for librarians, researchers and educators interested in information management

Fun and Games at the Festival of Learning

Recently Curtin University held the Festival of Learning, a showcase of the innovative work happening as part of the Transforming Learning @ Curtin project.  Games-based learning and gamification featured in a number of the sessions, with a prevalent theme being learning within virtual learning environments and simulations.

David Gibson (Director, Learning Engagement) gave an interesting presentation on using simulations to enhance learning, discussing the types of inquiry that such projects can generate.   One of David’s projects, SimSchool, is a great example – it is a classroom simulation where teachers can experience, gain knowledge and increase their confidence in classroom management techniques, practice building relationships with students, understand diverse learning styles and behaviours, design and implement tasks as well as analyse and gather data about the impacts of instruction.

Natalie Beard, (Acting Head of OUA, School of Built Environment) and Julie Brunner (OUA/Online Academic Programs Coordinator, Curtin Teaching and Learning) presented a fascinating session on how  Minecraft is being used within the School of Built Environment in a very creative way.   With the help of some savvy architecture students, they have created a great learning activity for OUA students, designed to replicate a kinetic aesthetic activity which first year internal students complete.  It involves students working with different materials in teams, and then teams working together to create a continuous kinetic motion aesthetic. As this video demonstration of the ‘end product’ shows, it looks both challenging and a lot of fun!  Those familiar with the creative potential of Minecraft will easily understand how this ‘ face to face’ activity is so well suited to replication in the Minecraft environment. (For those not familiar with Minecraft, this introductory instructional video for the online students will give you some idea of the potential offered by this game environment).   Like their internal counterparts,  the external/online students also had to work in teams to complete a kinetic motion exercise in a specially created Minecraft environment, with its unique set of challenges and fun.

Leah Irving (Learning Engagement Developer) provided a very enjoyable session on using virtual worlds in teaching and learning, desmonstrating how they can provide a safe context for role-play learning scenarios that could be difficult or dangerous to replicate in real life.   In the session Leah guided us through some locations in Second Life which are being used for education.  We (or at least our avatars) had a whirlwind tour of a few interesting virtual locations, jumping on a bus ride around a Chinese town, strolling down some impeccably and accurately created Melbourne laneways, experiencing a wonderful art exhibition at the UWA Crawley SL campus, and visiting a Wound Clinic on a floating island at Curtin’s Bentley South.  All of these sites are used for educative purposes, allowing for collaboration and self-directed learning.  For a good example of how SL can be used in teaching and learning see this video on The Skill Mastery Hyperdome, an environment in which students can learn, develop and practice interview skills; or this video on Te Wāhi Whānau, The Birth Place, where students can experience the authenticity of the actual moments of labour and birth.

My avatar (infogrrrrl) admiring the art at UWA

The Wound Clinic at Curtin Bentley South

Naturally, this set me wondering about libraries in Second Life and I later spent some time investigating a few. I found a great one at Rockcliffe University , Stanford University and the University of Kentucky.   I also visited the Centre for Information Literacy Research, which is part of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Information Studies in the UK. This island, which mainly focuses on information literacy and inquiry-based learning, is the brainchild of info lit expert Sheila Webber –  see a video about it here.

The question of how information literacy learning can occur best in such environments is worth investigating.  Clearly, any learning environment, whether it be online or face to face,  within a 3D virtual world or via a group blog, needs well designed, interesting and engaging activities – it is not enough to have whiz bang technology without great content.  Some of the criteria needed for successful game design was highlighted by a talk at the Festival by Pete Williams about the potential for exponential learning in games. The key elements for successful learning are clear context; low barriers to entry and scalability; a culture of trust; real time personal feedback; platforms for knowledge flow and sharing; fun and engagement.  Using the examples of World of Warcraft and Angry Birds, Pete demonstrated how games create learning networks through which knowledge is transferred, unlocking tacit knowledge as well as leading to knowledge creation. As with any knowledge sharing, trust-based interactions are integral to successful exponential game-based learning.

The sense of connection that can be created by games was demonstrated by the ‘selfie’ game that ran during the festival.  Designed and organised by Leah Irving and Torsten Reiners, it was easy to play, heaps of fun, and provided an opportunity to engage with others during the Festival.   It involved taking an Instagram selfie whenever we attended a festival event, and then giving it the hashtag #curtinselfie so it appeared on the FOL Instagram webpage.  We earned points for each selfie uploaded, as well as for the number of likes we managed to get.   We could also earn bonus points using the augmented reality app 7scenes to find 5 mysterious and secret locations around the campus and then taking selfies at the locations as evidence of our success.

For those keen to win (and I was!) even more points could be earned from playing a game designed by Torsten Reiner using the Oculus Rift in a 3D virtual environment. Despite prior experience of simulator sickness when using this device, I nonetheless braved the challenge and managed to navigate my way (with a bit of help from Torsten …  OK, a lot of help) through a virtual environment, managing to avoid being run over by a train, squashed by a large falling container and other potentially deadly obstacles to reach the safety of the container which was the game destination.

One of my selfies

I learned a lot from participating in the selfie game. Although I didn’t attend any sessions for the sole purpose of earning points, I found that participating in the game did motivate me to get along to the ones I had registered for.  Interestingly, I found myself feeling more and more competitive over the course of the game, which was an interesting reaction to observe in myself, as I am not normally very competitive.  The game was a great way to engage with other people at the sessions, either by taking a photo of myself with them, talking about the game, or having a laugh over some of the pictures.   My dedicated and relentless selfie taking paid off in the end, as I won second prize – and have been endowed with the rather intriguing reward of a 3D body scan, offered by the Fashion Design School.  What is involved, and what applications or uses it will have, is yet to be discovered, although I am hoping to create a realistic 3D avatar of myself to run around in a virtual environment – all I need now is a 3D Virtual Curtin University Library!


This was originally posted on the Gamification blog of Curtin University Library, 27 March 2014


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This entry was posted on March 31, 2014 by in e-learning, gamification.
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