Hello everybody and welcome to this inaugural lecture. I'm really, really, really honoured to be here and talking to my family, my grandma, my friends, my academic colleagues, some students, some graduates, and even my mentees from the SMF are here today and it's amazing to see how many people have taken the time out of their evening to join me in this journey through wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff.
So to begin.
So I guess you already know this, but I absolutely love teaching. I always have done and I always will do. It's the one part of my job that gives me goosebumps. It's one part of the job that I always look forward to. In fact, when I'm feeling a bit stressed about work or about things outside work, the world when I get in the front of the classroom, I find it completely evaporates and I lose myself in the moment and I kinda hope the students feel the same, to be honest with you.
But I've been thinking quite a bit about 'Why do I love teaching so much?' and I guess the start of my talk comes from a reflection on that very, very question. And this picture here, I suppose, encapsulates to me something about the way I teach.
So this picture was taken in 2018 at the University of Derby's Family Fun Day, I believe I'm talking to some young family, youngsters and their families about forensic science. You know that I'm dressed in my normal smart attire that I wear at the University. And I think I like his picture 'cause it encapsulates the key thing I feel about teaching.
And that word is FUN.
So some of you might be saying 'fun? Fun at universities? Having fun whilst learning? Nahhh! What a load of rubbish!' As words of wisdom, the first one was 'Dad don't be embarrassing' and the second one was 'Dad, don't do any dancing' - so hopefully I don't disappoint there. But after those words of advice, I decided that I'd do a bit of reflection through my own education experience, all the way back to when I was very small, to see if I can understand where this sense of fun came from.
And the first picture I came across was this one. So this is me aged around two and you can see I've got a Jedi robe on there of some description and a Spiderman under my arm. And I think this is the earliest picture encapsulates the sense of fun.
Some of you may be laughing at home at the picture, but to be honest with you, the only thing I'm wondering about is what my mum did with that Doctor Who - Spiderman figurine. Bet it's worth a few quid now and I think I've taken that sense of fun all the way through my academic career. In fact, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody else who's managed to get away with coming to University dressed as a Jedi, a pirate, Santa Claus - twice, even Doctor Who. I think perhaps the lycra Spiderman costume would be a step too far, but we'll see on that. So that sense of fun has always been in me. But where did that sense of fun come from?
So what I did is I delved into my school reports, which I've kept all the way from primary school. And this one that you can see on the screen now comes from my year six, so my last year of primary school. And it's a statement at the end of the work, and I'll just read a teeny little bit out to you, and it says 'Ian is a quietly spoken, almost shy boy, is very popular with his close group of friends, is extremely reliable and polite and always willing to work hard.'
Now I'm not convinced many people now would describe me as a 'shy and quietly spoken' person. But in fact, this theme is in every single one of my school reports. All the way from Year five all the way up till I got to A-Level. Then something changed. And the only other consistent feature in my school reports is that I have terrible handwriting and spelling, which I know my dad would be nodding sagely at home to agree that's still the case. So what changed for me?
Well, I think one of the main things that changed me was a secondary school teacher I had called Mrs. Hatten. Now Mrs. Hatten taught well, she was a bit bonkers, but she was over the top and exaggerated in the way that she explained things. She really took that embryonic love of biology in me and cemented it into something solid, and it hasn't gone away ever since.
I think that's the early roots of showing me how to teach properly and enthuse people. So hats off to Mrs. Hatten for that experience. In fact, she probably did too good a job, because if you look at this school report you can see from my A-Level biology, the first line says 'He sometimes shows OVER enthusiasm which can hinder his progress'. And I'm pretty certain a few people in the audience, perhaps even a certain PVC Dean may agree with that statement.
I think also at this time of my life I came a little bit involved with amateur dramatics, and I got to play Willy Wonka in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at school, and I guess this is an early nod to what I call 'theatre-based teaching', which is something that I like to do with my undergraduate students on occasion. And both of these things carried through into my undergraduate days where I studied biology. So I've managed to find at least one picture from my undergraduate days that I could share with you - safely - with the family audience, which showed off these theatrical roots. And this is a picture on the bottom right from when we were fundraising for Operation Wallacea.
We're trying to go to Sulawesi in a conservation effort. And I think you could probably work out which one I am in the picture. Yep, I'm the gorilla. And just so you know I'm not friends with the Emoji Family, I'm just protecting the identity of these people.
So my last reflective point for looking back on my school days and definitely the most important one for me was this. So this is from when I was in year seven, so my first year in secondary school, and in my personal statement, at the end, you have to write your hobbies, and when I read this I was outstanding because nothing has changed since I was that age.
So war-gaming. OK, so I still love games, not that war game anymore but I love games, I still like role play games. I still love reading. Not horror, but I love fantasy. I still love music. I like playing computer games. And a little-known secret; I've sacrificed all the Star Wars and Doctor Who in the world for football, which is my greatest love, and that unfortunately, you can see on that statement there is incredibly prophetic, you know, very much true today.
