Monday, 20 November 2017

Conference (i2c2) reflection from Daan

During the i2c2 conference, I gave everyone challenges to complete - Daan Van Loon's was to write a summary of the conference! So here it is...

“Is this normal for a library conference?”
- the old me –

I have been to conferences before, as a linguist, an historian, musician, teacher, even as an actor. But this was my first library conference, and I was very much aware of that fact as I walked out of the Joseph Rowntree Conference Hall on Cober Hill, near Scarborough, on Tuesday morning. Something was happening, and not only to me. Anthropologists state that it is possible for panic to act like a contagious disease. Inspiration can do that as well. I know. I was there.
It started with the announcement that we had to create our own nametag. Before I knew it I was chatting with fellow colleagues on how there can never be enough feathers on a badge, how orange sharpies had to be somewhere in the vicinity and musing on whether my own badge would pale in comparison to the incredible creations of my peers. Looking back, it is clear that we probably almost all had that feeling, as ‘hidden under any bushel you will find twenty-four librarians, apologizing for taking up space’.
To hell with linear reports, I will come back to that first afternoon later. I want to go the start, the thing that changed us. The keynote by Emma Coonan, presented on Tuesday morning of the 14th of November. She showed us a mirror, her own mirror image, the mirrors that we create around us and the mirrors that we should always use, but almost never do.
Be free to fail. Do not distance yourself, but stay close. Be humble. Be proud.
I do not know whether she had anticipated this, whether Andrew Walsh had anticipated it, but Emma showed us all a side of being a librarian that took us exactly where we had to be. At least, that was what happened to me. It felt like we all shed some weight, moved out of our library traditions, corporate duties and fears, and became a group of friends, eager to spend more time together. Eager to play and eager to create. And then there was Lego. I like Andrew’s comment on twitter after the conference, that ‘it isn’t about the Lego’. It was about what we envisioned the Lego to be. Animals, ideal librarians, everybody nodding along to completely different interpretations of the things that we do and the things that we are. I have not felt more at home in a work-related environment in years. We talked about how innovation can be blocked, how hard it can be to overthrow old perceptions and prejudice. We laughed about all those obstacles that stand in our way, because we are free to fail. Proud and humble.
I love how memory is not a linear thing, because my mind has connected all the amazing and inspiring papers that were presented to that first keynote. Because they were about how we could create new ways to be librarians, using sound, zines, theater, games, embedding ourselves, mapping and having spaces to make stuff. They were about how easy it is to fail, but also about how rewarding it is to try, or to paraphrase my dear colleague from Chattanooga, Tennessee: ‘there are countless roads to your destination. The one that gets you there is the right one’. I think that at that point, had the I2C2 conference been finished, I would have been satisfied, having been truly inspired. Then the second keynote happened.
Rosie Jones told us, on Wednesday morning, that she only had a PowerPoint so that she would not sidetrack too much. She then took all that energy, all the inspiration, the creativity and open ideas of the previous days and started to mold it. Rosie talked about how to get out into the real world and actually use that inspiration as a librarian. To use failures in a professional capacity, to not be daunted by the weight of responsibility. To play. If you think that something is starting to get too bureaucratic, change it. A meeting with too many points on the agenda? Change it. Boring conferences without any interaction? Change it. Let people cheat at your games, because it is not the game that matters, but that it is played. And fail, fail badly.
When I got back to my library yesterday, my colleagues asked me how the I2C2 conference was. What the latest intel on information literacy is. If I have any new ideas. I talk about Lego and play do, about meeting lovely people, about feeling secure enough to play the piano for them in the morning. About cider tasting, ice-cream and steampunk folk. It is only after that first round of standard chitchat that I suddenly turn serious and say that I have probably just been changed for life. That I will probably not forget this first library conference as long as I am a librarian. That I feel sad that it is already over but ready to rumble at the same time.  
There is now a post-it on my laptop. It says:
Be free to fail. Do not distance yourself, but stay close. Be humble. Be proud. And PLAY.

Daan van Loon

Friday, 17 November 2017

Feedback from i2c2 and a quick reflection

At the very end of i2c2, I asked "What was the best thing about i2c2" and "What would you change about it". The full feedback follows at the end of this post, but I thought I'd pull a few bits and pieces out to reflect on here, though I'll be reflecting on it all offline properly later on!

