Well, I planned to capture my reflections on Tuesday the day after our face-to-face session and started writing this post a few times in my head but I just now managed to click on create new post. This was Sunday morning. Then a disaster happened… and I had to abandon my half written post and start again on Sunday evening… anyway…
It feels somehow late and my reflections are not fresh anymore in my head. I have already gone through the emotional ups and downs and re-living what happened on Tuesday but also many times before when I used a game approach, so it will be interesting to see where this reflection takes me. My fingers have started hitting the keyboard and finding the words and phrases my mind is telling them. Where should we start?
Ok, I guess I should start from what this week was all about. Creativity, everyday creativity when it becomes an everyday habits can turn our teaching and learning practices into exciting and stimulating experiences. And while I usually use habit as a in bad habit, this time I feel that habit, as in establishing creative habits is actually a good thing for us.
Creativity is important to keep our offer fresh and engaging and make our students think outside the box. Creativity is a necessity and needed in all disciplines, all professional areas, all aspect of our lives. In order to encourage and enable creative thinking and hopefully trigger lasting changes in thinking, we played a mixed-reality game. Playing games in Higher Education? Yes!
This game is not a new idea, but and idea that has evolved semester after semester and changes have been introduced based on own observations and on feedback. I have played previous versions of this game in teacher education in Adult Learning and Further Education but when I took the idea to Higher Education, I was shocked with the resistance I was confronted with. Comments such as “inappropriate”, “childish” and “patronising” still echo in my mind. But maybe this is a good thing. Maybe the more critical comments helped me see things from a different angle and push me to think deeper and put my own practice to the test and evaluate the game and get some evidence that the game real works! The criticism also pushed me to refine my idea and underpin what I thought was a useful, worthwhile and fun learning activty with literature. My rationale for playing the game is now more clearly formulated and together with the findings of my research linked to this help me to convince others that there is value in learning through games but I am not convinced that it should be this way. I think there is a lot of value in discovery learning and trying new things, immersing ourselves into different learning experiences, immersing ourselves in the unknown and finding out for ourselves and with peers the value of such activities. The key elements, I think, to make this happen, is trust. Trust in our teacher, trust in our learners, trust in each other but also the will to be open to experimentation.
1. How did I feel?
Excited! This week is always my favourite one!!! I was happy to discover that my current students embraced the “Sell your bargains” game. The same happened with the last cohort and I am now seeing much clearer why this is the case!
I was very pleased that they completed Stage 1 and had thought about a threshold concept before meeting in Manchester on Tuesday. I am also very happy that they did their research around threshold concepts despite the fact that we didn’t touch this in class. It shows again, that we can and should trust our students that they are able to study on their own and try and make sense of theories. I think this is easier if coupled with direct link and application to own practice, which we did in the case of the game.
There were some more skeptical students but that is fine. I think as the game progressed, they warmed to the idea and the usefulness of the game. All students who partcipated, worked well with their partner and came up with some really innovative learning and teaching interventions. I don’t think many of these ideas would have been generated in an ordinary classroom. I think we need to get rid of ordinary classrooms anyway. Learning can happen anywhere and most of the learning happens outside the classroom anyway…
I was very pleased how the pairs worked together and I think my rationale for pairing worked well. I had a number of criteria for paring and I would be interested to find out what my students thought about this and what they think the criteria were. Anybody?
2. What did I learn?
I am pleased that I keep pushing myself and my students to actively experiment with ideas and concepts in a more playful way. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We will work on making it work better the next time. We learn so much more when things don’t go according to plan. Difficult situations make us think. They make me think and re-think but also un-think. And if we learnt something from something that didn’t work, it was a great learning opportunity. Too often we focus on the result, but what about the process?
I learned that we do need to do this to discover what is possible and remove misunderstandings and misconceptions about play and games for learning in higher education. I learned that reflection is a vital ingredient of creativity as well, if we want to create something new and of value, something that is alive and dynamic. Something that can evolve and inspire learners and teachers to be resourceful, creative, ask questions, do the unexpected and surprise themselves and others to engage in deep and profound learning that is owned 150% by the learners themselves.
3. What would I do differently?
Loads of things! I think it is now time to change location for Stage 2 when we meet in Manchester City Centre. The Big Wheel used to be there. Now it is gone ;( I am thinking of Bury Market or Salford Quays and will investigate other areas too, with loads if cheap shop for next time. But if we go for a no-money approach, I might be looking for a completely different location…
Also, the £3 spending money to get a resource is too much. I am thinking of NO money or just one pound per person. At the moment, I am thinking to play it with NO spending money next time.
Too often we think we need money to get resources for learning and teaching. But there are so many freely available. Stuff that we can re-use and re-purpose or construct from items that are of no use for others. The more I write about it here, the more I am convinced that I will go with the no-money approach next time. So there will be limited time and limited and no money at all! How resourceful and creative can we be? Are we more creative when we have loads of time and loads of money? Hmm…
What else? Recording the videos and a location where it is a bit more quiet. I am wondering, if we could run part of Stage 2 at location and then come back into the classroom and create the clips or the players create these within the 1h. This might be another option. Each pair then uploads the clip to our YouTube channel. But how could we then use the time when we come all together? I think we could then have an informal conversation about the process and share ideas and approaches. I think that might be useful instead of doing the filming then and would keep all the group together. So many ideas again to change for next time. This is all very exciting!
Also one of my students suggested to do the filming through images. I understand that some don’t want to be seen in the clips and I need to respect this, as the clips will go on our YouTube channel under a creative commons licence. So, images would be a great alternative and maybe drawings too? We do need to listen to our students’ voices. Many times, they have great ideas that help us move our own thinking and ideas forwards but also into new directions.
Having a second game facilitator really made a difference but if I go with the above option I will be fine, even if a colleague is not available. I just need to make sure that our students have a camcorder, smartphone or tablet on which they could record the mini clip and this might be the tricky part and needs to be checked in advance of the game.
Let’s play more! Let’s create more opportunities for playful learning in Higher Education. Plato said “We can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation”. Just imagine how much we can learn when we combine the two 😉
Voting for our most innovative ideas is still open until Monday the 22nd of October 2012
all our photos on Flickr. Click here to access them
please access our voting form where you will also find links to all participating video clips.
Do you want to find out more about learning with games in Higher Education? Read: Whitton, N (2010) Learning with Digital Games. A Practical Guide to Engaging Students in Higher Education, Oxon: Routledge.