So you're probably thinking now what's all this got to do with learning and teaching?' And what I'm trying to say to you is this sense of fun and these things I've had in me ever since I was a young boy really affect the way I feel about teaching now.
I want to start this story with a tale of two pyramids. So the pyramid that you can see on the left represents something that we call 'Blooms Taxonomy'. So Blooms Taxonomy is a hierarchical framework. There are in fact three, which deal with the Cognitive, the Effective and the Sensory domains. And these are the skills that we want to generate in our students. And the ones at the top of the pyramid are the ones we really desire. So we want students to be able to be evaluating creating things by the time that they leave us.
In fact, this really applies to a game. If you think about a game like chess, when you start playing chess the first time, the first thing is remembering - the bottom part of the pyramid - the way all the different pieces move. Then you start to understand the interactions between the pieces before we start applying them and playing some games. After you've played some games, you start analyzing what you've done and evaluating that before finally starting creating your own strategies to playing chess and hopefully beating people.
So that shows you the evolution process through this hierarchy. The pyramid on the other side is a crude representation of how students learn, where the thinner parts of the pyramid, representing where they learn least So they learn least in what we call 'Passive Learning' techniques. So just reading about things, hearing about things, seeing things, and they tend to learn more when those things are done in combination or when they are actively involved as part of the learning experience.
So if we just flip that pyramid around like this. I believe really to get the higher order skills, that creating and evaluating, then we should be adopting a very active learning approach to our teaching.
And what do I mean by 'Active Learning'? So I certainly don't mean doing a bit of Joe Wicks MBE whilst talking about molecular biology, that though I'm happy to give that a go one day if I think it will give some benefits to the students. By active learning, I simply mean allowing students to be part of the learning experience. They're not passive recipients, they're actually doing something.
I mean, active learning is very much an umbrella term, and to be honest with you, most academics I've met in the entire HE absolutely subscribe to active learning and use parts of it in their teaching. And what this diagram here is showing is just some of my personal active learning activities that I like to include. There are many more. Now the line across the bottom, which goes from bricks to pyramid shows two things.
Firstly, how much effort it takes me in terms of design in order to introduce into the sessions with the least amount of effort on the left where the bricks are, and simultaneously how much benefit I feel the students get from me introducing that approach. So questions and a moment to pause for reflection doesn't take much effort on my part, but I still think for the majority of students the gains are relatively small. Whereas working at full case studies or doing problem-based learning take some more effort, but I feel the gains for the majority are higher.
And you'll probably notice that the one I didn't mention, the one which does take the most effort but I feel has the absolute most impact is game-based learning, and that's what I'm going to be talking to you about in this session.
So, what is a game? So if I say the word game, what's the first thing that comes to your mind? So something you think about, a game of football. Yeah, I know England are playing at 7:45 tonight, people. Some of you may think about a board game, some of you may be thinking about a computer game.
Some of you may be thinking about a mobile phone game, perhaps maybe, maybe some of you are playing a mobile game at the moment, while you're watching, should be watching, this talk. I mean, one thing that's really clear is games are an absolutely fundamental part of our society. So every major civilization since history has being recorded has evidence of games, and they go all the way back to 3500 BC, games.
Board games have never been more popular. The board game market is growing 365% and is worth over 7 trillion pounds annually at the moment. It's a really big market. And games actually even in our everyday language, there's so many game-based metaphors: 'We gotta play the game', 'The game of life', 'Game on'. So games are really, really important to us.
So playing games. And you notice I just said the words 'playing games', and I think it's really important here that I make a distinction between what 'play' and 'games' are.
So 'play' is absolutely widely accepted as being a really important development tool in young infants and children. It's very much a free-form activity.
Games are play, but there are structure or boundaries. Or if you want a more convenient word, there are rules around that play, and that's the distinction between the two.
Perhaps a good example of play would be the Lego brick. So, most people understand and have played with or seen people play with Lego bricks. And when you're very young, the play with Lego bricks is building any structure that your imagination allows you to build.
Well, Lego has been turned into a game by Lego education, so this is by the Lego Foundation themselves, and they turned lots of Lego bricks into an activity to enhance STEM education. It's incredibly successful. So play transitioned into a game.
In fact, I do use Lego at work. So I was honoured to be made a 'Certified Facilitator in Lego Serious Play', which is a management and business training tool for helping companies come up with strategic aims and shared visions. And I've never come across a more powerful metaphor-based technique in my entire career.
So this talk is not about play, it's about games. Though I will say I do think play does have a place in Higher Education as well. You've only got to look at things like Makerspaces and Game Jams, which are these more free-form activities to see some good examples of play. So I wanna talk about games.
Before I do, I'll mention a term called 'Gamification'. There's really two ways that we can think about games in Higher Education. Actual games themselves, or just using the elements, or the principles of games. And that's called gamification.
What is gamification? So I guess it's probably best explained by this picture that you can see here.
