Monthly Meeting Recap: December (with Ian Turner)

The Playful University Club’s December Monthly Meeting was hosted by Professor Ian Turner of the University of Derby. Ian works across the University, supporting the diverse community with learning, teaching and assessments activities. He does this with the goal of ensuring students have a truly engaging and excellent experience, which makes him a valuable ally of the Playful University Club!

Ian’s session was titled “A gaming smorgasbord, a buffet of gaming delights”. It involved participants taking part in a live Dungeons and Dragon’s game – of course, with Ian being the Dungeon Master. The monthly meeting was an example of how Ian uses Dungeons and Dragons in Career Workshops that he hosts for students; he explained how he adapts the game to keep students engaged and to suit employability skills. We certainly enjoyed playing it.

Students begin by reflecting on their confidence in different skills, such as problem solving, leadership and curiosity (to name a few). They are tasked with distributing an allocated number of points between each skill, with 6 representing a strong confidence in that skill and 1 representing a skill which may need developing. In the same way Ian tasks his students to this activity, he challenged our Monthly Meeting participants to partake in the task too.

And then the game began…

Ian was very flexible and adapted the game, usually meant for 4-5 players, in person, to include around 25 of us, virtually! He was creative in doing this, having 4-5 players in the main room and the remaining players in a different room, connected to the main group via ‘text messages’ sent in the Zoom chat box.

Participants worked through different rooms in the Dungeon, each with a new puzzle to test different transferable/employability skills (curiosity, multitasking, coming up with novel solutions). Throughout the session Ian discussed his different techniques to keep students engaged and ensure everyone’s voice was heard, such as challenging students who were contributing more than others with in-game cobwebs to their character’s mouths! This ensures all students are able to actively participate equally. Another technique was handing students gems when they demonstrate valuable skills, but not telling them why they were being rewarded. This encourages students to make links in their behaviour and reward receiving, whilst motivating them to continue actively participating and demonstrating their skills.

And at the end of the game the students are required to prove they are worthy of returning to the real world by talking about all the skills they demonstrated during the game, a parallel to a real-life interview pitch. Though the game took longer than planned, and Ian describing our participants as slower than normal, everyone was engrossed in the session and we were all pleasantly surprised to learn about how the game is applied to a skill developing context.

All in all, the December Monthly Meeting showcased Professor Ian Turner’s unique and engaging way to incorporate play into Higher Education. He is a brilliant example of an educator who adopts a compassionate and playful learning environment and participants really enjoyed learning from him!

Here’s what our participants had to say!

‘grateful and inspiring to see how creative someone can be to bring play and games in to learning’

This participant particularly enjoyed….

‘The immersive nature from the get-go. How Ian applies this to developing understanding was very insightful and I will be using these principles’

The Playful University Club aims to promote a culture that can foster play within the University by creating capacity for awareness, uptake, and exposure of play and playful learning. Ultimately, we aim to make the University of Exeter a place where learning is created and nurtured through joy, engagement and play, where learning to solve problems and overcome obstacles is a reward in its own right. The club hosts several activities each month including games nights and guest speakers. It is open to all University staff and Students and is a wonderful opportunity to support a compassionate community using play. If this is a YES for you, please email Maarten Koeners: m.p.koeners@exeter.ac.uk.

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