1) "...this process has taken me down a very exciting path." Out of all the feedback, this struck a chord with me. Any event that has helped attendees change and develop, in such a positive manner, must be worth organising!
2) I'd thought I'd put together quite a light programme with lots of time built in to reflect and create within it, including lots of social time. We had long tea breaks and lunch breaks, all the sessions had time to "do" things rather than just listen, we finished fairly early on an evening and had the social events within the venue itself. The festival of dangerous (library) ideas was a big opportunity to reflect on our profession, our workplaces, and what we'd heard so far. We finished at lunchtime on the 3rd day so people without an horrendously long journey might have time for a little explore of the area. But a recurring theme in the feedback was the opposite, it said stuff like "more time to reflect  & create"; "More “break-out” time for games and conversation"; "More free time to reflect / play". I need to think much more clearly before I do something like this again about how we can explicitly label time to make the reflection / action clearer and to label sessions on a timetable in such a way that it gives permission for people to have this time out and reflection. One to ponder on for me... must be able to do this much more effectively!
3) We had a dog (Panda) come along to the conference... "Panda has loved her first conference"; Q: What was the best thing? A:"Dog!". I think all conferences from now on should have at least one dog attending. Please make this happen fellow conference organisers 🐕.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

i2c2 for library leaders?

This is the first of a few posts about the i2c2 conference I've just run at Scarborough - hopefully it fits okay here as it was a playful, creative experience!

A quick response to a twitter exchange follows, mainly as I can't really reply properly in the shortened form that twitter needs! It is quite "stream of consciousness" in nature, please don't feel this is well argued out, just throwing a few thoughts together:

The lovely Emma Coonan tweeted...

Backed up by Daan, which prompted Emma to wish for library managers to experience an event like it...
So... this event had one senior library manager present, Rosie Jones, who is playful, creative, and innovative. However she isn't necessarily representative of the "typical" senior library leader! Why didn't we have other senior managers from the other library world? How could we expose them to similar ideas and chances to develop in a creative and playful way?

Based completely on my own experiences (I've been to a fair spread of library conferences over the last 13 years!), I'd say that senior library managers like to flock together for their conferences. In the academic library world that means things like the SCONUL conference, or maybe the RLUK conference. I've no doubt that the equivalent is true in other sectors too (SCL conference for public library bosses?). That's not surprising - they have so many people placing demands on their time they may struggle to get away from the workplace, so when they do, networking with their peers may be the most important factor, so they want to go to those conferences that allow that interaction. As you go up the management ladder in any organisation, it can also be a very isolating experience - it can be seen as dangerous to give too much information away in discussions with more junior staff. What if you say something that is interpreted as being critical of your own workplace / colleagues? What will happen if that gets back to them after an open discussion at a conference? That could act as a deterrence to attending a conference that could mix together anyone from student to library director.

So we could do a similar type of event *just* for senior library managers... or try to persuade existing events like SCONUL conference to allow us to disrupt their usual cosiness, but would there be any point in it? Wouldn't that lose the massive benefit of getting the multiple voices, ideas, and approaches that i2c2 brought together? I suppose we could have a new event too just targeted at them, but that would compete for their limited time too, and I suspect the amount of management buzzwords I'd have to throw together to make it feel "for them" might make me feel slightly too dirty...

I don't how we'd persuade more than the odd few outliers amongst senior library managers to come to a more inclusive event as that would feel riskier for them than one just for them, but it would be much more worthwhile.

So... I've no idea how to do an event like i2c2 that more than the odd one or two senior library staff would feel able to go to, even though they would benefit more than most from attending such an event. Anyone else any ideas?

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Interview in Signum

Group working at the Finnish workshop
Group working at the Finnish workshop...

Way back in March, I ran an educational escape room workshop in Helsinki. As a follow up, Eerika Kiuru & Janika Asplund interviewed me, which they wrote up for a journal called Signum. This has just been published (open access). 

So if anyone wants to read my thoughts as I chunter away about escape rooms, play, innovation, and information literacy, the interview is online now...  

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Random thought on boardgamers and playing seriously...

A selection of board games

Just a random thought on board games / "serious" players of board games.

I've been following some discussions online where there are a high proportion of "serious" players of board games. That is, those people who play regularly, probably have a large collection of games, and who are "into" games enough to join groups online and IRL, to play and talk about them!

