#playingforreal #gamification levels

Referring back to my post on the ErasmusPlus project, I’m currently writing a report on what we have learnt from the experience of using non-digital gamification for engaging unemployed adults from the different EU countries. Based on the levels briefly mentioned in my last post, please see below the descriptions of each of them (ErasmusPlus Gamification for the Hard-to-Reach project, 2015). The full taxonomy and template will be released and shared on the project’s online hub. Special acknowledgement to the project team, especially Jan Gejel, Oscar Garcia Panella and Alex Ando.

Level 1 Icebreaker gameplay: Getting to know each other and start playing together in teams
This level aims to create a relaxed and convivial atmosphere among participants who probably are nervous and who don’t know each other. However, we also want to convey some key messages: we need to realise that we are becoming part of an exciting and challenging journey, where we need to question previous mind patterns and face some of our ingrained prejudices and views of how things are done “traditionally” in order to break with the past and move to new way of approaching issues. The game demonstrates that taboos can be faced and challenged and it manages to trace a fine line between surprise and shock (positive) and upset and disgust (negative), showing that there are many ways of reacting and that critical thinking is a key element. But – most of all – the gaming indicates that it is also important to have FUN!

LEVEL MISSION: “I feel comfortable with the team and I have decided to continue to participate”

Level 2 Listening to anger gameplay: Identifying, listening to and channeling one’s anger to achieve his or her goals
Having (hopefully) communicated the need to let go of taboos and past constraints, we need to continue helping this process of release by allowing the participants to vent their anger and frustration as well allowing a space to voice hopes and dreams of a possible new life. The participants should be able to share their stories and tell how their experiences of joblessness have caused damage and suffering. The facilitator should encourage them to let if all out. The fun must come with a stimulating game, as the outcome could be more cathartic than amusing.

LEVEL MISSION: “I feel my frustration is accepted and even appreciated and that I do not have to hide it when we work together in the team”

Level 3 Curiosity gameplay: Promoting the positive role of curiosity, element that encourages human beings towards discovery and innovation
At this point the participants have expressed and hopefully released to some extent the frustrations and anger with their current situation… It is now necessary to develop in our participants the curiosity about possible new solutions and some insight on the possible effectiveness brought on by a change of attitudes regarding their current situation. The game should be able to allow the participants to experience a shift in perspective: for instance, a role-playing game played from the point of view of an employer could give the participants a different insight and make them experience what it means to be in control.

LEVEL MISSION: “I feel I can start opening up to the ideas presented in the team and also start presenting some of my own ideas and visions”

Level 4 Motivation gameplay: Building up and boosting motivation
Once the participants feel – thanks to the previous game – that they want to try new opportunities because it feels good to be in control, we need to build up and boost their motivation. So what is more motivating that trying to identify if weird things other people have done can work or not and be again surprised by what a bit of “different” thinking, ingenuity and a positive attitude can achieve? The sky is the limit (nearly) if one is resourceful and creative. This game is the first step – in a process that hopefully sees the participants moving from the position of observers to that one of protagonists – in imagining and understanding what happens to others and how something similar could happen to oneself.

LEVEL MISSION: “I feel more encouraged to bring out ideas and visions that I never through I would take seriously – or that other people would take seriously. I start to enjoy this freer thinking…”

Level 5 Community gameplay: Working the community
In reality one has to take into account the fact that we are not all creative and inventive and full of initiative. “Those people we learned about in the previous game were special in some way, but I’m not like that! Where shall I get inspiration from? Where did many of the people who have succeeded in creating something new and wondrous get their inspirational flash?” Often new initiatives come to life thanks to the observation of gaps in the market: where better – therefore – to see that than in one’s local community? One needs then to look at the community through different eyes, through critical and creative lenses that are able to investigate “why are things like this?”, “is this how I really want them?”, “what could I do to improve them?” “what is missing that I could provide?” The game should help the participants observe their community and the lack or presence of resources.

LEVEL MISSION: “I feel increasingly able to link my ideas, visions or possible perspectives to what is needed in the community, what other people need – or what could be a success in real life”

Level 6 Key witnesses gameplay: Real people in real action
Having acquired new tools to look at the strengths and weaknesses of one’s community and perhaps having already identified possible opportunities, what better than to play a game which lets the participant actually meet people in the local community who have taken the plunge, risked doing something on their own and now have a business which they are proud to own? The game allows one to meet such entrepreneurs, see that they actually exist and that they are normal people, ask them questions about their business and perhaps even discuss any new ideas that might have come up.