So this is a reward chart for a typical child, or in this case me. And the basic idea is that I have some tasks to undertake. If I undertake those tasks I get a reward, in this case a sticky star, and if I manage to collect all of those stars then I will get a reward for doing so. Or perhaps it could be the other way around - if I don't get the stars, there's some punishment perhaps? I can't watch TV at the weekend. So what this reward chart is trying to do is change behaviour, and that's what gamification's principle is all about, it's trying to change behaviour.
In this case, it's doing it by either the proverbial carrot or stick and giving some intermediate awards through the use of sticky stars. Now gamification using the principles of games to change behaviour is absolutely everywhere. And here's just a few examples: so perhaps the first and most obvious ones are store cards. So if you were to look in your wallet or purse and whatever, I'm absolutely confident nearly all of us will have some loyalty cards, for various high street stores and restaurants and such like. And the idea is you go in the first time - excuse me - go in the first time, they say 'Would you like a card? You get 5% off your order'. You say 'Thank you very much'.
Every time you go, you swipe your card to get some points. The more points you get, the greater rewards you get, and then this card is used to enhance your experience by saying 'Oh, you haven't been for a while. Would you like a free muffin if you come?', you're trapped into the behaviour of brand loyalty because of these cards. So this has been on the high street for many, many years.
Another great example would be the plethora of fitness-based devices that people wear on their wrists. So here the behaviour is about becoming fit and here it uses the gamification principle of competition. By setting you challenges of steps by joining up with your friends and family to see how many steps they've done. Just trying to change your behaviour there again. It even works in the charity sector.
Now all these sites which ask you to give money for causes have various levels. If you spend this much money, this is what your money will do. And then there's fund raising competitions, once again the competition element comes through.
Even shopping online, and this is an example from a well-known selling platform, this is just gamification overload. This reaffirming of the behaviour that you were about to undertake to buy something and trying to give you trust and belief in the person that you're buying from.
So what I'm trying to say is that behaviour changing in gamification is all the way through society, so why shouldn't it be in Higher Education? So let's have an example. I want you to imagine that either you or somebody you know is on that bike. And they've got a cycle up this incredibly steep hill. In fact, they don't think they can do it. OK, they don't think they can do it. What may you do in order to help them cycle up that hill? What kind of strategies could you put in place to help them get up that hill?
And I'm going to countdown from 10 using my hands to give you a chance to think about that.
2... 1. So what did you come up with? I suspect you probably came up with some of the things that I can see on here. So one of the ways you may change behaviour is adding some competition. As resembled by another cyclist, perhaps cycling alongside, perhaps you thought, well, we could give him a reward, you know, a carrot if they get to the very top.
Perhaps you thought you'd make the challenge easier by putting some levels in - so you can see here that there's some steps up on the hill. Perhaps you thought instead of adding competition - you get the cyclists to work together, so we got a tandem, two people are doing the work, perhaps taking turns to cycle up.
Perhaps you'd simply give them some encouragement and cheer them and buoy them on to do it. Or perhaps you'd use a stick and add a time limit. Now, these six things - there are many more, perhaps you've come up with something far better than that - are all examples of principles that you see in games that are used in society and can be used in Higher Education experiences. There's lots of principles of gamification, and here are just some of them.
Generally, they are building on either a sense of collaboration, kind of working together, or competition. So a sense of collaboration, a good example of that is appreciation. A lot of us at the moment are using platforms like Microsoft Teams and the old Thumbs Up icon to say that you like a post someone's made is a great example of a collaborative appreciation tool.
And competition, we all know all about those, I just said examples, with the Fitbit, you know, challenging people through rewards and leaderboards and those kinds of things.
And then there's kind of two kind of branches of tricks used in gamification. One's the kind of intrinsic stuff, so prizes and awards and badges, and one is more about the whole package. The story, you know, given making the experience matter, giving a theme and a narrative to it, and both of these have roles.
But for me, absolutely the most important principle of gamification that we can take resonance from in Higher Education is FAIL.
Freedom to fail.
So let's start off with an example. So this game that you can see on the screen here is a game called 'Tetris', I'm sure most of you will remember it. This is from the Gameboy version, and the basic idea is you've got a series of blocks of all kinds of different shapes, and they rotate round on the screen and you're trying to make straight lines. Now the reason Tetris works, imagine you can only play Tetris like this: you've got to have one go at Tetris - that was your practice go. Then after that, your second go, whatever score you got counted. I mean that for me is a parallel - albeit a weak one - to formative and summative assessment in a University assessment.
No, no, no, Tetris works 'cause you can have lots and lots of goes. It doesn't matter to you if you fail because you can try again and again and again. And it's not just about that, it's much more important. Because you know you can have another go and you can fail, you try things that you know will probably not work. So you think 'Well, what happens if I put these funny L shaped ones on top of each other? Well, that doesn't work'. You take risks, you explore the boundaries of this scenario, and for me, that's exactly what we want the students to be doing.
You know, we want them to have that. But fail is not seen like that. Fail is seen as a very negative experience. If a student fails, they feel that they're inferior, they haven't achieved. They don't view fail as an opportunity to learn something else, they just want to remove it and get rid of it.