For some reason, I suddenly realised that many of these players don't actually like play. That is, they don't like the sort of play that the groupings I tend to associate with think of as play! I suppose much of this is summed up by Counterplay events and in individual form by people like Bernie De Koven.  Exploration, fun, freedom, randomness, non-competitiveness, are valued. Play with these groupings of people tends towards the free / spontaneous play that Callois called Paidia

The discussions in some of these board game groups often heavily criticise games because they include randomness, and a discussion the other day went further still. Some games I think are great specifically because they are short, fun, silly, with a strong random element were criticised for the same reasons that I like them!  It suggested that "good" games gave you "perfect knowledge" of the game, no randomness, with the winner always decided purely on how they apply that knowledge... and it is incredibly important to end up with a clear winner (including with collaborative games, winning against the game). I read this discussion and realised that these particular people were probably arguing that the only "proper" game is a controlled simulation. Any randomness, any chance someone could win by luck, was bad. Lots of them will play through a game on their own to see how it works before playing it with others, as the games are often complex and hard to understand - which fits in with the players with the best knowledge / skills wins. Their perfect game was entirely Ludic (see Callois again) - so the opposite end of the play spectrum.

I  wonder is this observation seems right to other people? Does the board game community tend towards this Ludic idea of play and reject the Paidic end as somehow "wrong"?

It's interesting to me as I also see it the other way round, with strictly controlled rules and boundaries (which the board gamers value) seen as "bad play" by some of the people on the other end of the spectrum! I just see them as different and valuable  / interesting in different ways...

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Learning Theory possible game

Inspired by Eleanor Hannan's SOTL game at Playful Learning Conference, I wondered about making a learning theories game. Her game asked people to consider different Epistimologies, Research instruments, etc., to combine into a research design. I wondered if I could do something quite different, but based around learning theories, concepts, and interventions. So taking something like the HoTEL learning theory wheel as a starter, we could pick a "Learning paradigm" (supported  by a key theorist), then a "key concept", perhaps a teaching approach that would fit underneath that, then a particular type of teaching intervention or interaction. So we end up picking teaching interventions that fit within a sensible framework at the end, rather than just because we fancy doing them.

It could even just be a set of cards that link these together, rather than a game too... I'll have to think about this one soon.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Using games to teach Maths to Biologists

a game being prototyped
At the end of last week, I ran a workshop in Sheffield (in the Diamond building at Sheffield Uni). This one was for a group of people who all taught maths to HE students in the biosciences.

Most of them seemed to be having similar problems, dealing with students who could massively vary in terms of maths knowledge and ability, some of whom don't want to be doing maths at all.

Hopefully, some of the games will help them address these issues... and more importantly, the process should help them create more polished games for the students in future!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Moulton College, Making Educational Escape Rooms

Picture of a building at Moulton College
I had the pleasure of running an Educational Escape Rooms workshop in the East Midlands last week at the lovely Moulton College. I do have a soft spot for land based colleges and enjoyed having a pootle around the grounds at lunchtime!

Anyway, we had a productive day, splitting into groups to create prototype escape room activities. To get a flavour of what was produced, we recorded all the final prototypes:

Anyone else fancy something similar running, just give me a shout!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Making educational games kit

picture of prototype game making kit
I've been updating the materials I use in the educational game making workshops I run occasionally. I thought it would be a good idea to turn them into a set of materials that other people could use at the same time as updating them for myself.

So the picture above is the final prototype - just waiting for the whiteboard to arrive (instead of the bit of paper the cards are resting on). With a bit of luck it'll all be finished in the next day or two - if anyone wants a set, I'll take some pictures next week of the finished thing and it'll be available on to buy. Along with details of the TeachKit Kickstarter I'm currently running!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

TeachKit Launch!

Yesterday we launched the TeachKit Kickstarter!

TeachKits are a set of teaching materials you get through the post to help you teach these things, especially if you tend to have "one-off" sessions with students and need something quick and easy to add into your teaching.

Depending on the topic, the TeachKit may contain lesson plans, games, books, handouts, print and digital resources, badges, or whatever else fits that topic well.
Boxes will be small enough to fit through most letterboxes without annoying trips to the post-office to pick them up!

Prototype box! Should fit through most UK doors...
Prototype box! Should fit through most UK doors...
The Kickstarter will fund an initial, quite generic box and help gauge interest in producing an ongoing series of them. Ideas for topics in future so far include: Evaluating your session; Ice Breakers; Search Strategies; Sources of information; Referencing; General teaching skills (including lesson planning); Critical evaluation; Developing a topic (research questions and first steps); Open licensing; Copyright / licensing; Plagiarism; Critical reading; Revision techniques; Escape rooms for education; and Making games for learning. If we create an ongoing series, they are likely to be available as a subscription, with each box also available for one-off purchase for a limited time afterwards. Estimated cost for future boxes is £40 each (+P&P).
The initial box available as a reward is:

Draft designs for the first box's materials.
Draft designs for the first box's materials.
Evaluating your teaching. This contains material to help collect feedback to evaluate your teaching session. It will contain a minimum of 5 ideas in the package, with materials including specially printed post-it notes, cards, and paper feedback templates - more will be revealed in the updates!

