Our First Workshop, and some Thoughts on the Design process

Our First Workshop, and some Thoughts on the Design process

Our First Workshop, and some Thoughts on the Design process

It was great to meet again the other partners in Barcelona for our first workshop, three months after the Kickoff here in Coventry, and finally getting our hands dirty at trying and designing scenarios!

This is frankly a huge project, which means working with people speaking very, very different, languages. This is not so much about our different national idioms, those are the easy and enriching part, this is about the plural and even contrasting disciplinary languages and perspectives, and working out if we are talking about the same thing when actually you are not. So “requirements” had indeed a very different meaning for everyone, depending on them being “game people”, business people, engineers or learning specialists (and everything in between).

Despite these differences, everything went very well: the playfulness that should characterise the BEACONING project as a whole helped us “break down barriers”, as the project title itself states. We have been able to see, and learn from, how people from different backgrounds approach similar problems from very different angles: from more structured spreadsheets, to scribbles on whiteboards, to random messes of post-its… Anyway, the wall-sized blackboards of the room we were in were a lot more colourful at the end of the day, and we came away with a basic idea of how to structure missions and activities, and of the technical, structural and ethical requirements that underpin them.

And yes, the tapas were very good too! 🙂

Now, a more personal “insider” point of view from the Coventry Play-Learn design team: in my opinion there are two main, linked challenges (among tons of others) in bringing forward such a huge, international project, at the crossings of its material constraints and its learning aims.

One is contextual flexibility as pertaining to the huge scope of the project: even just our pilot will be deployed across a wide variety of European contexts (diverse in their curricula, urban spaces, digital infrastructures, socioeconomic situations), so we need to create (and allow for the creation of) content which can remain meaningful, useful and flexible enough to be adapted (and adopted) in every situation. For example, how to design a pervasive Play-Learn path that maintains its core, while being playable among Milan’s skyscrapers and in a small Greek village?

Playability brings us to the second challenge: as both a life long gamer and education scholar, among my very first preoccupations is agency, as I consider it the key route to achieving meaningful experience. On the other hand, school plans are still structurally prescriptive, something that is sometimes hard to reconcile with the non-linear nature of our projects. We cannot simply reject this state of things, or teachers might not adopt (and be able to adapt) the technological platform that we are providing them with.

Right now our approach to this challenges is a deconstructive, iterative one: by building (mostly) prescriptive scenarios and discussing them with actual teachers and tutors, we will try and identify their constituent patterns, to break them down and extract the bits and pieces that will inform our general scenario design and go into the authoring tool. Involving practitioners in the design of the scenarios from the start, we will be able to refine them, make them usable and useful, and keep them grounded in their actual necessities, yet always keeping the door open for flexibility and adaptability.