the future.