Friday, 6 January 2017

Making Escape Rooms for educational purposes

Front cover of "making escape rooms" book

Front cover of "making escape rooms" book
So this little thing arrived today! A workbook I've created to scaffold the process of creating educational escape room games... the idea being it takes you through a process, with sections in the book to fill in and slowly create an escape room type experience, but for educational purposes.
I might make it available for other people to buy in a little while, but for now I want to try it in a workshop or two with me facilitating it.
Currently wondering if I organised a workshop for the Easter vacation, whether that would suit people... and whether to organise it close to home (Huddersfield, Leeds, Manchester type area) or further afield. Any preferences, comments, suggestions, offers of venues, let me know!

Monday, 2 January 2017

A couple of experimental books

I've just created a couple of experimental books, both will be deliberately short and cheap, first is available through my website from the 2nd week of January.

Mini Book of Teaching Tips for Librarians book cover
The first book is a small (A6) sized, spiral bound book, printed on a heavy paper stock. It contains over 50 teaching tips and teaching ideas for librarians. Originally intended as a collection of (large sized) playing cards, I thought I'd try it in this format to see if people found it useful - a similar size to a large, Tarot sized, card, in spiral bound format it works out much cheaper to buy! This will only be available for a limited time, then revised based on feedback - I particularly want people to tell me if they like the size (A6) or would like it larger (A5?)! Because I *really* want feedback on this, the first few copies will be free P&P (in UK), and it will just cost £9.95 in total to your door...
The second will be based around creating escape rooms for educational purposes... not sure when this will be available, or if I will do a Kickstarter or not (creating a limited edition 1st of all, before releasing it in an alternative format?), around escape rooms with this workbook as a reward. More news when I decide!!!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

LILAC 2017 workshop

Just had my workshop proposal for LILAC 2017 accepted, abstract follows! I'm particularly pleased to have sneaked in a keyword of "Argond" in, which I think is doog yrev.

In this workshop, participants will:
1) Learn some key benefits of using playful approaches to library instruction, including the use of puzzles and escape room techniques.
2) They will reflect on how playful learning, particularly the use of escape room ideas, could apply to their own teaching practice.

Real life escape rooms, exit games, locked room games, whatever we choose to call them, have exploded in popularity in recent years. From the television programmes of my youth (Crystal Maze, The Adventure Game), through increasingly complex computer games, adventure games have now manifested into "real world" rooms that can be found in cities all over the world. The "real life" escape rooms involve working together as a team to solve a series of puzzles, normally culminating in escaping from a locked room. There is often a strong narrative involved as part of the activity, increasing the sense of a "magic circle", where participants can step outside the normal world into a playful place, where different rules apply.

They require teamwork, observation, creativity and critical thinking from the participants. The playful, yet challenging atmosphere created by these games encourage participants to try repeatedly to solve the puzzles. This can be taken advantage of in the learning environment, allowing learners to practice engaging critically with information sources, to practice skills as diverse as referencing and constructing a search strategy, and to generally increase their information literacy in a "safe" environment.

Participants in the workshop will:

1) Hear briefly about the theoretical benefits of creating playful learning environments and be challenged to think about how this might apply to their own teaching practice (10 minutes).
2) Try an example of an escape room style puzzle, as a practical example of how escape rooms might work in practice (20 minutes).
3) Be introduced to a method of approaching the design of escape room activities for their own workplace (15 minutes).
4) Participants will then be encouraged to consider how they may apply ideas from this workshop to their own workplace (10 minutes).
5) We will finish with a few minutes for additional questions and round up (5 minutes).
Further reading will also be recommended to broaden the theoretical knowledge of interested participants.

Anyone considering attending this workshop should expect active participation, play, puzzles, padlocks, prizes, and possibly pass the parcel. But probably not penguins. Or quite as much alliteration.

Prior to coming to this session, try to solve the puzzle in this final paragraph. Learn to accept this will happen throughout the workshop. Always remember that this thing can be valuable in learning. Yet you won’t see it unless you look at the start of things.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

"Sneaky Cards" and the workplace

I've really liked the idea of Sneaky Cards since I first saw them, and I've already planned challenge type cards for attendees at the i2c2 conference next year.
I've also been pondering how to make my Uni workplace more playful and have been trying little bits and pieces.
These two came together last week at the Playful Learning SIG meeting  when we were talking about this sort of stuff... so I've put a proposal to our Senior Management Team in Computing and Library Services (CLS - the bit of the uni I work in), to run with the idea..

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Guardian article on play in Higher Education...

Photo by Jon S, under CC BY 2.0

I had a minor rant about Play in Higher Education recently, and after editing by the Guardian peeps, it got published... not quite what I was trying to say, but close enough for a newspaper!

Walsh, A. (2016, September 1). Think play is for nurseries, not universities? Think again. Guardian Higher Education Network. Retrieved from

Monday, 22 August 2016

Unlock Learning: Mobile Escape Rooms Kickstarter

Just launched my "Unlock Learning" Kickstarter!
Escape rooms are exploding in popularity at the moment, with new ones seeming to pop up every week. But what if we used the same ideas in education?
The play inherent in escape rooms, especially playing as a team, is fantastic at all levels of education, and it can allow students to be creative, active learners, think critically, learn how to learn in a more independent way, and more... all in a safe learning environment.
To really make sense in education though, we can’t really have static rooms. We can't leave a room set up for long periods for people to use, we need to be able to set things up wherever we are for one lesson at a time!
One way around this is to have a self contained box that can be taken to any classroom. It may have some extra materials within it to be placed elsewhere in the room, but is essentially self-contained for teachers and lecturers to run wherever they wish. If we raise enough, I'll create a truly mobile one in a converted van which I'll use to take out to educational institutions for learners to create their own educational escape room experiences.
This is the idea behind the Kickstarter that is now live and running through September, to produce escape room type materials for teachers and lecturers to use.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Unlock Learning Kickstarter

Just a teaser! I'll be launching a Kickstarter to produce educational escape room materials shortly and just done a video for it... look out for the actual Kickstarter soon :)