Please take a look at the full campaign and back us if you can, share with other interested people if you like it!

Saturday, 27 May 2017

A possible TeachKit launch via Kickstarter

I've written before about the idea we took to LILAC and the Lagadothon before and towards the end of the post I said "I suppose I ought to think of a way to make it happen over the next few months...".
Well... I'm currently pulling together a Kickstarter to try and make an initial box happen, partly to levels of interest to see if it is worthwhile doing a series of boxes. While I am tinkering with it, you can preview it if you want!

If enough people are interested in the first box (a fairly generic one around evaluating your own teaching sessions / collecting feedback from students), I'll then work on a "Sources of Information" box to follow.

Take a look at the preview and see what you think - I'll launch it once I have prototype materials based on the work a graphic designer is doing for me, then link to the final campaign!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

New book chapter - Reasons to Play in Higher Education

cartoon of a university building
I've a new book chapter available: Reasons to Play in Higher Education*.
It is in a book pulled together by Matthias as part of the Counterplay festival and associated playful goodness :)
I pitched something on why play should be part of HE, including matching what Government and employers wanted out of HE and graduates when the call for papers came out. When I started writing it, I started to feel it all sounded a bit too serious, and not at all playful. So I scrapped everything I wrote, went to Collabhub (where people can pitch collaborative projects with students) and asked if anyone would be up for turning my ideas into a more visual form. Jonny Clementson came on board and I paid him to create a short comic based on my ideas... a bit of bouncing backwards and forwards with ideas and text, and we ended up with a 6 page comic!
So it's now in "The Power of Play", which has been printed, but I don't think it's available to buy yet! I've put my chapter online to download though, so I hope some people like it :)

*Full reference: Walsh, Andrew and Clementson, Jonny (2017) Reasons to play in Higher Education. In: The Power of Play - Voices from the Play Community. CounterPlay, Aarhus, Denmark, pp. 181-187. ISBN 9788799975204

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Room of stories - Viborg meeting

Viborg Library, a white building in the sunshine.

I was at Viborg library (picture above) earlier this week for a full day meeting helping to get the "Room of Stories" going. This is a project run by Marlene at Viborg library aimed at encouraging children (particularly boys) to read using an escape room.

It was an incredibly positive meeting with lots of lovely people, though I worry we left them with too many ideas to pin down afterwards!

As well as talking about results of the first meeting, ideas around escape rooms in general, and interviewing some local lads about what they enjoyed doing / playing, we split into 2 groups and tried to turn everything we discussed into some prototype ideas.

My group came up with a computer that had achieved a level of sentience and power that meant it was about to take over the world and destroy all humans. Luckily the lead programmer was a bit of a Science Fiction geek and had hidden override codes hidden in SciFi related clues in the building (so introducing lots of new worlds they could explore later in books).

sketch of a prototype escape room

The children would be split into soldiers and scientists to solve the puzzles and override the armed security systems (the soldiers - lots of physical type puzzles) and reboot / switch off the main computer (the scientists - lots of mental puzzles).

Can't wait to see how the project evolves over the next few months :)

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Lagadothon and LILAC17

Mystery box sat on a windowsill
Prototype box
So... last week I went to the fabulous LILAC in Swansea. Amongst other things, I did the Lagadothon with Jess, where we get to show a prototype (otherwise known as a bonkers idea from me) and get feedback on it.

My thing for this year was a subscription box of teaching goodies for librarians and learning support staff. So a box that would come through the post (3 or 4 a year, perhaps?) with a mixture of teaching ideas (lesson plans, alternative uses, etc) and games or other finished teaching interventions (things that could just be got straight out in a class), aimed at different levels (and extra suggestions for differentiation) and settings.

Each box would have a different theme (we took one full of stuff on "sources of information"), with obvious ones being things like "search strategies", "referencing", "Sources of information", etc., that lots of us teach, but also stuff like "critical appraisal", "academic writing", "Open Access", "copyright" - we ended up with a fair list of things thanks to the feedback we received.

People seemed open to spending anything from £20 to £50 per box, with it being a bit harder to pay for a subscription than individual boxes (though a subscription was seen as a great way of doing it!). The lower end wouldn't pay for much at all (and we'd need to send *loads* out to pay for things like the design work), but we could probably find something in between. It was also pointed out that both teachers and school librarians might well love these as it fits in with how they work anyway - they are used to paying for resources!

