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, https://www.flickr.com/photos/62693815@N03/ 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 https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2016/sep/01/think-play-is-for-nurseries-not-universities-think-again

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 :)

Friday, 22 July 2016

Next escape room thing...

Teacher throwing an old fashioned bomb

While trying out my escape room induction, I'm also working on something a bit more involved...

This may also be linked to a Kickstarter I'm sketching out at present, in which case it'll end up at various different levels, rather than just my usual Higher Education bunch...

I'll try to wrap it up into some sort of narrative involving a disgruntled teacher / lecturer fed up because of the quality of the students' work. So the learners / game players will need to prove they can evaluate information sources (and reference them?) in order to prove that they are okay after all and defuse the bomb!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Playful Learning conference and my escape room box

I went to the Playful Learning Conference last week, if I get around to it I might blog about the conference itself, but this post is a bit more specific!

I took my escape room box along with the materials for the library induction I've made set up and ran several iterations of it the first afternoon. It went down really well, everyone completed it in around 20-25 minutes (which fits my intended half hour induction!), and got some lovely responses from people - lots of positive vibes around using escape room ideas in education. I also played an escape room as part of the first evening social, and a lovely one put together by students one of the afternoon, so there was a bit of an escape room trend going on at the conference...

The pictures above are of some of the teams trying to solve the puzzles.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

CLS Showcase and the escape room box

Table, boxes and kit ready for the start

The escape room induction had it's first outing today, not for "proper" students, but for (mainly) staff at Huddersfield Uni at the CLS (Computing and Library Service) Showcase, where we show off things that are going on in our service.

Lots of people came and had a go, either at the full induction puzzles, or at a subset of them, or just for a quick look. The few photos below are people actually using the boxes.

It seemed to go down really well, and I might make one or two tweaks based what I've seen today, but I think it is about ready to try with real students...

Quick update (23rd June)  - attendees voted for their favourite stand on the day and I won! So the escape room induction thingy was the "people's choice" :-)

Monday, 20 June 2016

A "library camp", but making stuff?

Materials out for a "makerspace" at Dokk1

I've been to quite a few library camps (national and local ones) and they can be a really good day - lots of ideas bounced around, lots of really positive people, and a "different" mix of people than specific subject or sector based conferences.
After the first one or two though, I found myself walking away from them thinking "but we haven't DONE anything"! Lots of ideas might be generated, but I know that most people won't take them any further... so for a while I've fancied doing something that was more of a "making" camp.
So, if I ever get around to it, who would fancy something like the following, and how would people like it to be run? Let me know at the survey, but my vague initial thoughts / options follow...
It would be something like:
1) Two day camp (so plenty of time to make stuff), but people could probably come for just the first day to start things off? (But probably better to see it through both days.)
2) Probably set a theme (fitting in with stuff I do, perhaps "creating games for libraries" or "making escape room puzzles for libraries"?) but not pin it down any further - so people would follow the open space idea of pitching ideas on the first morning and we'd split into groups to create them (depending on numbers!).
3) Aim to have created (pretty much) finished materials that would be available for all by the end of the two days. Condition of attending would be slapping a creative commons licence on anything created during the camp. 
4) If it fitted in with stuff I did (like the games), it'd be easy enough for me to bring a load of materials to be used.
5) Could be done completely on the cheap (free or dirt cheap to attend), so a room or two somewhere and everyone fend for themselves in terms of food / drink / accommodation. Or it could be done a bit posher (perhaps hire a full venue including accomodation? Or a residential educational type place) which would mean accomodation, some or all catering, and space to make stuff all thrown in. The more expensive option would probably be cheaper overall for people who stayed (as the price would be likely to be less than booking hotel rooms individually, never mind the extra stuff!) but would look more expensive at face value.

If anyone is at least vaguely interested, could you let me know you thoughts on the quick and dirty survey I've set up please?

SLA weekend course

SLA weekend workshop 2016 logo

I'm currently putting my box of goodies together for the School Library Association. They run a weekend course every year for members and I'm doing a couple of (very) short workshops this Saturday on making games for information literacy. We have about 45 minutes for each of the workshops, which is really pushing it for time, but I'll give them a structure to follow to make games and we'll see how much people can create in a very limited time!
I've done this sort of taster workshop a couple of times now in just an hour, but it will be a real challenge to do it in even less... hopefully some people will fancy coming to a longer / fuller workshop with me at some point in the future, so this will wet their appetites. If nothing else, I'll try to make it fun :-)
I suspect it will also be too rushed to take videos of prototypes like I normally do!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

ARLG Lego workshop in Cambridge

On Monday 6th June, I'll be running a Lego workshop in Cambridge. I think I had a flying visit to Cambridge once before and spent a few hours there about 30 years ago... and not been back since! So slightly disappointed I won't be able to find time to explore properly.