In primary school this is not the case though, so fail in primary school, it stands for First Attempt In Learning, and I think this is the really important game- based example, and when I get down to talk about some specific games in a minute, this is the essence of why I use games so much in my teaching. because of that culture, it gives the students when exploring a topic.
So as you may be expected, I do want to thank some people as I'm talking today, and before I go on to talk about games specifically, I'd like to do just my first round of intermediate Thank you’s. So here, first of all, I'd like to thank my students and graduates, so I'd love to be able to name specific people, but I might be here a long time and it's not really fair, but all I can say is the students make the whole thing worthwhile. I really love it when I learn from them as much as they learn from me and my LinkedIn profile is absolutely littered with graduates and it's always a pleasure to log on and see the little notifications about how successful you are. So thank you.
The second group of people I'd like to thank here is just some of my colleagues. Once again, it'd be really unfair of me to kind of start naming people because I see excellence everywhere I look, in both the academic and professional service areas, and I'm always taking ideas and parts of ideas and trying them out in my own teaching experience. I would like just to mention a couple of groups of people, first of all, I need to mention the coffee club, you know who you are.
You kept me sane over the years, so thank you very much and I definitely wanna thank my current team, the Pedagogic Practice team. I kind of struggled for a word to use and the word that comes to mind is 'Authentic'. I think you're all completely authentic people and have allowed me to be completely authentic as well. And I think the journey over the last two years wouldn't be possible without you being like that.
And finally, I think one person does deserve a named 'Thank you'. That's because lots of the things I'm going to talk about going forward are a synthesis of shared ideas. And when this person's always shared their ideas with me, and whenever I've shared my ideas with them, they've always bounced back stronger and more refined, and definitely spell checked. So I'd certainly like to thank Dr. Louise Robinson for everything she's done in opening my mind to the power of games in Higher Education. So cheers, Lou.
So now we're going to talk about game-based learning. So we talked about gamification, which is the principle of games, now I'm moving on to actually using games full stop.
So what do I mean by game-based learning? I simply mean using a game for a learning objective. So for those of you who aren't from a Higher Education family, but we often decide before anything starts what we want the students to achieve by the end of that, we call that a learning objective or learning outcome.
So in this case, I'm using a game for that specific purpose. So. You're probably thinking 'Games in education? Hmm, I'm not sure about that'. Well, games in education, I mean, I could talk for 10 hours on examples of games used in education. In fact, when I was at school, I played a game called 'Lemonade Stand', perhaps some of you did as well, which was a business game where you have to mix the amount of lemons and amount of sugar correctly to make the most money from your lemonade stand. So it's been around ever since then.
My own children use a game in education to teach them times-tables, it's called 'Times-tables Rockstar', very, very popular and it uses some of the things we've already talked about. It uses levels, the more times-table puzzles that you solve, the more rewards you get, the greater Rockstar that you become, and it uses some of those competitive elements like time limits and seeing the leaderboard from your class to help change that behaviour and getting you to learn your times-tables. And I've seen its transformative effect myself. So that's a game that was very much designed for an educational purpose.
There's lots of games, what I like to call commercial off the shelf games, which have also got powerful education remits. So, a silly example perhaps, but I've seen 'Angry Birds' used to teach trigonometry and calculating forces. 'Minecraft', which is an incredibly popular kind of world-building Lego brick type game has actually got a special education edition widely used in outreach for everything from primary school to introduce them to geological features, all the way up to University of Hull's excellent work using it to teach biochemistry.
Some people are even going into the most popular games at the moment such as 'Fortnite', which is what the image you can see on the top right, to talk to players. So, climate change scientists have decided to get into the 'Fortnight' game not to do anything with the game-play itself, but just while they're playing the game, talk to other players about climate change, and they've had good success.
Some commercial games have specific educational packages associated with them, such as 'Assassin's Creed', which has a discovery tool designed by historians exploring ancient Egypt, and it's absolutely fantastic. And my last example here is a game called 'Foldit'. So Foldit is a puzzle game designed by scientists, several universities in America, and it's a bit like Tetris, but with proteins. It may not sound very fun to you at the minute, but basically it's a logical puzzle game. You've got to put these bits of proteins together in order.
So this game has been an unparalleled success. So it has approximately 500,000 regular players, absolutely none of which have any kind of knowledge of science. But what the scientists do is they put real protein problems into the Foldit database, ones they can't solve in the lab, then they ask the players to come up with what they feel their best solution will be. And once they've done that they test it in the lab. And so far there are nine peer-reviewed papers in Nature and others from Foldit players, and one of the great examples there was an AIDS protein which took, it stumped scientists for 15 years in terms of its structure, in three weeks these game players have come up with a plausible solution which was tested in the lab and proved to be correct.
Fabulous! So games in education.
You probably notice, apart from a slight nod, to biochemistry there, I haven't mentioned games in Higher Education because when I do these talks to other audiences, people are normally OK up until this point, but soon as you think games in Higher Education experiences, like 'No, no, you can't be serious. You know there's no space for that kind of frivolity or fun aspect in a Higher Education curriculum', but I think you're wrong, I think you're very, very wrong.
