Details of all the creative, practice-based and research-based sessions from the 2017 conference are below.

Presenters are providing resources and challenges as highlighted in pull-out boxes, to continue the learning and play over the year: so check back here regularly for more updates.

Full abstracts are also available.

Playful Learning Programme 2017
Breakfast in accommodation
Breakfast in accommodation
Drop-in Activities

Parallel Sessions 4
32 , 14 , 35
Parallel Sessions 7
30 , 29 , 46
Keynote 2: Rikke Toft Nørgård
Parallel Sessions 8
Reflect and evaluate

12:15-12:25: 21
Keynote 3: Deborah Bullivant
Keynote 1: Niki Woods
Parallel Sessions 5
9 , 39 , 3
13:30-17:30: 42
Parallel Sessions 1
28 + 15 , 36 , 18 (VR)
Coffee 14:45-15:1515:00-15:30
Parallel Sessions 2
38 , 23 , 126
Parallel Sessions 6
43 + 7 (VR) , 10 , 44
Parallel Sessions 3
5 , 50 , 19 (VR)
Student Escape Rooms
Evening meal and Secrets and Spies (Salutation)
Eat, Play, Relax (Brooks Building)

Short Abstracts

Full abstracts are available to download here.

1. Playing at work. Challenge cards for all! (30 mins)

Andrew Walsh

Ready for a challenge? Are your workmates? This workshop outlines how a series of playful workplace challenge cards were implemented in a university service and challenges participants to create their own.

Resources and a challenge:

I’ve provided a list of challenges as discussed and developed in the session: challenges.
Your challenge is to use some of these challenges, or create your own, to encourage playful interactions in whatever setting you want to.

3. From most ambitious failure to team based ice breaking computer game – but what use is it? (90 mins)

Simon Grey, David Parker, David Grey

Give feedback on Troublesome Tanks – a team based competitive video game ice-breaker. This playful session features cooperative competitive gameplay, 3D printing and tanks, and is guaranteed to be fun.

Reflections on the session:

During our session we presented Troublesome Tanks – a team based competitive video game ice-breaker. This playful session featured cooperative competitive gameplay, 3D printing and tanks. We led a discussion about how our game could be used in different areas of HE (and beyond) and also invited the participants to give us notes on their own views of it which we are still processing.
The overall view is positive with participants ‘spreading the word’ with such quotes as “best game ever”. There was a view that the game is likely to apply broadly across multiple disciplines as a team building and communication activity. There was a genuine buzz even amongst individuals and groups that had not attended the official session. As a result we laid on an extra session as part of the evening activities which was well attended both by original participants and newcomers.
Troublesome Tanks has proven to be an engaging success that we are planning to involve in several areas of Computer Science (by way of a pilot) including recruitment, team-building activities for group based modules, as well as pastoral supervisee sessions.
We will be running a number of events in Computer Science in order to integrate some of the feedback that we received and further evolve the concept. As we believe that the activity has reach beyond our discipline we look to expand this, potentially inviting other areas to experience the activity and share it with them.
Outside of our session there is a general view that play and playful elements have a role to play in our programmes and are worthy of further exploration.

5. The Team and Leadership Treasure Hunt (60 mins)

Tobias Seidl, Katharina M Zeiner, Daniela Michl

In this session we explore the Team and Leadership Treasure Hunt which combines team-challenges with reflection tasks to sensitize students for different aspects of teamwork and leadership. Using the app Actionbound, participants will be able to play an adapted version of the game using their own device (iOS/Android).

7. Developing Design Consultants of the Future (30 mins) [VR]

Bryony Olney, Bobby Nisha

‘Developing Design Consultants of the Future: Embedding Augmented & Virtual Reality in Learning & Teaching’ project has received £50,000 in funding from HEFCE. It sees students on the 2016-17 MA Urban Design and Planning course pilot the use of augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies as part of their studies.

9. Crys-TEL Maze (90 mins)

Simon Warwick, Tom Foster

The Crys-TEL maze requires delegates to complete challenges as a group to attempt to “solve” a pressing learning and teaching issue. Along the way, participants will experience different learning and delivery styles combined with gamification. There will be time for a discussion on effective ways of incorporating technology and gamification into teaching and learning with the chance to share your own examples and experiences.

10. Sand play for problem solving (90 mins)

Sue Elmer, Emma Roberts, Flor Geradou, Liz Cable

This workshop will demonstrate an intervention based on sand play for problem solving. Participants will bring their own questions to the workshop, and use kinetic sand play with a variety of toys to mould and discover solutions by re-imagining their problems in a playful way.

