Tag Archives: workshop

Pervasive Learning Activities workshop

PLA Academy11:30am, Thursday 11th July: a Registrar instructs the Head of the Press Office to send an urgent press release out, whilst the PVC (Students) phones a worried parent about their daughter, who has just had her money stolen in a distant airport. This might be a scenario which has played out during a high profile student fieldtrip in another institution, but in this case all of the above persons and events are fictional. Not that you could tell, looking in.

The PVC, Registrar etc. were in fact participants in a workshop I ran with Simon Brookes (University of Portsmouth) and Sarah Underwood (University of Leeds), in conjunction with the Higher Education Academy, at the University of Leicester. The day-long event focussed on Pervasive Learning Activities (PLAs) – an authentic/experiential approach to learning which we developed from the educational benefits of Alternate Reality Games (Brookes & Moseley, 2012; Moseley, 2012) and which Simon and Sarah have implemented in whole module designs for undergraduate Business students.

Arrivals Board

One of the artefacts we created: an arrivals board showing the flight arriving

We structured the workshop around the ‘why, what and how’ of PLAs. Simon opened the day with an excellent introduction to ‘why’ we recommend PLAs for effective teaching of domain knowledge and ‘professional competencies’ together. And then, because PLAs are focussed around creating authentic contexts – with the actions, events, roles and artefacts used in those contexts – at 11am prompt we asked our participants to open their name badges, and fold them over to reveal their new identities. On the screen, a plane touched down in a dusty landscape and an arrivals board showed Kenyan Airways flight RO354 touching down in Juba International Airport. One half of the group (the University Geography department) went to their office, whilst the Senior Management team gathered in their Operations Room.

For the next hour, each team had to quickly familiarise themselves with the Geography department fieldtrip they were overseeing (see the Geography Student Society blog), and cope with a variety of problems ranging from lost passports to an outbreak of rioting at their intended destination. Whilst the Geography dept were liaising by phone with the group leader on the ground (superbly played by our colleague Katie Piatt in Brighton by prior arrangement), the Senior Management Team could be found checking student Twitter feeds as they contacted the South Sudesia Embassy for latest travel advice (staffed by  bored jobsworth receptionist, ably delivered by Nic Whitton in Manchester).

Notes on PLA materials

Notes scribbled over the PLA materials during the live activity.

By the end of the hour, the teams had quickly dropped into their learning context, and successfully negotiated a number of events in (pretty much) the way a real University department and SMT team might have done.

After lunch, we revealed the preparation which had gone into their experience: the planning stages, the preprepared artefacts (including documents which had been posted out to participants in advance of the workshop, to set the scene), the scripts which Katie and Nic had been working to, and the live updates/responses we had been making during the hour. There was much fascinating discussion as participants considered their own discipline contexts and how a PLA, and the design process, might work for them. The design process, with worked examples, is available on our dedicated web site:

We would like to thank everyone who participated in the workshop, hope that it provided you with plenty to consider for your own context, and thank the HEA for their support and partnership in hosting and promoting the event.

References:

Brookes, S. & Moseley, A. (2012) “Authentic Contextual Games for Learning”. In Whitton, N. & Moseley, A. (eds) Using Games to Enhance Learning and Teaching: A Beginner’s Guide. Routledge: New York, pp91-107.

Moseley, A. (2012) “An Alternate Reality for Education?: Lessons to be Learned from Online Immersive Games”, International Journal of Games Based Learning, Vol 2, No. 3, pp32-50.

Pervasive Learning Activities – Workshop July 11th

UPDATE: Date change to July 11th 2013

Pervasive Learning Activities (PLAs) are deeply embedded games-based approaches to learning which draw from key features of alternate reality games, and play on the idea of suspension of disbelief amongst participants: students become part of a developing scenario, learning skills and approaches in context, and gradually blur the line between the scenario and real life.

This approach has been used successfully to teach Enterprise in the Universities of Portsmouth and Leeds, and has potential for any other discipline.

As part of our ongoing research and practice in this area, Simon Brookes, Sarah Underwood and I are holding a workshop to outline the concept of PLAs, give participants experience of a real PLA, and then cover the skills needed to develop one in any discipline. It will be no surprise to hear that the day will be action-packed, fun and (we hope) rewarding.

The PLA Workshop is being arranged in conjunction with the Higher Education Academy, and will take place on Thursday 11th July at the University of Leicester.

Info / Sign up here

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

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?
    http://blog.arukikata.co.jp/tokuhain/glasgow/images/P1030870x.jpg
  2. Where Am I From?
    http://www.jarviscocker.net/
  3.  Where Am I From?
    http://www.buckice.com/images/hw_coal.gif
  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.