Let me give an example, right, so let's start with a book. So the subject I'm most passionate about at the moment is Science Communication. I love teaching Science Communication. I think it should be core in every undergraduate science curriculum. Covid has shown us that. You know, we need our scientists to be able to communicate with all aspects of the general public in a clear and concise way and instill their passion to each other.
So this is a book, a signed picture book, and I don't think anybody would hardly have any kind of umbrage with me using that as part of my teaching experience. This is also a book by my favourite author Robin Hobb. But I don't think you'd see me using this as part of my teaching experience. So why? Well cause the content is different. They're both books, but the content of one is not appropriate in this context. Moving over, you can see two TV shows, one is 'Planet Earth', which you can probably see being a biologist that there will be some relevance in terms of how I teach. But the second one, Doctor Who, you're probably thinking less so, though I'd argue perhaps in science communication there is a good angle there, but here it's about context.
So content and context, no one would bat an eyelid about a talk that said using books in Higher Education teaching. No one bats an eyelid about using TV in Higher Education teaching, but for some reason, when you say 'I want to use games in Higher Education teaching', people take real umbrage with it. But I think games, as long as the content and context are right, are just as viable as these two techniques, so that's my first argument.
My second argument is just thinking very broadly about pedagogic tools. So pedagogic - I apologize to those who don't know what that word means - pedagogy is just a very general word, which means 'teaching' effectively, so teaching tools.
So when I'm deciding how I want to get an outcome, what I want the students to learn by the end of an activity, I design the learning outcomes, and when I've finished with whatever it is I want to do, I normally have to assess them. And the reason I assess them - so you're probably thinking things like essays and videos and exams - I have to check that they have got and understood those learning outcomes. Whilst I'm doing the thing that I do I'm giving them feedback all the time, so I'm informing them what they've done, how they can improve and they're getting feedback from each other as well.
So that's the typical example, but I think games are absolutely parallel to that.
So at the start of the game you have a goal, so let's think of a game, let's think about 'Monopoly'. OK, so Monopoly is a great example here. The goal is to be the property Lord and have a big empire with loads of cash. That's the goal that you're aspiring to. But you can't do anything you like. You can't just take all the money from the bank. There are rules, OK, you have to go around the board in a certain order, you have to buy houses then hotels - so these are akin to the assessment in a way, the structure that you do.
And of course, games have loads of feedback. You get feedback from your actions yourself, but also the most important part of the game is often talking over the top of the game, talking about what's going on and what you're going to be doing. So I think game mechanics have got an absolute parallel to any kind of pedagogic tool that you want to use in a learning and teaching experience.
So games in Higher Education have been used for a long time, and this slide here just shows 6 examples of types of games. And those of you who are thinking 'I can't really see myself using games in any of my sessions', I'm pretty certain you've used a quiz at least once. A quiz is an incredibly common teaching tool, but things like simulations and role-play have been used for donkeys years, particularly in medical health education, as a very viable technique.
By role-play I don't mean dressing up with a sword and running around, I mean things like a mock interview is a form of role-play. You're giving students, you're fabricating an experience for the students, like the real world.
Of course, the types of games that I'm really interested in are card games and board games for reasons we're going to talk about in a minute. One thing you'll notice I haven't mentioned on there is computer games, and that's not because I don't see the value of computer games in Higher Education, or any of the more advanced augmented or virtual reality games, it's just that I personally don't have the skill set to design those games, and I've learned over the years that students are very intolerant of poor quality digital products. As in, they see lots of examples of it, perhaps which they even play recreationally, so they don't like a poor quality electronic product, but they're much more tolerant of a cereal box type card game or board game. That kind of retro feel that is still appealing to them. And of course, I can design those myself.
So what I'd like to do now is just give you some examples of games that come from my own and my colleague's experiences of games which have been used. And I've broken them down into kind of levels, games which are used just for a small fraction of a second in a class, all the way up to way a module, or a program, or even a game that can transform behaviour at the institutional level. So let's go.
To start off with a quiz, my quiz has only got one question. I want to see what you've learned so far or what you need to know. These questions are illustrated with the level in the computer exam.
My question is to you, which of these is the oldest board game?
Is it: a) Scrabble, b) monopoly, c) Battleships or d) Cluedo? So hopefully one of the voices from beyond as posted in the chatbox, the letters A, B, C and D.
And all I want you to do is use the little "Thumbs Up" icon to click whether you think the answer's:
a) Scrabble, b) Monopoly, c) Battleships, or d) Cluedo. So this is obviously a quiz and this quiz is taken from the template of the popular ITV game show 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?' and I used it a lot when I started teaching. Then Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? disappeared off our screens and thankfully it's come back now so I can use it again.
So hopefully by now, you've all voted on either A, B, C or D and I'll ask one of the voices from beyond just to let me know what the most popular answer is, if possible.
"So the votes are just coming in Ian, and we're between A and C at the moment, C's just hitting ahead of A.** OK"
Thank you very much. So that's interesting, so most of you think the answer is:
a) Scrabble or c) Battleships. Well, the answer is -
I'll tell you after the break.