That said, I'm there to run a Lego workshop, which is a fun thing to do in it's own right... so looking forward to Monday, and if I remember to take some photos and videos I'll post them on this blog afterwards.

I'm doing the workshop for ARLG Eastern, so expecting plenty of HE and FE people there, and hopefully a mix that includes a few non-librarians too, fingers crossed :)

Friday, 27 May 2016

Fifth and final (draft) clue for induction escape box

A sheet using British Sign Language fingerspelling
This is the final clue in the series, as I'm hoping 5 fairly easy clues should be reasonable for most groups to solve in a 30 minute time period....

This one is a coded question, using British Sign Language finger spelling - though please note I haven't checked it properly yet! It asks a simple question about opening hours, which they should be able to work out from the materials in the room. To get to that point, one of the posters on the walls of the room (maybe hidden behind another one?) will be the BSL finger spelling alphabet.

By the time they've finished all the clues, they will have covered roughly the same material as we cover in a "standard" induction, but in a very different way. They will be rewarded (if they solve this last puzzle) with a congratulatory message and the chance to help themselves to a 38mm pin badge - I've posted a couple of examples below.

Badge artwork saying I played the @hublib induction

Badge artwork saying I escaped the induction @hudlib

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Fourth (draft) clue for induction escape box

A grid to work out the required code. Looks like a cryptex

Another puzzle! This one is a series of fairly simple questions they need to work out the answers to, combined with the grid above that allows them to work out a five letter word that unlocks the next puzzle. For example, the question below should give them the letter Y. (Answer is "4" - then look at the 4th column in the row labelled with the icon shown on the question sheet! This gives "Y".) I've only given one example of a question below as the trick is in the code grid above...

Sample clue about reading lists
I've got a small lockable box to use for this one and I think Mike at work did a lovely job on replicating it with the grid at the top! It is just large enough to fit a small key and a bit of paper in, so when they open it up they will get a key that fits a padlock on the box with the next clue in.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A few random thoughts from Counterplay 16

The most terrible things, war, genocide, and slavery, have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.
I haven't written up the Counterplay conference / festival at all, but I've lots of thoughts swirling around my head still from it. I don't think I can write it up like I do some conferences (session x covered y...), so instead I'll just pop down a few "random" thoughts that have stuck with me. I ended up with 3 pages of handwritten short notes / bullet points immediately after the conference, so these aren't everything... and aren't about the conference / festival itself, but a few thoughts about play itself that stuck with me!
I've pulled out 5 from my long list of points I wrote - hopefully they make sense:

Friday, 20 May 2016

Third (draft) clue for induction escape box

I think this clue will need to be A4 in size to work... hidden in the text shown by this image is a secret message that says:

(Paragraph 1) number of digits username

(Paragraph 2) print cost black and white

(Paragraph 3) minimum space student drive K

That secret message will be revealed by a template with holes cut into it to match the words / letters in the hidden message above! I may leave the template elsewhere in the room to make it slightly less obvious than giving it at the same time as the text above...

The answers will be found in our standard miniguide we'll leave in the room.

Second (draft) clue for induction escape box

Second (draft) clue done for the escape room induction! I'll try two versions of this - one like the image above, and one where the sentence "Can you visit the Musics Library..." is replaced by "Can you visit these areas of the library" so they need to work out from the images that we mean Music / design / etc. The image will be printed on jigsaw pieces, so they need to assemble it themselves.

One of the materials left in the room will be a library floor map, which they will need to use to work out the answer! It will then give them a 4 digit code for the next padlock.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

First (draft) clue for induction escape box

Getting together my clues for the Escape Room style induction as pitched at the Lagadothon at LILAC...

Mike at work is putting them into a nicer looking format than I can manage, so this is the draft version of the "jumping off" point for the induction. Alongside this there will be a UV torch hidden in the room (the clue emoldens time to show them where to look).