LEVEL MISSION: “I feel encouraged by working with and meeting people who have taken action in the community and tried out new directions”

Level 7 Creative projects gameplay: Building missions and projects
Having seen that real people can produce real results, we will take a step further the challenge of observing, discussing and creating. The participants, divided into groups, will engage in creating a business with the random resources the game will assigned them. The participants will play and make decisions with a set of random resources (places, people, money, objects) and will be able to change them only a little. They will have to think and create, as a team, using the “cards” the game has dealt them: after all, the next game is…real life!

LEVEL MISSION: “I feel ready to start plan and carry out real-life initiatives I wish to pursue, and I feel comfortable about the support I get from the team”

Level 8 Playing for real: What are you going to do about it?
This level is about reflecting on the experience and outcomes from the activities. The missions and projects developed in Level 7 should be taken forward into the real world. How are they going to be implemented and how realistic would this be? How can the community follow the proposed initiatives?

I will also share some videos from the practice partners working with their local groups.

Learn more about the project by looking at Stephanie’s story (Click on the image below):

0 - Intro

GameChangers in Manchester, Scotland, Berlin, NYC

GameChangers– the programme, the movement… has come a long way. You can see my previous reflections here, here and here. Our approach was recently presented at the ALT Playful Learning in Manchester (13-15 July), the right place to start as playful and gameful learning is key to the GameChangers model. Samantha and Luca enjoyed themselves at the event and I am truly truly jealous as I missed all the fun!!

From Manchester, the tour continues to NYC in August for the Revolutionary Learning 2016:

Workshop: Meta-experiential design in Gameplay

An interactive and competitive team-based session using non-digital approaches.

Everyone has the ability to make sense of disconnected cues. This session by the Disruptive Media Learning Lab, UK aims to explore this by utilizing a playful approach to learning. This gamified session will exploit the power of creativity, narratives and visual cues towards scaffolding our understanding and interpretation of  abstract or high-level concepts and themes. The session will employ cards, tokens and team competition to help us articulate our personal narratives around themes, such as Flipped Learning, Game-based Learning and Self-directed Learning.

The workshop will be based on one of the GameChangers’ toolkits – the What is your story? cards developed as part of the programme. The cards have since been used in various teaching and learning activities, such as the Coventry University’s Flying Faculty for the nursing course. Jon Andrews won an award for the PGCert (Student Satisfaction).

From NYC back to Scotland in October for the European Conference in Game-Based Learning 2016, where two articles have been accepted for publications and oral presentations. One of the papers focuses on the escapED initiative developed as part of GameChangers. Lead designer and author Samantha is also currently working on a year programme for the Ethical Hacking course at Coventry University based on this ARG model. Samantha has also presented this initiative at the recent JISC Connect More event in Cheltenham. 

Possibly the last programme for the year will be the two workshops at the Online Educa Berlin (OEB) 2016, where we will unpick the GameChangers programme and the associated outcomes, especially the escapED initiative. 

Workshop: “Be a Game Changer!” Making Learning Addictive Using Game Design Thinking and Practices

In this hands-on workshop, participants will be introduced to several Game Changers projects including the escape room-influenced EscapED, the card game What’s Your Story, the pedagogical toolkit Flipped In A Box – and of course the Game Changers Open Course (including Web TV). These case studies will be presented both for inspiration and also to demystify the development process. Participants will be guided on how to develop engaging game-based learning solutions that are focused on the message ‘technology enhanced, not technology led’. Embodying this message, the workshop will shed light on how to assess the learner’s needs and to adopt the right technology accordingly. The workshop will also discuss some of the most commonly used methods and tools for developing digital games that participants can look to apply in their own gameful developments.

Using a design sprint methodology, participants will develop core skills in collaborative and interactive games design and by the end of the workshop will have developed blueprints for their own gameful and/or playful learning experiences.

The Workshop will help participants in furthering their understanding of playful and gameful approaches to learning and, more in general, demystify the process of game design and development as something strictly hi-tech based (and therefore hardly accessible to many learners and teachers). This will in turn facilitate the development of participants’ game ideas, be they for serious games or for any other kind of playful implementation, and provide them with basic toolkits and frameworks for designing and implementing playful learning experiences, therefore promoting the emergence of a more playful, creative culture in their everyday contexts.