Some of you probably groaned there, I can almost hear them reverberating through my laptop.
So what I've done there is a quiz, a standard quiz that is in every teaching session, up and down the country every single day. I've just added an element of gaming-ship to it. So I really like quizzes and when you say we can do a quiz, you normally hear this noise coming from the auditorium: 'Ugh quiz!'
But whilst you're giving the questions out everyone's sitting there like this, I know in here they are thinking about the answers to those questions, and if you're really clever with your question design, it's one way, one reason I like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
There's all sorts of learning you can get going on. So first of all, with Millionaire, as you may be aware, the question is getting more difficult as you go through. So you can stagger their questions, to start with ones that you feel the majority of students would be able to answer to breed some confidence. I also like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? because it's got three wrong answers. So even if a student doesn't know what the correct answer is, they may be able to identify one or more incorrect answers.
And when I do these quizzes, I don't care at all whether the students talk about the answers, 'cause ultimately I want them to get them all right, I want them to understand it. And of course, I normally play the music, you know that 'Dun Dun Dun Dun', perhaps even dim the lights while they do it. Adds to a sense of drama, it changes the behaviour, how they interact with the quiz. And I always do that terrible gag, what my daughters would call a 'Dad joke', about telling you 'after the break' what the answer is. And I tell you what, if I ever forget to do so, there's always a plethora of raised hands at the end of session, asking the answer to the questions.
So these Millionaire slides and templates are used a lot. I also use a host of others and these are just three of them. I like to use Blockbusters - remember that? For small group tutorials, and my favourite one is definitely a National Lottery game called '100 versus 1'. So you simply walk into the classroom and say to the students, 'If you're able, please stand'. Then you ask a question like the one you can see on the board. You ask them to for 10 seconds to think of the answer. Then you reveal the answer, and anyone who gets the answer incorrect sits down. Then you repeat the question, getting more difficult with the questions until you have only one person left standing, or you've gone through your pool of questions. And it's amazing what a bar of chocolate does to the person who remains standing at the very end. And I like this game for the same reason as Millionaire, but with the additional example if a student doesn't want to play, they can simply sit down after the first question or they can remain sitting to start with.
So just examples of using quizzes on the macro level. By the way, if there are any other academics in the room, if they'd like a copy of these quiz slides, then they can have them.
OK, down to a whole session, so this is an example that comes from work with Michael Sweet and Louise Robinson using a commercial off the shelf game called 'Plague Inc.' Now the purpose of Plague Inc. is to wipe out the entire population of the Earth using either a bacteria or virus, adapting it and modifying it to dodge the treatments and cures that the humans come up with.
Now, I do realize that this game at the current moment we're in is not particularly sensitive, though we did this work well before the current Covid pandemic.
So the way we use this gaming class is twofold. First of all, we invite students to play the Plague Inc. game, but making a note of what they've done to their bacteria or virus in order to modify it. We give them a time limit, then we ask them to report back on their experiences, what percentage of the Earth they've killed and what they did to their virus. Well, I only managed to kill all this many and I start in Australia, and I used to water-borne virus and this is the first discussion about the transmission of epidemics and pandemics.
We then repeat the experience, but this time we set up an experimental hypothesis and I ask the students to control specific variables. So we'll start at a certain country perhaps, but we'll only use either water-borne or air-borne viruses and look at the difference from those - once again to consolidate the learning and teaching about how epidemics and pandemics spread.
And it's a very successful session, students always really enjoy it. Do you know the one thing I love about this and some of the other examples I'm gonna give? Students always tell us that they carry on playing the game afterwards. OK, they carry on playing the game afterwards.
The third example is kind of at the module level, so this game is called 'Parklife' and it's designed by my colleague Louise Robinson. I've only been involved in the evaluation and helping disseminate the game itself. So this is a copy of the game. Louise designed it on cardboard boxes initially and she had a really difficult challenge of trying to teach a revision session to a group of students at the very end of a module whilst also introducing a new theme linked to her expertise.
And she designed this game called Parklife. So after a few cardboard editions, we managed to get a nice copy made and the idea is the students go around their own conservation park trying to build up a genetically unique population, recording the pedigree tree whilst avoiding the threats and perils that inhibit such a park. So I've seen this game played many times and it's absolutely amazing. So it's a 2 hour or so session. The game often takes a bit longer, and the students always, almost always stay beyond the end of the session to carry on the learning. They want to finish the game.
What's doubly interesting is that whilst they're playing the game they are talking nonstop about wildlife conservation and associated topics, so the learning that they get from the game may be small, but the learning they get from talking with each other about the game is astronomical. You find me any academic who would not take the offer of saying, OK, well I can get your students to stay longer than they need to be and talk nonstop about the topic of today. Everyone would take that.
Well, this game is one example of how that can be delivered.
