This week I’m at the Birley Campus of MMU attending the Playful Learning Conference #playlearn16. Thank you @UCISA for the bursary which made this amazing experience possible. I say amazing because playing games takes me right out of my comfort zone.
Youngest son works here at Birley and while we were chatting about the conference, he reminded me how playing board games was an integral part of his childhood. Before this week I can’t remember the last time I opened a board game box. There’s lots of them here week but now – as then – computers are competing for attention.
We used to have a ZX Spectrum when that was cutting edge – and a shoe-box full of games. Today eldest son still plays WarHammer but youngest is a digital gamer. Thanks to him I can talk about Grand Theft Auto, Heavy Rain and Witcher. Love the graphics but still much to learn about the multitasking demands of an Xbox console! I’m more of a vicarious game-player rather than a real one and with regard to play it’s more the creativity aspects which interest me. I’m part of the #creativeHE network and we’ve just finished another open online week. With the conversations still fresh in my mind, of the questions I arrived with on Wednesday was how play and games might link up with creative approaches to HE. In particular, could I find ways to be more creative with introducing staff to TEL and developing digital capabilities. The conference isn’t over yet so there’ll be blog posts to follow which try and answer this. In the meantime I’m reflecting on the power of crowd sourcing to find things forgotten things.
This week I was defeated by Google. It started with a poet and the title of a book of poems. I couldn’t remember either. All I knew was male with a cancer diagnosis, northern England, something to do with a year spent in a sheep pen or shepherd shelter, within the last decade and I thought I’d read about him in the Guardian. I didn’t expect it to be a problem. After all you can find anything with Google – can’t you?
But it was and I couldn’t. On and off for a couple of days I tried variations of all the bits I could I could remember, confident Google would pick up something which would trigger what I needed. It didn’t. Instead it was an lesson in how Google makes overt decisions based on popularity and how this can prevent any covert, deeper connections from taking place. William Wordsworth and James Rebanks came up again and again. I learned some interesting asides like Yan Tan Thethera, an old english counting method, but could not discover my poet.
Then I thought – Library!
So I sent a tweet to @HullUni_Library who shared it with @hull_libraries from where it was picked up by @ who gave me the answer – all within minutes. Could it be Glyn Hughes ‘A Year in the Bull Box’. Not sheep but cattle. Yes – it could and it was!
Wrong beast but I’m not convinced it would have made much difference. When I briefly tried the same search terms, substituting cattle for sheep, still no luck. So thank you Lyn Fenby. I have the book of poems I needed for the final year of my creative writing course as well as discovering the rest of the work of Glyn Hughes who died in 2011 The Guardian Glyn Hughes Obituary.
With hindsight the library (shown above reconstructed in Minecraft) may have been the most obvious place to start but turning digital detective was an automatic conditioned behaviour.
The implications for learning and teaching are reassuring. One of the affordances of VLE is alleged to be supporting student independence so using search engines is part of induction processes while a core element of digital literacy is the authentication and validation of online resources. Of course, the internet doesn’t have the answers. It’s how we use it that counts. With regards to my poet, it was people who made the difference and, like reliving the value of playing board games at this Playful Learning event, it’s good to be reminded how being human in the digital age is what matters most of all.