The new and refined GameChangers will be launched soon early 2017 (hurrah that now Helen Keegan is back to help push the next phase forward) based on lessons learnt and feedback from peers. Watch this space for the Remix Play summit that we are organising, which will feature the GameChangers relaunch and also include fabulous people in the playful and gameful learning community. Check out my previous post on Remixing Play.

I would also like to acknowledge the other GameChangers members: Alex, Kate, Olly and Lauren.


Quick reflection on @disrupt_learn, #gamescience and associated areas

A quick reflection on some of the work we are doing at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL). Since the official launch in 2014, the lab has successfully created a space and culture, demonstrating the  trans-disciplinarity of the research, development and practice outcomes of pathfinder and exploratory projects (both internal and external), where the use and the context of both mainstream and innovative approaches and technologies are explored, repurposed and remixed towards conceptualizing a more hybrid approach to teaching and learning. Such an approach has led to new models and practices being directly embedded in real modules and courses as well as indirectly supported via a more informal means to facilitating learning. The lab provides a context and model for the university to reposition and reconfigure education, research, development and practice in a more exploratory, experiential and agile manner.

The lab’s implication and impact on teaching and learning are explored based around four strategic aims:

  • Context: Help to re-position and re-configure education at Coventry University within the rapidly changing technological, social, economic, and political contexts that will shape the global learning landscape by developing a distinctive, internally and externally recognised and valued ethos and approach to higher education innovation and development.
  • New mindsets: Become a source of new research-informed pedagogic thinking. Stimulate innovation by challenging mindsets amongst stakeholders in teaching and learning. It will advocate provocative and radical ideas, models and approaches to existing education, analysing best practice and disseminating
  • New practices: Champion and evaluate new practices, approaches and methodologies and provide innovative/experimental spaces, funding, resources, additional capabilities and mechanisms for development and experimentation in methodologies, tools and pedagogies.
  • New models: Encourage and support the development of new forms of partnership, new models of cross-faculty collaboration, and new modes of delivering education provision via new platforms, technologies and ways of working which make the walls of the institution more porous.

Research into practice and pedagogy: Based on the recent research team’s away day, key insights and outcomes from existing projects can be categorised into the following themes:

  • Seamless LearningContinuity of the learning experience across contexts, space and time
  • Creative Pedagogies – Taking notice, seeing afresh and revisiting learning from different directions
  • Digital PedagogiesPedagogies enacted and experienced where digital technology is the key element using digital technologies
  • Student led learningSupporting students to take ownership of their learning
  • Graduate preparednessEncouraging learning which supports learner awareness, global citizenship and living with complexity
  • Open/connected learning Opening up opportunities for inclusion and participation in learning and research
  • Playful and Gameful learningFostering meaningful experiences afforded by the agency, fun and engaging aspects of play and games
  • Flipped (& beyond)shifting transmissive pedagogies

These insights are being further synthesised (also made more specific) and bitesize takeaways and know-hows will be provided for adoption and adaptation. Findings to be published on the DMLL’s website.

Based on the work carried out within the Game Science strand and the associated areas (Beyond Flipped, Openbadging, creative pedagogy, etc.), some of the highlights are as follows:

