Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Interview in Signum

Group working at the Finnish workshop
Group working at the Finnish workshop...

Way back in March, I ran an educational escape room workshop in Helsinki. As a follow up, Eerika Kiuru & Janika Asplund interviewed me, which they wrote up for a journal called Signum. This has just been published (open access). 

So if anyone wants to read my thoughts as I chunter away about escape rooms, play, innovation, and information literacy, the interview is online now...  

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Random thought on boardgamers and playing seriously...

A selection of board games

Just a random thought on board games / "serious" players of board games.

I've been following some discussions online where there are a high proportion of "serious" players of board games. That is, those people who play regularly, probably have a large collection of games, and who are "into" games enough to join groups online and IRL, to play and talk about them!

For some reason, I suddenly realised that many of these players don't actually like play. That is, they don't like the sort of play that the groupings I tend to associate with think of as play! I suppose much of this is summed up by Counterplay events and in individual form by people like Bernie De Koven.  Exploration, fun, freedom, randomness, non-competitiveness, are valued. Play with these groupings of people tends towards the free / spontaneous play that Callois called Paidia

The discussions in some of these board game groups often heavily criticise games because they include randomness, and a discussion the other day went further still. Some games I think are great specifically because they are short, fun, silly, with a strong random element were criticised for the same reasons that I like them!  It suggested that "good" games gave you "perfect knowledge" of the game, no randomness, with the winner always decided purely on how they apply that knowledge... and it is incredibly important to end up with a clear winner (including with collaborative games, winning against the game). I read this discussion and realised that these particular people were probably arguing that the only "proper" game is a controlled simulation. Any randomness, any chance someone could win by luck, was bad. Lots of them will play through a game on their own to see how it works before playing it with others, as the games are often complex and hard to understand - which fits in with the players with the best knowledge / skills wins. Their perfect game was entirely Ludic (see Callois again) - so the opposite end of the play spectrum.

I  wonder is this observation seems right to other people? Does the board game community tend towards this Ludic idea of play and reject the Paidic end as somehow "wrong"?

It's interesting to me as I also see it the other way round, with strictly controlled rules and boundaries (which the board gamers value) seen as "bad play" by some of the people on the other end of the spectrum! I just see them as different and valuable  / interesting in different ways...

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Learning Theory possible game

Inspired by Eleanor Hannan's SOTL game at Playful Learning Conference, I wondered about making a learning theories game. Her game asked people to consider different Epistimologies, Research instruments, etc., to combine into a research design. I wondered if I could do something quite different, but based around learning theories, concepts, and interventions. So taking something like the HoTEL learning theory wheel as a starter, we could pick a "Learning paradigm" (supported  by a key theorist), then a "key concept", perhaps a teaching approach that would fit underneath that, then a particular type of teaching intervention or interaction. So we end up picking teaching interventions that fit within a sensible framework at the end, rather than just because we fancy doing them.

It could even just be a set of cards that link these together, rather than a game too... I'll have to think about this one soon.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Using games to teach Maths to Biologists

a game being prototyped
At the end of last week, I ran a workshop in Sheffield (in the Diamond building at Sheffield Uni). This one was for a group of people who all taught maths to HE students in the biosciences.

Most of them seemed to be having similar problems, dealing with students who could massively vary in terms of maths knowledge and ability, some of whom don't want to be doing maths at all.

Hopefully, some of the games will help them address these issues... and more importantly, the process should help them create more polished games for the students in future!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Moulton College, Making Educational Escape Rooms

Picture of a building at Moulton College
I had the pleasure of running an Educational Escape Rooms workshop in the East Midlands last week at the lovely Moulton College. I do have a soft spot for land based colleges and enjoyed having a pootle around the grounds at lunchtime!

Anyway, we had a productive day, splitting into groups to create prototype escape room activities. To get a flavour of what was produced, we recorded all the final prototypes:

Anyone else fancy something similar running, just give me a shout!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Making educational games kit

picture of prototype game making kit
I've been updating the materials I use in the educational game making workshops I run occasionally. I thought it would be a good idea to turn them into a set of materials that other people could use at the same time as updating them for myself.

So the picture above is the final prototype - just waiting for the whiteboard to arrive (instead of the bit of paper the cards are resting on). With a bit of luck it'll all be finished in the next day or two - if anyone wants a set, I'll take some pictures next week of the finished thing and it'll be available on to buy. Along with details of the TeachKit Kickstarter I'm currently running!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

TeachKit Launch!

Yesterday we launched the TeachKit Kickstarter!

TeachKits are a set of teaching materials you get through the post to help you teach these things, especially if you tend to have "one-off" sessions with students and need something quick and easy to add into your teaching.

Depending on the topic, the TeachKit may contain lesson plans, games, books, handouts, print and digital resources, badges, or whatever else fits that topic well.
Boxes will be small enough to fit through most letterboxes without annoying trips to the post-office to pick them up!

Prototype box! Should fit through most UK doors...
Prototype box! Should fit through most UK doors...
The Kickstarter will fund an initial, quite generic box and help gauge interest in producing an ongoing series of them. Ideas for topics in future so far include: Evaluating your session; Ice Breakers; Search Strategies; Sources of information; Referencing; General teaching skills (including lesson planning); Critical evaluation; Developing a topic (research questions and first steps); Open licensing; Copyright / licensing; Plagiarism; Critical reading; Revision techniques; Escape rooms for education; and Making games for learning. If we create an ongoing series, they are likely to be available as a subscription, with each box also available for one-off purchase for a limited time afterwards. Estimated cost for future boxes is £40 each (+P&P).
The initial box available as a reward is:

Draft designs for the first box's materials.
Draft designs for the first box's materials.
Evaluating your teaching. This contains material to help collect feedback to evaluate your teaching session. It will contain a minimum of 5 ideas in the package, with materials including specially printed post-it notes, cards, and paper feedback templates - more will be revealed in the updates!

Please take a look at the full campaign and back us if you can, share with other interested people if you like it!