Playing games at uLearn
The pre-conference theme at this year's uLearn was titled "Permission to Play". As the day unfolded, and during my own session in the afternoon, I noted how apt that title was. We were giving delegates permission to get out of their chairs and have fun. The learning, and for the meta cognitives, the learning about learning, was sneaked in under the radar.
I had smashed four books together. Two were about learning design, and two were about games design. Essentially, we set up a learning environment based on well-established principles of constructivism, and then we overlaid a symbolic games language. These sources came from recognised authors listed at the bottom of this article. Then we created and played a sample game within this framework, and at the end, asked each other how it went. For me, it was a way to get peer feedback about my incubator project, and for the delegates, it was an introduction to how easy it is to make games that can be played out in an environment wider than the classroom and augmented using near zero cost tech. All you need, really, is the light scaffold of ARGEF (Alternate Reality Games in Education Framework) that I have just described, and a free mind.
First failure, but try again…
In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the spectacular failure of my first analog mission. It was a puzzle game in which a wooden puzzle called the Locked Cross was disassembled, and each piece was packed into a luscious and mysterious blue purse with a gold cord for hanging it around a player's neck. Then the purses were hidden around the venue, which served as the game environment. The first mission failed because we were playing in a sprawling venue and relying on Twitter for communication, but there was a no-Tweeting policy in place. Oops. This time, we played the game in one room, and I facilitated by good old-fashioned unmediated voice and gesture. Success! Serious fun was had, and the players cooperated to solve the puzzle. Step up you geeks, you Meta Cognitives!
The type of game that fits with learning
What were we doing here? We were playing a teeny, tiny pretotype of a cooperative pervasive game — the very type of game I believe is a tight fit with learning. While an air of healthy competition exists at one level, it is only when the players start to cooperate that they will beat the game. Pervasive, because it can be played over an hour, for the duration of a lesson, over a day, a week, or a whole school year. It scales. It can scale from the six players in one room that we had, to thirty players in the school grounds, and potentially beyond to national champs.