  • Hybrid spaces- The lab provides a space for teaching and learning practices to be re-configured and re-positioned as a response to the blurring of boundaries between learning spaces (digital/physical) and contexts (formal/informal/social). Research, development and practice within key areas, such as Game Science, Flipped Learning and Student Directed Learning emphasise the need for continuity of learning experience across contexts, space and time, recognising that there is a need to break the traditional boundaries between students and teachers, between and among personal abilities and types of learning. Acknowledgement of informal learning (a more creative, playful, inclusive and without barriers) as an extension to formal methods is an important means for promoting ‘lifelong learning for all’ and, subsequently, for reshaping learning and learner preparedness to better match the needs of the 21st century knowledge economies and open societies.
  • Flagship programmes for fostering change- Programmes, such as GameChangers, Beyond Flipped and OpenBadging establish means through which such spaces and contexts can be blended. GameChangers for instance piloted an open and informal programme for staff and students to adopt a co-design thinking exploiting digital and non-digital means, informed by a holistic gamified approach developed at the lab. This approach places learning objectives and pedagogy to form a strong foundation upon which gamified and technology-enabled solutions can be developed. Outcomes and toolkits, such as the Game Design Thinking programme, escapED, OpenBadges, Starquest and ImparAPP are currently being developed and/or implemented as part of the University’s Flipped agenda, blending digital/physical spaces as well as formal/informal instructions. Trans-national collaborations in teaching and learning is also demonstrated by projects such as the 3CityLink.
  • Game Science creating context for playful and gameful techniques– From the Game Science strand, the lab has defined an overarching domain within which research, development and practice of purposeful play, playful learning space, game design thinking, gamification and serious games can be contextualized with impact in real operational environment (educational, social change, healthy behaviour) as the key driver for promoting a more human(e)-centred design of a learning process, environment and space. As an overarching strand, this will inform the university of the context of its work within these sub-domains. The lab is key to creating this context, which will involve engagement from staff, who are exploring the potential of Game Science in their current practice. Including Game Science (playful and gameful, game-based learning, gamification, serious games, persuasive designs) in the Lab’s core activities has seen staff and students working together to co-design and create new game-based resources (see Imparapp and GameChangers), external recognition in the key research focus (e.g. focus on gamified and pervasive learning via H2020 Beaconing project, where we are the coordinator) and other achievements (REF-able publications, new models/frameworks (such as the holistic model  and the transdisciplinary development model that has informed projects such as Beaconing, Imparapp and gamechangers), keynote roles, awards, etc.). Other associated projects under the Game Science strand: here Also see my previous post on Gamification, Experience Design and Disruptions, and Remixing Play.
  • Impact and esteem- Moreover, externally funded projects, such as the EU flagship Beaconing project, provide a testimony to the impact of the lab’s ethos and specifically the focus on a hybrid-learning model in shaping a more global agenda in education. The lab currently has 8 EU funded projects, demonstrating our visibility and esteem.
  • Exploratory, agile and transdisciplinary- The lab as a cross-university unit allows for a healthy working relationships and culture to be developed through staff-led projects. The exploratory and agile model adopted by the lab has opened up opportunities for teaching-intensive staff to be interested in research and development of new approaches that could innovate their own practices. The transdisciplinarity of the projects has made the experience for both the staff and lab even more enriching, especially when the new approaches are being implemented in the modules and courses and demonstrating real impact.
  • The experiential cascading effect and impact– The cascading effect of the lab’s impression on the staff, who were involved in the first round of projects and the subsequent impact on the specific groups/schools/department has seen projects being initiated and developed on the back of their first engagement with the lab. The lab’s approach is not only exploratory but it is also experiential. For instance, the Starquest pilot, which was part of a PhD project and the first project under the Game Science theme has involved staff from the HLS (Sport Science) and EEC (CEM). The pilot has led to (1) the Starquest gamification and social platform being integrated with Moodle and taken up by lecturers at HLS and EEC, who are not involved in the original pilot, (2) transmedia (videoscribe, lego and stop-motion animation, fat-suit) being used as part of other modules at the HLS (won PGCert Innovative and Creative Teaching in 2015), (3) new initiatives to be developed, such as the Immersive Narrative project with the Sport Therapy team and CELE, and (4) the GameChangers programme being adapted for a masters course (Sport Psychology) in the new 2016/2017 term. Other outcomes from GameChangers, such as the ‘What is your story?’ meta-experiential design cards are now being used by academic staffs (such as the Flying Faculty (HLS) in China, which has recently won the PGCert Student Satisfaction award 2016), and the escapED programme that is being adapted for the Ethical Hacking course at the EEC amongst others. The Badging initiative has also seen traction in the interest to deploy open badging in existing modules/courses.
  • Staff and students dynamics– Projects, such as ImparAPP, SoundEar, etc. demonstrate the lab’s aim to break barriers between staff and students, where they have to collaborate as a team. For the students, this experience has impacted their graduate preparedness and created a clear narrative for their own learning. The lab is not only about developing projects but also the individuals who are involved in the experience, with the hope that they could be champions in their own faculties.
  • Pathfinding engagement– To facilitate dialogues between staff, students and the lab, the lab has a programme of on and offline events, development sessions, briefings, showcases and workshops; all captured for wider dissemination. Regular events such as the #DisruptiveBytes, Autumn Expos, Spring Expos and specialised workshops (Open Education, Accessibility, etc.). These events are key to introducing new approaches, challenging existing practices and fostering uptake of new practices in existing modules and courses. Subscribe to our youtube channel.
  • Joint dissemination – University staff, who are involved in our projects are also actively participating in disseminations as champions of their changing and shifting practices. On top of internal and external disseminations, the lab has also produced ref-able publications in SJR: Q1/Q2 journals (9 peer reviewed articles so far) and articles published and presented at targeted conferences and expos. Check out some of the publications here (2014-2016) and the most recent accepted articles for the flagship European Conference in Game-based Learning 2016.