14. EscapeHE (90 mins)

Liz Cable

EscapeHE is about creating escape rooms to be used in Higher Education. Liz’s workshop will include a full game and debrief, and an open discussion of the role of escape rooms in teaching, learning and assessment, as well as preparation and practice for the latest graduate recruitment trend: immersive scenarios.

15. Permission to Play (30 mins)

Benjamin Hall, Jonathan Briggs, Jo Hassall, Dr Liz Stirling

A presentation and discussion by a collective of teachers, researchers and practitioners who share an interest in the materials and methods of play and their potential for creative possibility within a context of learning and making.

18. Choose Their Own Adventure – Travels in Virtual Reality (60 mins) [VR]

Nick Feather, Katie Piatt

Using VR headsets, you will experience a choose your own adventure. You will have a chance to create story content and find out how we are using this technology in teaching at the University of Brighton.

A Challenge!

We’ve set you a challenge: details here ; tweet your results to #playlearn17

19. From role-play to game-play (60 mins) [VR]

Ben Sinclair, Phillip Chandler; Leah Greene

An interactive session to discuss a non-traditional collaboration that lead to the development of a physical healthcare simulation activity and its subsequent transition into the virtual world. Attendees will be able to play-test the healthcare VR experience using HTC Vive VR equipment.

21. Pablo the penguin: using a brand mascot to reach the disengaged (10 mins)

David E Bennett, Paula Thompson

Pablo the penguin: how a brand mascot can help bridge the social gap between the library service, build trust and support the anxious and disengaged.


Pablo Penguin’s Twitter feed

Paper explaining how and why anthropomorphic brand mascots function and how to make your own:

The original Library blog cartoon (episode 2 saw the introduction of Pablo – at first in 2D)

Browse the entire Turner & Paige Liblog cartoon series (click see “newer” for more recent cartoons; click each to view)

Some other increasingly famous mascot feeds on Twitter
Reffie the Raptor –
Bamboo the panda-
Bruce the badger –
Edgar Allen Pooh –
Simpson Owl (in the USA) –

Other library brand mascots living on their libraries host feeds
Ewey Decimal (unusually for a mascot, Ewey lives on the Huddersfield Library feed) –
Marty –
Simone the sloth –

23. Playing with what we’ve got: How pragmatic play can transform participation in universities (60 mins)

John Lean

Join a playtest of an activity designed to help new students at MMU build a ‘community of play’; blurring the lines between work and play, student and player, and university and ‘the real world’. Guaranteed to be the only conference session inspired by Super Metroid, legacy games and John Dewey!

Resources, thoughts and challenge:

Slides from the session are here.

My thoughts: I was genuinely surprised by how the session went. I was forced to be a little playful myself by improvising a role for the ten people in the room who didn’t have one of my limited-edition handouts, but I felt my ‘invigilators’ did a far better job than I did of enforcing exam conditions during the task – especially the impromptu earthquake drill! I hope that what I was trying to illustrate came across amid all the chaos; that we can play within rule systems and by doing so transform them. After the playtest I’m also hoping that my teaching intervention with undergraduates becomes a little less chaotic over time – or at least that the chaos that we managed to create in twenty minutes is spread out over two terms!

A challenge:  Think about your workspace as a ‘magic circle’. How can you blur the boundaries around it and transform the rules within it through play?

26. Playful learning through interactive video and triggers (30 mins)

Nathalie Charlier, Melanie Vanduren, Tessy Boedt

In this session we will present the results of a project featuring a new and innovative distance learning module to learn first aid in a personalized way. We have built learning modules using interactive storytelling technology resulting in individual learning paths tailored to the learner’s needs, interests and competencies.

28. Clued Up – Creating Educational Escape Rooms (30 mins)

Stephan Caspar, Daryl Peel

In this workshop, participants create a short puzzle escape room activity. You will develop, design and represent a concept escape case activity. Supported by the Digital Learning Team at the University of Southampton, the activity is designed for use within your own institution to support the development of new games.

29. Games: Narratives, Structures or Play? (90 mins)

Sam Illingworth, Paul Wake

Is a successful game one that has an accomplished narrative, a well-defined structure, or one that encourages a sense of playfulness? Can it ever be all three? Join us in a facilitated game of Keith Baker’s Gloom (think Victorian-Gothic ‘Unhappy Families’) to decide for yourself.

30. SOTL! Research Design Game Playtest (90 mins)

Eleanor Hannan

Perplexed by the millions of research methods out there? How about your students?

‘SOTL’ (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) is a game played to teach research design skills. In this session, you are invited to play test the game, provide feedback, discuss possible developments and collaborations.

