On the 10th-12th of July I went to the Playful Learning Conference with Suzi Wells, to learn about different approaches to play in adult education and to present our own game.
It was a very lively conference. To the untrained eye, some moments of it looked like a bunch of adults had gone slightly mad and decided to go back to kindergarten to play with balloons and play dough and run around. To a more experienced observer, the attendants were learning about how others use play for learning, and using collaborative, playful ways to:
- describe the academic writing process
- explore barriers and solutions to being more playful in work and education
- solve the gender pay gap in Higher Education using one of 2 rapidly taught ethical theories.
Our own session went better than we could have expected. All our room’s tables were full, and people were engaged with playing our game (working title: The Tiddlywinks of Teaching).
They seemed to enjoy it and gave us very useful feedback. I would have been happy to keep talking to the participants about it for another hour. Also, I was very pleased to see some admittedly very happy faces when we told them they could take sets of cards with them!
A few things stood out for me at this conference:
- The vast majority of playful activities were physical, not digital.
- For many people engaging in playful learning, play = creativity. There were many sessions and activities where different creative processes – physical or digital – were used/ suggested to learn either about play itself, or as a tool to engage with different topics.
- Escape rooms have become quite popular in the area of playful learning. Their potential to help practice and enhance communication and teamwork skills, as well as to help in team building are easy to see. Their potential to learn domain-specific skills, not so much yet.
- Conferences such as this, that allow for more hands on sessions are an amazing way to playtest and get feedback for learning games. I am sure that our own game will greatly improve as a result of our session.