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Tuesday 16 June 2015


Learning Skills Tutor Dr Carina Buckley was invited to London Metropolitan University for their Look Make Learn day.

Playing games, at first sight, may not appear to have much to do with the serious business of learning in a university, but three of my colleagues at London Metropolitan University set out to convince me and around 30 other people otherwise, at their brilliant Look-Make-Learn day in May.

Their focus was on exploration and creativity, and the day was structured around four different types of activity that we, all learning developers or lecturers, could use and adapt for our own students.

We began by designing a game, in groups, to fulfil a particular brief. We had to consider student numbers, location, objectives and budget, and then spend 30 minutes coming up with something that would fit the bill. Call me biased, but my group’s effort – a kind of trading game based on Jenga but with pyramids, to teach the food cycle in Biology – was easily the best of the four offerings!

We then moved, via tea and chocolate biscuits, into the world of augmented reality, where we were introduced to a smartphone app called Aurasma which can be used to link videos to images. I had the dubious pleasure of being filmed for that one, and the less said about that the better although the software itself is great!

After lunch we experimented – being the aim of the day – with screencasting software, which can be used to create videos based in PowerPoint and add a voiceover. I can see how this would be really useful to help students learning at a distance, or perhaps to explain something difficult or technical, that can be repeated as often as needed. I’ll have to investigate further over the summer.

Finally, we finished the day with my favourite: Lego Serious Play. This is a formal, structured technique that is usually given at least 4 hours to work through; we had 45 minutes. However, even in that relatively short space of time, I could see how useful it would be to help get to grips with abstract concepts and also considering yourself as a learner, by letting you ‘think with your hands’, as we were all reminded to do several times. Our main task was to create a visual representation of what it looks like when we find ourselves ‘stuck’, and then to adapt that model to being ‘unstuck’. It was harder than you might expect, but ultimately very rewarding and illuminating.

So, play is not just for children, and games are not just for winning. To learn effectively means you need to be engaged – not entertained – and to teach well means considering the best ways to get ideas across, and thinking outside of the (Lego) box. Count me in!