Moving up in terms of kind of other skills, this is an idea I'm very, very proud of - once again with Louise - so this is using tabletop role-playing games, in this case, 'Dungeons & Dragons', as a tool for developing employability skills in students. So the students are guided through a role-playing adventure where they have to undertake a series of puzzles, problem-based learning, lateral thinking puzzles, working together before they get to the end of the little adventure where they have to face a final Guardian and have to present what skills they've learned. So the game is really a metaphor for collecting skills and putting them on your CV.
That's the journey through the dungeon, and then presenting your skills to the Guardian is an analog for the job interview itself. And we've run this several times, including in some external organizations, and it's always been incredibly powerful. And the people who enjoy it most are definitely those who've never played role-playing games before, or Dungeons & Dragons. So that work is being written up at the minute.
And finally, at the whole institution kind of level, my current role working in a central unit at the University has given me more opportunities, so earlier this year I published 'Advanced HE Assessment - The Game', which is a tool to get people about thinking about creative and different ways to design assessments that can be used in Higher Education, and a sneaky peek of something that's coming out later on this year, which is a series of 52 playing cards, which I've designed with Stuart and Jasmine from Advanced HE on toolkits for engaging students, so short tricks for engaging students.
So games have this ability to enhance us staff as well as students.
So the last little part of my talk is just about 'How do you make a good game?' You know? How do you make a good game, and these ten things that you can see on this slide here are ten things that every game needs, and these are abridged from a series of articles by Mark Rosewater who's the lead researcher, designer at Magic the Gathering. And when I was putting together this talk and looking at this list of ten things every game needs, I thought, do you know what, I think, actually, my overall approach to teaching does resonate very much with these ten things I think every game needs.
Let me explain. So I kind of see this as my game board.
So this large lecture theatre, and I just chose the one with the complicated mass on it, 'cause it looks cool, though I guess my game board now is more like the digital screens you can see at the top. So that's my game board, that's my canvas, and those ten things that every game needs really do resonate with how I approach teaching.
So the first thing I think that's quite important to me is the narrative. So, if you imagine a story and the story here I've chosen is Little Red Riding Hood. You can tell someone the story and they can imagine it. You can show them the story on a medium - here's TV, you know, second person. They can see it. But I really like putting people as part of the story, so they are actually part of the adventure themselves. So here I've become Little Red Riding Hood, so the third person narrative.
Now I think all of those have a place in Higher Education, but in games the third person being part of the story, sorry, the first person being part of the story is the really important one. And let me give you a real example that really shows this: a game design workshop, I did in Leeds. Somebody was trying to design a game about clinical skills, and they had an idea, they want the learning outcome was for students to be presented with a set of patients symptoms and they had to come up with the correct medical diagnosis.
They did have a time limit for coming up with the correct diagnosis, and the game just didn't work. You know, the students didn't really enjoy it. So what we did was took the same game and just completely changed the narrative: It's five minutes to midnight and a patient's just stumbled through the doors of H&E. It's 15 minutes before you end your shift. You've got to quickly diagnose him. You get the idea. By just putting a bit of narrative and story around it, suddenly the students feel it, they feel that they're doing something for a purpose, and that purpose really changes the way they interact with the game.
Now narrative, for me, can also be about the way that you tell the story. Let me give you an example. So first of all, I'm going to tell you a little bit of Red Riding Hood.
'Oh grandma, what big ears you have!' - 'All the better to hear you with, my dear'. Same story again:
'Oh grandma, what big ears you have!' - 'All the better to hear you with my dear'. OK, you may think
I'm just putting on a silly voice there, but actually, the way you tell the story really sells the story. You can have the best story in the world but if you don't tell it right then no one's going to be interested. So those two elements really resonate with all aspects of my teaching. The other thing that strikes me from games which parallel teaching is the role of strategy and surprise.
So when people think of games, they often think of games like Monopoly, which are all about conflict. So where players are competing against each other for an end goal. In fact, these types of games are often known as American Board games, no pun intended here, when in fact many games are based on cooperation or working together. So a great example of that is 'Pandemic'. You're all one team and you have to work together to achieve a common goal. So I think both conflict and cooperation have a place in Higher Education, but for me, cooperation is the key one, the one I love. Seeing students as partners in the game or in the learning experience, and in my Science Communication module, I definitely learn as much from the students as they do from me.
Well, I think they do anyway. And it's both frightening and exhilarating to sometimes go into a session and actually not know what we're going to be doing for the second half, and letting the students work together to dictate that. Just like a good game, a good dice roll, we also need a bit of surprise, and I think that's really important in teaching as well.
A term which I don't know if I've coined, but I use it quite a lot, it's what I call 'plausible disruption', occasionally I just need to mix things up a little bit. And a simple example of this is of course acknowledging any anxiety issues that this may cause, is mixing up groups in class.
Students invariably are going to sit in exactly the same place in exactly the same seats, and, you know, with the same group of people. By mixing them up into different groups you know you can stimulate different conversations and the benefit from the majority there is greater than if they stayed in those groups.