These are only some of the highlights. More insights and highlights will be published soon and disseminated for reuse and remix within teaching and learning practices.

Re-Mixing Play

remixplayPlay is key to expanding and broadening our embodied experience with our surroundings. It is an exploratory and experiential means for incrementally, iteratively and continuously updating our understanding and interpretation of the various concepts, objects, people, emotions and the mapping between these variables. It is a complex process that is difficult to decode and measure.

We are in the world where almost everything is measured. Competitive play for instance allow for  winning conditions to be determined and play outcomes to be assessed. A more summative approach to assessing play leads to having winners and losers at part of the experience. But what about the process in between. Are there any feedback mechanism that would influence the play process and steer the activity towards a more serious experience. What is serious? Serious competition with tangible outcomes/rewards or serious endevours with an aim to win for the sake of the adrenaline buzz?

This would mean that play that is meant to foster autonomy and freedom has now become more structured and “formal”. A personal experience is now influenced by the need to adhere to the play rules and the winning conditions? Play has been re-mixed into the context of gameplay. How do we design this playful and gameful experience without making it too restricting and to allow the feedback cycle to be as natural as possible so that it may add to the “play” experience?

This shouldn’t be construed as a claim that “everything is a game.” Games are a particular manifestation of play, not its totality. They happen to be a good starting point for an investigation of play because the formality of their rules makes the machinery of play easier to observe and analyze” (Upton, 2015). Hence, games are a means by which play can be observed in a more objective way, which will lead to purposeful and meaningful engagement.

Entertainment games provide this environment, where players can immerse in the “tasks” at hand. Play is now more designed with specific goals (pre)set for the players. The engaging characteristics of digital entertainment games and the need to inject more fun and play in serious activities have also inspired the use of the same technology for achieving more serious and purposeful outcomes. Serious Games as we called it is formally defined as the use of digital game technologies for purposes other than entertainment. (Game) Play has been re-mixed in such a way that the designed play experience is mapped against some serious and measurable outcomes (games for learning, games for change, games for health, etc.).

However, there is a danger that the mapping can be imbalance, where either the play elements or serious goals are compromised. Challenging! There are however existing studies such as flow (see Kristian et al., 2013;  2014), Learning-Game Mechanics Mapping (Arnab et al. 2015, Lim et al. 2014) and Transdisciplinary Methodological Framework (Arnab & Clarke 2016) amongst others which can be exploited and expanded towards informing the design and development process.

Another domain that is also influenced by the engaging and motivating aspects of games and play is Gamification, defined as the use of game elements (mechanics, dynamics, aesthetics) in non-game contexts. Simple examples include FitBit, Habitica, Starbucks reward app, Zombies Run, LinkedIn leaderboard, FourSquare, RiseGlobal leaderboards and many more.The more effective use of gamification will normally go beyond the extrinsics and focus more on intrinsic motivations and means to engage and sustain participation in an otherwise tedious task. Essentially, key to expanding gamification beyond the basic Points, Badges and Leaderboards (PBL) is to go back to basic and unpick the autonomy  of playfulness and the “formality” of gamefulness. Gamification in its positive forms maps the intrinsic pull of playfulness and gamefulness against purpose and meaning and the personalised needs of the individuals to achieve “mastery” in whatever activities they are engaging with. The activity- (actionable) feedback cycles commonly used in gamification are underpinned by meaningful measures,  observation and analysis afforded by the formality of game-like rules (mechanics and dynamics).

There are still a lot of studies and investigations that need to be carried out on the mapping between the autonomy of play, the formality of games, the desired serious outcomes and the individual needs of the target audience, which could transform ordinary activities into extraordinary experiences. The hybridness of space and contexts afforded by the advancement of technologies, such as the Internet of Things will supersize the playful and gameful experience. It is time to re-mix and transform play and make it even more pervasive in day to day life. Games and gamification are the instruments that can help to formalise and structure the experience to create context and narratives for the experience. Designed autonomy and serendipity?