It went down better than I was expecting, so I suppose I ought to think of a way to make it happen over the next few months... which might also be an opportunity to redo some of the games I use in a more polished way, suitable for printing "officially" and sending out down this route. So I'd probably start off by redoing SEEK!, Sources, and the referencing games I use, as long as I can find (and afford) a suitable graphic designer and find the time to tinker!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Huddersfield Escape Room Workshop

I ran another Educational Escape Room workshop in Huddersfield last week, at the lovely Heritage Quay! It was a full day of following a set process to create some prototype educational escape room ideas - videos of the prototypes are here to watch.

Amy has blogged about the workshop properly (rather than this quick reflection & video link from me!).

Thank you to everyone who took part and worked hard throughout the day :-)

I collected some feedback at the end of the day, and I was particularly interested in whether I should let attendees play some examples, or whether that would influence them too much (so they'd copy and get less out of it!). The general feeling seemed to be that they'd appreciate examples to play, perhaps later in the session (so it didn't influence too much!), so I'll have to think about how I can tweak future workshops accordingly.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Helsinki escape room workshop and feedback

I ran a workshop in Helsinki earlier this week - a full day of creating educational escape rooms with a lovely bunch of Finnish librarians.

All the groups created prototype escape rooms during the day, I was really impressed with the variety of things they created and the ideas they came up with.

Next version of this will be an open workshop I'm running in Huddersfield on 13th April, bookings are via Eventbrite for anyone who wants to come along.

The quick (post-it at end of session type) feedback from the Helsinki event is below:
  • This was an awesome day! Thank You!
  • Really enjoyed today's session, it was thought-provoking and engaging. Thanks.
  • Thank you for the workshop. I got lots of good tips and will definitely use this method.
  • I learned about escape rooms!
  • I'm happy with this workshop, plus I had a lot of fun! I liked the balance of hearing / listening and creating by ourselves. Andrew was very helpful whenever we got stuck with our plans. Altogether I feel I have some new ideas and methods to bring back home.
  • I liked how I had to think in totally new ways!
  • An interesting (and exciting) workshop! I'm not sure if I can use this in my teaching. Thanks!
  • Thank you for an inspiring day! :-)
  • Thank you! Great day and collaboration. I got new point of view to training. This helps me with my Masters in Library Sciences.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Lots of open workshops!

I've got lots of (open) workshops coming up! All subject to having enough people book on them, but we have:

Teaching Tips for Librarians, Friday afternoon, 10th March, Sheffield.
This covers some of the basic teaching mechanics and is aimed at librarians. We look at: Learning Objectives; Lesson Plans; Assessment; Evaluation and some related issues. We'll give practical help, tips, interventions, and templates to use in your own teaching sessions, with particular emphasis on "one-shot" teaching sessions and active learning interventions. It will run as a highly interactive workshop.

Making Educational Escape Rooms, All day Thursday, 13th April, Huddersfield.
A full day workshop making educational escape room style activities, aimed at anyone interested in using escape room ideas for teaching.
The day will be hands on, with a process scaffolded to enable attendees to work in groups to create a prototype of an escape room style activity. By the end of the day, all attendees (in their groups) will have sketched out an escape room style activity and started to create the puzzles that make up that activity.

Creative Teaching Double Bill, All day or half day Friday, 5th May, Manchester.
Both these workshops are aimed at anyone interested in creative and playful approaches to teaching, particularly in FE and HE sectors. 
In the morning will be:
Picture This! Using the ‘Writing Essays by Pictures’ approach to teaching academic practice
Writing Essays by Pictures is a workbook for students who need help with researching and writing their first evidence based research essay for university. It explains academic practice that often remains hidden to students through everyday analogies and offers activities that allow students to explore the research and writing process in the step-by-step way of painting by numbers.
All attendees will receive a copy of 'Writing Essays by Pictures' (list price £15).

In the afternoon we have:
Making (non-digital) educational games
In this afternoon workshop, we will follow a carefully scaffolded process to prototype educational games. Working in small groups, you will create a prototype game and share it with your fellow participants in just 3 hours.This process can then be followed after the event to quickly and easily create educational games and playful learning experiences for your learners in future.

Finland workshop

I've a few workshops booked in over the coming months, plus more are in the planning stages. One I'm particularly excited about is in Helsinki at the main University Library! It's been arranged through the STKS (Finnish Research Library Association).
I'll be running a workshop around creating escape room materials for libraries - using the workbook I've created as a template / scaffold for the day.
I won't have much of a chance to have a nosey around, but still excited about spending 24 hours in Finland!

The day after I'm going to Tallinn, Estonia (a short-ish ferry ride away), finishing off setting stuff up to run all the training, etc., that I do through an Estonian company as an e-resident, which I'm hoping will be much easier admin wise than in the UK.

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!!!