Playful Learning Conference 20/21/22

A post by Faculty Librarian Ben Taylorson

Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of attending the Playful Learning conference in Leicester. This was the second time I’d been able to attend – the last being in 2019 before everything went awry. The conference was back after a 2-year hiatus, and the organisers made up for it with a packed calendar of sessions, talks and activities.

My Playful Learning name-tag

The conference is pitched at the intersection of learning and play for adults. Playful in approach and outlook, yet underpinned by robust research and working practices, it provides a space where teachers, researchers and students can play, learn and think together. And its a lot of fun. The very first thing I was asked to do was to create a panel for the dashboard of a spaceship. It made sense in context, trust me…

Over the course of the three days, the sessions I attended included:

  • Playing the Exquisite Corpse: Podcast, Teaching and Learning – How to create a space for meaningful, authentic and exquisite conversations through the exquisite corpse game. I’ll be honest, I had no idea was the ‘exquisite corpse game was’! It turns out its is a collaborative drawing approach first used by surrealist artists to create bizarre and intuitive drawings. It can be used synergise discussion and explore different ideas.
  • Serious Stickle Bricks – This was a group activity requiring negotiation, planning, quality control and supply chain using Stickle Bricks. It encouraged teamwork and was especially enjoyable as my team won 😊
  • Catastrophic Learning: making games to understand how small things affect big things – In this session we learned to play ‘Catastrophic’, a card game that makes connections between small scale processes and large-scale events in biology. We were then encouraged to use templates and reflection to start designing our own expansion pack/bespoke version.
  • Making tests fun – a fun session using a range of quiz and game show formats. This provided a number of ideas for tests other than just the standard question-answer format and could help make ‘dry’ material a lot more interesting!
  • Using with learners – this workshop explored how using Playmobil in teaching can allow learners to be more relaxed, open, honest and engaged. As an example, it used new student inductions.
  • Quest not Questionnaire: Improving Accessibility Skills – here we were asked ‘Is there a secret message in your image ALT Text?’ The aim was to get us thinking about engaging ways of improving digital skills through puzzles and challenges.

In addition to all of that (and more), the conference offers play and playful learning opportunities throughout the entirety of the 3 days, with opportunities to play board games into the night, have a go at student-designed arcade games (which were fearsomely hard!) and enjoy a lot of fabulous food! The highlight, however, was an interactive screening of Back To The Future!

A postcard I got to keep, depicting the poster for the ‘Enchantment Under The Sea Dance’ featured in the movie!

Great Scott, this is no ordinary conference! You can find out more here:

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