The VentureWell annual conference always focuses on activities for teaching innovation and other practical takeaways for educators. Part of the 2015 VentureWell conference was Ideas at Play, a gathering of 50 faculty and students who spent the day playing games that teach innovation skills, creativity and the entrepreneurial mindset. The workshop was intended to help educators learn how to use games to promote these concepts in the classroom.
Why use games in the classroom? Because they engage and entertain participants. Educators can and should use them in the classroom to stimulate thinking and teach a variety of skills and concepts–even if the game players may not realize it at the time.
The Ideas at Play workshop was hosted by a group of collaborators who design, study and use games to promote learning: Cheryl Bodnar from the University of Pittsburgh; Leticia Britos Cavagnaro from Epicenter and Stanford University; Victoria Matthew from Epicenter and VentureWell; Joseph Tranquillo from Bucknell University; and Pete Vigeant and Bryan Vitale from The Completely Surrounded.
During the workshop, participants played a variety of games that ranged from warm-up exercises and ice-breakers to longer interactions that taught in-depth concepts. These games required them to communicate effectively in verbal and nonverbal ways, collaborate with one another in teams to achieve desired results, collectively and individually create new concepts, and adapt quickly to change. The workshop also provided opportunities for participants to debrief as a group and connect the activities to the learning outcomes. Debriefing these activities is of particular importance, as this is when the main learning occurs. It also enables students to reference their past experiences and connect them to the activity as well as the course material.
In the second half of the workshop, participants either designed their own games, drawing from their experiences earlier in the day, or modified a game that they had seen earlier utilizing a game design canvas. The canvas breaks down educational games into their constituent parts and allows users to create their own games, adapt existing games, or simply better understand and evaluate games they already play. The canvas includes fields for essential planning components such as audience, goals, space and props as well as educational prompts such as learning objectives and questions for debrief and reflection.
Want to design your own game? First, our recommendation is to play one of the games in our toolkit or another game of your choice, and fill out the design canvas to better understand the core components and goals of the game. This exercise will help you build off the concepts you discover to create your own game.
At Ideas at Play, participants used constraints to design their game; they were randomly assigned an audience (such as undergraduate students or adult education students) and a space the game would be played in (such as a laboratory, park, or hallway). They used these constraints as a starting point, decided on a learning objective, and then designed their game over the course of the next few hours. You can also use this same methodology to work from one of the existing games in the toolkit. Select a game and then determine how you would like to apply it to your classroom. Are there any modifications that need to be made?
Also important to the game design process at the workshop was testing; each team pitched and played prototypes of their games with another team. Once you create your own game, find a few players to help you test your prototype. Gather their feedback, make necessary changes, and test it again. It is important to realize that game implementations do not always go smoothly during the first attempt, but it is through the design cycle (build, test and revise) that the final game will be able to meet its proposed objectives and create meaningful, lasting experiences for your students.
The toolkit contains a collection of games and instructions, sources of game inspiration, recommended reading, and the game design canvas. Download the toolkit components below.
This blog post originally appeared on Epicenter’s blog. Reposted here with Epicenter’s permission.