On the back of the above clue will be the real puzzle! It will be written in "invisible ink" that is only visible when the UV torch is shone on it.

a)      How many items an Undergraduate can borrow x Floor where the DVDs are
b)      How many items a Postgraduate can borrow / Floor where you take out books
c)       Where the reservation shelf is

With materials in the room that will help them work out the answers. This gives a 3 digit code to open a padlock in my "special box" that will reveal the next clue...

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A new box

Open wooden box

I said before I was looking for box options for escape room activities... well a local person, recommended by a colleague has just made one for me!

I've deliberately got it made quite large to give me as much flexibility as possible, but I think it will do a great job. It seems really robust (so with luck the students won't damage it!), gives me loads of space so I have flexibility in what I stick in each compartment (see below), and should allow me to put everything I need for an escape room induction or teaching session all in one place and carry it to the room I'll use.
Open box with compartments showing
So 4 internal compartments, plus internal extra space, and the main box can be locked too. So at least 5 puzzles in one box - more if I want to be creative with it ;-)

Can't wait to use it now...

Friday, 29 April 2016

A referencing "escape room" puzzle

I did a talk the other day for my University which ended up using elements of escape room stuff.
One of the puzzles I used was based around building references.
pack of material tied up with rubber band
 There was a pack of material for each group tied up with a rubber band.

A guide and 3 packs of cards
When unwrapped, they found a "Quick guide to referencing" and 3 small packs of cards and a post-it with each.
One of the packs unwrapped
 When each small pack was unwrapped it contained a set of components for a reference, the type of reference to build (book or journal article) and a number (in this case 1).
A reference made with the cards
 If they made up the references correctly, they could then reveal a simple puzzle on the other side of the cards, like below. It only made sense when the cards were in the correct order.
A puzzle revealed
The 3 packs of cards gave a 3 digit number which opened the next padlock / box!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Escape room boxes

Two stained wooden chests
One of the first things I've decided to think about for my escape room induction is the boxes! Which (lockable) boxes I use to put clues / materials into will influence the clues I use. So I want to decide early on what boxes I'll go for...
For the Lagadothon I used some very cheap toolboxes in various sizes, which allowed me to fit one box inside another. I quite liked this as a test of the idea as it made it fairly portable, but the smaller one didn't really fit a padlock on properly and they didn't look particularly good!
So I've bought a couple of other types of boxes to mess about with and try to see how they would work. The picture above is of the nicer looking ones! These are cheap pine boxes that I've varnished - I then added a hasp to each of them so I could use a padlock to lock each of them.
I think they look quite effective, but I'm slightly worried about the size of them! They are just right for putting A4 sheets of paper (and other stuff) inside, but I'm not sure how practical these sort of boxes will be if I need to lead students to solve 4 or 5 clues during the escape room induction...
So I'm still looking for other options, one of which might be similar to the box below!
Box from the Legend of Neb-Senu containing various compartments
I saw this at the recent Counterplay conference and thought it was a brilliant idea - designed to be a self contained set of puzzles to be used in schools, they created this box containing a series of compartments. If I can get someone to build something similar for a price I can afford, this might be what I go with!
I'll then make sure each of my puzzles fits nicely into the compartments...

Escape room planning...

A cryptex puzzle box
I've wondered in the past about running a day (or two) where people could create material to use in their libraries. Maybe some lesson plans, some information literacy tutorials, a set of promotional materials, a social media strategy, or whatever else people fancied doing at the time...

I've never got around to it, but how about something more focussed? I'm doing some work on Escape Room type stuff for library teaching - would anyone fancy spending time co-creating some puzzles for teaching information literacy? I could bring along an assortment of boxes, padlocks, and other materials that we could use (along with some example puzzles for starters too?). Then we'd spend a day working in small groups to come up with sets of escape room style puzzles.

We could perhaps run it somewhere that had a decent local escape room and go there one evening (for inspiration), then spend all the next day in a free or cheap space to create the puzzles? If we could find space for free, we'd just have a small cost for food / refreshments during the day (or even skip that and people provide their own lunch and drinks and make it free) plus the cost of the escape room evening for anyone who wanted to participate in that.