Reflections on the session:

It was wonderful to have such a wide range of people play the SOTL game. In the spirit of the conference I thought it would be interesting to intersperse the usual cards with playful research methods like “mime” and “LEGO® Model”. These turned out to be fascinating curveballs as players sought creative ways to align these methods to their research questions. Delegates provided really insightful feedback on their experience of the game and as educational practitioners. I hope that it will lead to collaborations and more playtests and would encourage delegates to get in touch (e.hannan at mmu ac uk) as I will be using the game as the focus on my Masters dissertation.

You can find out more about the SOTL game here!

32. Playful Engagement across Information Services (90 mins)

Stephanie Farley, Gavin Willshaw

The University of Edinburgh’s Information Services Group has developed a Playful Engagement strategy, utilising playfulness to create interest, boost attendance, and encourage interaction with its services and activities. This workshop will present our approach, providing opportunities for delegates to experience and reflect on examples of our playful engagement.

35. An Exploration of Lego Serious Games for Teaching Cell Biology in HE (90 mins)

Claire Garden, Arthur Robinson

Help to play test part of a Lego Serious Play Cell Biology practical, incorporating individual skills building tasks and a group activity. We will gather your reflections and feedback on the building challenge tasks and the facilitation method to inform our design process. Suitable for non-biologists and biologists alike!

36. Artful Grammar (60 mins)

Carla Hamer, Linda Matti

During this creative ‘Artful Grammar’ workshop participants will explore grammatical structures through art. The students will create a collage and a visual poem out of found materials and images that reflect on word order and sentence structure.

38. Wordhouse (60 mins)

Benjamin Hall, Jo Hassall

We will be recreating the work ethics of the Moral and Industrial Training School – also known as the Workhouse – in order to write, re-write, re-arrange, replace, redact and erase a collaborative text. This workshop will be hard fun, exploring authorship and ownership in the creation of new, shared narratives. Please bring a laptop, tablet or smart-phone in order to contribute to a central text engine.

39. Lessons learnt from designing a board game for 1000+ students (90 mins)

Geraldine Foley, Sarah Leach, Aggie Molnar

This interactive 90 minute session will invite participants to explore some of the issues of designing a game for a large-scale course with multiple restrictions and stakeholders. We will then share the lessons learnt from our experience which could be transferred to other large-scale projects.

42. Playing with LSP to reduce our carbon footprint (4hrs)

Esther Balmaña, Frank Mas

Throughout the conscious and serious play we propose to take consciousness of the activities that each of us do everyday and their impact on the carbon footprint. We will analize our own habits and will plan new ones to reduce our impact onto the carbon footprint. At the end of the session we will have a personal action plan to reduce the carbon footprint.

43. Playing with the past: an interdisciplinary workshop to promote imagination, curiosity and identity explorations (60 mins)

Maria Kukhareva, Anne Lawrence

Our interactive workshop invites you to explore your own position through image interpretation, and work with other disciplines to create your own activity

44. Playfully Hacking Society: a DIY Toolkit (90 mins)

Luca Morini

This workshop will contribute to the development and documentation of a transdisciplinary playful toolkit providing both participants and the general public with the means to develop and adapt their very own DIY community based playful interventions in urban and institutional environments, with play constituting the very core of an exploration of citizenship and rights.

46. Team Building – Can you build a team with Lego? (90 mins)

Alison Grieve, Leigh Morland, Rosaline Van der Weyer, Alex Moseley

Build a team both literally and metaphorically. This activity creates a shared team narrative based on individual’s identities and aspirations providing insights about each other whilst creating team rapport and clarity of common purpose. Each individual builds and uses their model to articulate complex ideas and thoughts, which are connected to create a team landscape.

A challenge:

Here is a four week Lego challenge you can try over the Summer:

  • Dig out or borrow a handful of Lego
  • Create a model representing what you :

week 1: will focus on this week
week 2: will use in your strengths and skills and talents this week
week 3: will overcome this week
week 4 : love about lego

  • The model has to sit on your desk for the whole week as a reminder – you can add to it as the week progresses.
  • Each week, tweet your picture to #playlearn17 (or why not blog your challenge and tweet a link to the finished post?)
  • Happy building!

50. Creative Problem Solving and Co-design: Testing different approaches to innovation with Paper-prototyping (60 mins)

Phillippa Rose

The workshop proposed is a practical, experiential, and interactive workshop to demonstrate the potential of collaborative design research and design doing, or making, whilst comparing and contrasting two distinct innovation learning paradigms.  By removing hierarchy, and using an agile, flat structure, we will bring experts and non experts together to collaboratively research and problem-solve and make low-fidelity paper prototypes in response to a series of practical challenges specifically designed to test the STI (Science, Technology Innovation)  & DUI (Doing Using Interacting innovation) paradigms.