Friday, 29 April 2016

A referencing "escape room" puzzle

I did a talk the other day for my University which ended up using elements of escape room stuff.
One of the puzzles I used was based around building references.
pack of material tied up with rubber band
 There was a pack of material for each group tied up with a rubber band.

A guide and 3 packs of cards
When unwrapped, they found a "Quick guide to referencing" and 3 small packs of cards and a post-it with each.
One of the packs unwrapped
 When each small pack was unwrapped it contained a set of components for a reference, the type of reference to build (book or journal article) and a number (in this case 1).
A reference made with the cards
 If they made up the references correctly, they could then reveal a simple puzzle on the other side of the cards, like below. It only made sense when the cards were in the correct order.
A puzzle revealed
The 3 packs of cards gave a 3 digit number which opened the next padlock / box!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Escape room boxes

Two stained wooden chests
One of the first things I've decided to think about for my escape room induction is the boxes! Which (lockable) boxes I use to put clues / materials into will influence the clues I use. So I want to decide early on what boxes I'll go for...
For the Lagadothon I used some very cheap toolboxes in various sizes, which allowed me to fit one box inside another. I quite liked this as a test of the idea as it made it fairly portable, but the smaller one didn't really fit a padlock on properly and they didn't look particularly good!
So I've bought a couple of other types of boxes to mess about with and try to see how they would work. The picture above is of the nicer looking ones! These are cheap pine boxes that I've varnished - I then added a hasp to each of them so I could use a padlock to lock each of them.
I think they look quite effective, but I'm slightly worried about the size of them! They are just right for putting A4 sheets of paper (and other stuff) inside, but I'm not sure how practical these sort of boxes will be if I need to lead students to solve 4 or 5 clues during the escape room induction...
So I'm still looking for other options, one of which might be similar to the box below!
Box from the Legend of Neb-Senu containing various compartments
I saw this at the recent Counterplay conference and thought it was a brilliant idea - designed to be a self contained set of puzzles to be used in schools, they created this box containing a series of compartments. If I can get someone to build something similar for a price I can afford, this might be what I go with!
I'll then make sure each of my puzzles fits nicely into the compartments...

Escape room planning...

A cryptex puzzle box
I've wondered in the past about running a day (or two) where people could create material to use in their libraries. Maybe some lesson plans, some information literacy tutorials, a set of promotional materials, a social media strategy, or whatever else people fancied doing at the time...

I've never got around to it, but how about something more focussed? I'm doing some work on Escape Room type stuff for library teaching - would anyone fancy spending time co-creating some puzzles for teaching information literacy? I could bring along an assortment of boxes, padlocks, and other materials that we could use (along with some example puzzles for starters too?). Then we'd spend a day working in small groups to come up with sets of escape room style puzzles.

We could perhaps run it somewhere that had a decent local escape room and go there one evening (for inspiration), then spend all the next day in a free or cheap space to create the puzzles? If we could find space for free, we'd just have a small cost for food / refreshments during the day (or even skip that and people provide their own lunch and drinks and make it free) plus the cost of the escape room evening for anyone who wanted to participate in that.

If don't think this is a bonkers idea, drop me a line via twitter or the form at the bottom of my website :)

Escape rooms and the Lagadothon

George trying my sample escape room puzzle.
At the LILAC conference recently (I've also done a quick reflection on the conference), there was a new thing... the Lagadothon!
It was a chance to bring along prototypes of information literacy interventions, show them to a group of people, get feedback on them, plus be in with a chance to win a prize to develop them further.
I took along something I thought was a slightly batty idea, to create an escape room style induction. Much to my surprise, I won!
So I now have a small pot of prize money (£500) to go towards developing the idea further.
I'll use this blog (seeing as it's about games in libraries!) to post occasional updates on how I'm doing with the escape room induction ideas, and either include details of puzzles I've set, or links to where else they can be found.

More Lego workshops

I ran a Lego for Library Teaching workshop a little while ago in Manchester which seemed to go down well!
As a result I've just got back from Dorchester where I ran a similar Lego for Teaching workshop for a small group involved with the Peer Assisted Learning scheme at Bournemouth University.
So would anyone else like to attend a Lego workshop by me?
I've got one coming up for ARLG Eastern in Cambridge (full details on their page) on 6th June 2016. This workshop offers a reduced rate to CILIP members (£75 + VAT) or can be booked at the full price by non-members (£100 +VAT).
I can also run similar, or custom workshops if anyone wants to invite me to do so (charges will apply!) - please get in touch with me via twitter or my website and we'll work something out.

Friday, 25 March 2016

A quick LILAC 2016 reflection

(Photo of winning game board from @LILAC_CONF twitter account)

This might be a slightly odd place to stick a few brief thoughts about the LILAC conference 2016 in Dublin, but seemed appropriate just because of points 1 & 2 below!

LILAC is always a good conference, I've been to it now every year I've been a librarian... so just missed the first one! It was the 3rd conference I've been to in a 3 week period, so I was tired before it started, but it was by far the best. These are the things that stuck out for me this year...

1) The keynotes were great. Keynote speakers are often a highlight of LILAC, but some years are better than others. This year was particular good in terms of "performances"! The first Keynote was non-traditional - Alex Moseley and Nic Whitton had us playing and interacting throughout their slot, introducing ideas around play and learning in a practical way. Second was an absolute star - Char Booth. She talked a lot about critical librarianship, reflection and teaching - insightful, incredibly engaging and a great speaker overall! Finally was James Clay. His subject matter was a bit more run of the mill, talking about digital capability rather than being as free as the other two with topic (he is currently working for JISC on a project around this, hence the focus of his talk). Even so, James is an old hand at this sort of things and put on a really engaging, amusing and lively performance... just what was needed on the final day after the conference dinner!

2) A strong theme of play and games pervaded the conference. There were a fair few talks that touched on this (including mine and Jess's talk), including one of the keynotes. In addition, we had the first Lagadothon this year. The idea was, people would present a prototype  of an information a skills / literacy teaching resource and a winner would be selected who would get £500 to further develop the prototype into a finished resource. Surprisingly (to me!) everyone presented a game of some sort! (Pleased to say it was me that won, with an escape room idea.) Finally, we had a conference game (#lilacgame) running throughout the conference, ably run by Rosie Jones (and hindered by her evil alter ego, @PIofEVIL) I might have been a little competitive with this...GO TEAM #GREENPI!!!

3) There was stronger undercurrent of critical information literacy running through the conference than ever before, which was great to see... I couldn't help wondering whether this marked the point where larger numbers of people are starting to think about this sort of thing. I could see it ending up as the major theme next year, as play was (for me) this year.

4) As ever, the people at LILAC were great. Lots of old friends and colleagues to meet up with, but also some new ones (to me!) too who really made an impact on me. I've never been to a conference other than LILAC which has such an amazing bunch of people (from all over the world) attend.

5) Finally, apparently posh hotels don't appreciate librarians playing the piano and singing in the early hours of the morning. Who knew?

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Lego for library teaching...

Not quite a games workshop... but last week I ran a Lego for Library Teaching workshop in Manchester.

We had a full day of exploring the use of Lego (and to a certain extent, other building materials) in libraries / learning support. It's the first time I've spent a full day running a workshop on this, only touching briefly on it in other workshops before, and I really enjoyed it - I think the attendees did too.

The video above is a summing up of the workshop by an attendee (Lawrie), there are more available to give a flavour of what we did, as well as some pictures I took on the day... one of which is below!

Alicja has already written a short blog post of the day too.

A photo posted by Andrew Walsh (@andywalsh999) on