If don't think this is a bonkers idea, drop me a line via twitter or the form at the bottom of my website :)

Escape rooms and the Lagadothon

George trying my sample escape room puzzle.
At the LILAC conference recently (I've also done a quick reflection on the conference), there was a new thing... the Lagadothon!
It was a chance to bring along prototypes of information literacy interventions, show them to a group of people, get feedback on them, plus be in with a chance to win a prize to develop them further.
I took along something I thought was a slightly batty idea, to create an escape room style induction. Much to my surprise, I won!
So I now have a small pot of prize money (£500) to go towards developing the idea further.
I'll use this blog (seeing as it's about games in libraries!) to post occasional updates on how I'm doing with the escape room induction ideas, and either include details of puzzles I've set, or links to where else they can be found.

More Lego workshops

I ran a Lego for Library Teaching workshop a little while ago in Manchester which seemed to go down well!
As a result I've just got back from Dorchester where I ran a similar Lego for Teaching workshop for a small group involved with the Peer Assisted Learning scheme at Bournemouth University.
So would anyone else like to attend a Lego workshop by me?
I've got one coming up for ARLG Eastern in Cambridge (full details on their page) on 6th June 2016. This workshop offers a reduced rate to CILIP members (£75 + VAT) or can be booked at the full price by non-members (£100 +VAT).
I can also run similar, or custom workshops if anyone wants to invite me to do so (charges will apply!) - please get in touch with me via twitter or my website and we'll work something out.

Friday, 25 March 2016

A quick LILAC 2016 reflection

(Photo of winning game board from @LILAC_CONF twitter account)

This might be a slightly odd place to stick a few brief thoughts about the LILAC conference 2016 in Dublin, but seemed appropriate just because of points 1 & 2 below!

LILAC is always a good conference, I've been to it now every year I've been a librarian... so just missed the first one! It was the 3rd conference I've been to in a 3 week period, so I was tired before it started, but it was by far the best. These are the things that stuck out for me this year...

1) The keynotes were great. Keynote speakers are often a highlight of LILAC, but some years are better than others. This year was particular good in terms of "performances"! The first Keynote was non-traditional - Alex Moseley and Nic Whitton had us playing and interacting throughout their slot, introducing ideas around play and learning in a practical way. Second was an absolute star - Char Booth. She talked a lot about critical librarianship, reflection and teaching - insightful, incredibly engaging and a great speaker overall! Finally was James Clay. His subject matter was a bit more run of the mill, talking about digital capability rather than being as free as the other two with topic (he is currently working for JISC on a project around this, hence the focus of his talk). Even so, James is an old hand at this sort of things and put on a really engaging, amusing and lively performance... just what was needed on the final day after the conference dinner!

2) A strong theme of play and games pervaded the conference. There were a fair few talks that touched on this (including mine and Jess's talk), including one of the keynotes. In addition, we had the first Lagadothon this year. The idea was, people would present a prototype  of an information a skills / literacy teaching resource and a winner would be selected who would get £500 to further develop the prototype into a finished resource. Surprisingly (to me!) everyone presented a game of some sort! (Pleased to say it was me that won, with an escape room idea.) Finally, we had a conference game (#lilacgame) running throughout the conference, ably run by Rosie Jones (and hindered by her evil alter ego, @PIofEVIL) I might have been a little competitive with this...GO TEAM #GREENPI!!!

3) There was stronger undercurrent of critical information literacy running through the conference than ever before, which was great to see... I couldn't help wondering whether this marked the point where larger numbers of people are starting to think about this sort of thing. I could see it ending up as the major theme next year, as play was (for me) this year.

4) As ever, the people at LILAC were great. Lots of old friends and colleagues to meet up with, but also some new ones (to me!) too who really made an impact on me. I've never been to a conference other than LILAC which has such an amazing bunch of people (from all over the world) attend.

5) Finally, apparently posh hotels don't appreciate librarians playing the piano and singing in the early hours of the morning. Who knew?

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Lego for library teaching...

Not quite a games workshop... but last week I ran a Lego for Library Teaching workshop in Manchester.

We had a full day of exploring the use of Lego (and to a certain extent, other building materials) in libraries / learning support. It's the first time I've spent a full day running a workshop on this, only touching briefly on it in other workshops before, and I really enjoyed it - I think the attendees did too.

The video above is a summing up of the workshop by an attendee (Lawrie), there are more available to give a flavour of what we did, as well as some pictures I took on the day... one of which is below!

Alicja has already written a short blog post of the day too.

A photo posted by Andrew Walsh (@andywalsh999) on