My third one is about rules. So, learning and teaching has got a massive rulebook. It's quite probably fair to say the rulebook hasn't changed much since the 1900s in terms of what you can and can't do. It's full of all sorts of historic legacies. And always being one for kind of challenging the rule book a little bit and trying things that are a bit different, working around the rules and adapting the rules to fit the needs of yourself and the needs of your students. And I firmly believe that.
But rules have to be written right, the way that you explain things needs to be very careful, and this feeds into the narrative. Let me give an example. So one thing I really dislike personally is when you hear people say things like 'OK, welcome to my class. OK, we've got a difficult concept to tackle today.' So the word 'difficult' is a word that will put off some students. They will think they can't achieve the outcome because you've used that word.
Perhaps even worse is if we say to students 'OK, we're going to start with an easy problem now'. You're saying it's easy, but what happens if a student can't get that right, you know, what does it do to them for the rest of their engagement with the session? And the number one rule word that you should never use this one: 'OK, so we're going to go through some slides now. This bit is quite boring, but we just need to get through it. 'Boring? If it's boring, then do something about it.
OK, so we've been very careful of the language we use in our rule book in order to change the behaviour as I mentioned. And the absolute final element of game, as I can't talk about them all today, is fun. So I started with fun, I'm getting quite close to the end now and fun for me is absolutely fundamental to my experience. And this is just a bit of a Rogue's Gallery that I've nicked off various Twitter posts and me doing things. You will know that the handstand is only done with the aid of a student holding me up and Paul did mention the Viking hat at the beginning, there you go. Still got the Viking hat here today. I mean that fun really resonates through as much of my teaching as I can, as is possible. If I get fed up with what I'm doing I change it and do something different the next year.
Of course, my life is about more than a game, and I included this slide deliberately because sometimes, being somebody who likes to dress up a bit theatrical, that's all you get known for. I mean I have heard the words like 'clown' and 'a bit of a fool' before, but much of my work is very strategic in other areas. Paul Carney mentioned the national networks I've done with Nigel, David, Rachel and Lisa, which I'm incredibly proud of and the impact they've had on Society.
I'm also incredibly proud of the research I've undertaken with my colleagues across the globe, some of whom are with us today, looking at how we share the findings of scholarships and teaching and learning with students.
There's much I'm proud about in my role itself, but I think in the last six months I'm most proud of leading the University of Derby National Teaching Fellowship scheme and seeing three very, very deserving candidates reap their rewards and get their success.
So with three slides to go, I think this slide needs to be about the end game, and what's next for me. So if this was a card game, you'd see that there are four, sorry, there are five aces there. Now you know that that game is therefore rigged. It's unfair. Now would you play a game if it wasn’t fair? No. How about, would you design a game or take part in a game if you knew it's unfair to other players? Hopefully, the answer's 'no' as well.
Well, Higher Education, if you consider the metaphor again, is unfair to many. The attainment of all students is not equal. And in the last two years especially, the transformational work of my colleagues, particularly Tamsin Bowers-Brown, has really shown me the true extent of the problems we have in the Higher Education sector. Perhaps I knew about them before but just didn't see them properly, but now I know about them, to not do anything is completely unacceptable. And I think that applies to all of my academic colleagues out there as well. Yeah, it's not acceptable for you to do nothing either. I'll be honest with you, I'm absolutely petrified and scared about what I can do to help, but really, I see that as the challenge that myself and the University should be driving at head-on.
So my penultimate slide is my second bit of "thank yous". So these thank yous are around my family. I was going to say a few words about them, so I'd like to thank first of all my sisters, my cousins, my aunties, my grandma, my grandma Rosie, for all the support they give me over the years. I've got a very close family group and it's really, really warming.
I'd also like to thank my two little kids. Hope I didn't embarrass you too much, kids. I haven't done any dancing yet. I would also like to thank my wife and she really has been and always will be the kind of air beneath my wings which allowed me to be successful.
I have to just say a word about some absent people, so, unfortunately, my mum passed away five years ago, before I became a professor. It was a difficult time, I've grown from it. We've all grown from it, we're all happy again now, but I'm sure she's looking down on us now, and at this point, I just like to say a word of thanks to another member of staff, which is Paul. Thanks Paul for everything over the years and the reason I'm mentioning you now is to thank you specifically for how you dealt with that moment in my life. I don't think you get enough acknowledgement for your compassion and understanding, but you're exemplary in the way that you looked after me then.
I'd also like to thank and mention my grandad. So when I was eight years old, eight! My nickname from my grandad was 'the prof'. He always used to call me 'the prof'. And it was an absolute honour to be able to tell him only a week before he passed, that I'd made it, and I'd become a professor so cheers grandad.
And my last 'thanks' goes to one person - so when I was a young boy it was quite difficult growing up, through reasons we don't need to talk about here, but, this person had to work six and seven days a week, every single week doing 18 hour days and missed out on large parts of our growing up, sacrificing every penny so I could go to university. I've seen them so tired on a Sunday that they actually fell asleep eating their roast dinner - mid dinner. Those times are passed and we're all happy again now, but I haven't forgot it so this one's for you, dad. Cheers mate.
Audio described version of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: A Journey Through Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff video