Games 4 Learning

storycubes_aid_creativity

I delivered a workshop on ‘Games 4 Learning‘ at the UK Horizons STEM conference in June 2017. This went well, and much talking and actions ensued from the participants about how they might use games in their teaching. At the end a question of resources came up, and I realised that I didn’t have a list of them on a slide. This short post replaces the ‘missing slide’.

The games mentioned in the session were:

Lego Serious Play (See other blog posts on this)
Jenga
Werewolf
Happy Salmon
Kanban Pizza Game
Various Lego Scrum Simulation games
Scrum Card Game
StoryCubes
Penny Game (dice variation)
Lean Workflow Design Game
Marshmallow Challenge
Ball Point Game
Ninja Bear Granny (rock paper scissors) with team/group variations
Investigative Rehearsal (role play), and Theatre of Oppressed/Forum Theatre

TastyCupCakes is a wonderful site to find games for a variety of purposes, although many are aimed at software development.

The Encyclopaedia of Improv Games offers a useful list of games used in improv training. These can be simple and easy to use and adapt to your needs.

The Thing Group offer many types of games for training. I know some people use these, but I haven’t had an opportunity to explore them more fully. I put it here as an option.

For each of these look at what might work, and think of how you might introduce them in your sessions. If in doubt, talk about it with a colleague, or try it and explain that it’s ‘an experiment’ and you’d like some feedback.

Do feel free to get in touch and let me know how you get on with these.

Academic and tech conference issues

I regularly attend a number of tech conferences each year and a smaller number of academic ones. This works well for me as I am always seeking better ways to educate my students about professional practices.

Last week I was guiding visitors around the campus as part of a site visit for an academic conference, which we’d like to host at the University of Aberdeen. Most of this went well and we identified all of the rooms that we could use for talks and breakout sessions as well as locations for the conference dinner and coffee breaks. We also had good conversations during the day in between walks around the campus to see different locations, as well as over dinner across a range of issues.

During these talks I became more aware of differences in academic and tech conferences. Some of the ideas from tech conferences can be easily brought into play for academic ones.This is important because conferences should be a time for the spreading of good ideas from one place to another.

Dinner with a stranger

For the conference evenings without ‘the dinner’ we can use the ‘Dinner with a stranger‘ model that I’ve now experienced a number of times including the one written about by Corinna. This lets people pick where to go and gives them the option of bringing a friend for company, as well as an opportunity to mingle with others. It helps keep people at the bigger event connected during the smaller events. As suggested via Twitter, this could also be called ‘dinner with a new friend’.

#upfront

We all need to speak in public as academics. It goes with the territory.  What we don’t always provide are pathways for ‘new’ speakers to get more comfortable with public speaking by being able to ‘experience the stage’ without being the centre of attention. Lauren Currie started #upfront as a way to make that step easier for those who want to enter public speaking. I organised the Northern Lights Conference to use this approach in 2016, and it meant that a number of people were able to experience the stage without having to talk. Next year, hopefully, when they are speakers, they’ll already know what to expect.

#upfront at Nothern Lights

We should use this type of approach, as shown above with two siting on the stage next to the speaker, at academic conferences too so that academics gain expeience before they speak. They can be that bit closer to the talking and we gain more diversity in speakers too. This would be a simple exercise to try.

Coffee breaks

You’d think that we’d all agree on something as simple as coffee breaks. However, you’d be wrong. At academic conferences the goal is to have people in the talks. This isn’t supported by those who skip talks to have another coffee and catch up with a friend to discuss a new collaboration. That conversation should happen at lunch, or at night over dinner or in the bar it seems. At academic conferences the breaks need to be fixed and shorter rather than longer so as to maximise the sessions.

At tech conferences, which I go to there are always beverages available during the day for people to grab as needed to fuel a conversation. One year there were fixed coffee times, but that changed and it also didn’t stop people skipping sessions to talk about ideas and collaborations. That’s why we’re at these coferences after all. By the way, these are regular conferences and not open space or unconference events. At those, I’d expect there to be food and drink all day to help keep conversations going.

I like the ‘come and drink and eat when you’re ready’ approach of tech conferences. I like knowing that I can grab the slide deck, if I miss a session, because my priority right now is to speak to person x, who is only here for a few days. I think there should be space for both attendng sessions and for also enabling the freedom of ‘coffee’s here, keep talking’.

And, when I think about it. At the regular events i attend, then i a crowd of 80 there are maybe 7-8 people not in one session or another, while an event with 250-300 sees maybe 10-12 in the coffee lounge during sessions. These are not large numbers. These are where people deepen friendships and work gets done.

Codes of Conduct

We added a code of conduct for the Northern Lights Conference last year. Friends told me that this was needed now, and that some people wouldn’t attend if we didn’t have one. After a bit of searching around and finding that all of the conferences that I go to had them, apart from an open space one, which deals with this in a different manner, then I decided we too should have one. We based ours on the one used by ScotlandJS. I also had a long talk with the organiser about how they curate the talks and engage people to put themselves forward as speakers, as this is often part of the issue too. People had to agree to the code when they purchased tickets, or agreed to be sponsors. If you need a brief guide on the bad things that happen at conferences then this timeline shows you what’s been reported on in the past.

I looked around to see if any academic tech conferences have codes of conduct. I didn’t find any. I did find documents like the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.  This is mostly about the software being developed, and actions of an individual in other scenarios might be interpretted as applying to conferences too, but that is also possible too generous an interpretation. The IEEE Code of Conduct comes closer to what’s needed and does talk about the issues in a more general manner which does cover conferences too.

I found one call for an academic conference code of conduct. This, as you can see, raises all of the issues that we see in the Times Higher Education, and in other places too. It also carries on in the comments of the post. I also found that the IASSIST conference has a code of conduct, which will cover the issues too.

Ultimately, it all comes down to this: do we need a code of conduct? Shouldn’t participants be expected to be good to one another? Maybe they will, but some of them won’t be. Listen carefully to conversations around you and you’ll find that things do happen, which shouldn’t at conferences. Ask the organisers too if you’re in doubt. The Code of Conduct 101 covers most of the reasons, why you want one, and answers you’re ‘yes, but…’ items too.

A conference should be a joyous occasion where people meet for the first time, or the upteenth time to hang out and discuss life, work, and what comes next. We should also know that if something untoward does happen, that it will be dealt with appropriately and that participants know who to speak to if they need to report something. We should set an example.

While computing in academia and the tech industry might be considered similar, there are still differences and some of the trends we see in industry should move into academia. We are here to help mould the ones who work in industry, so we should teach them well and provide good examples.

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Humble Enquiry Workshop at Lean Agile Scotland

Ellen Grove Twitter LinkedIn and I ran a 90 minute workshop based on the work of Edgar Schein and his book Humble Enquiry at the Lean Agile Scotland conference in October 2016.  The goal was to highlight that people should (need to) take the time to build relationships between each other in order to have teams and groups of people work better when difficult occassions arise.

Humble Enquiry starts from the position that it’s better to ask questions, than to tell people what to do. Similarly, it is about being vulnerable to asking questions and being curious in order to know how you might help each other. We focused on four stages:

  • why use Humble enquiry?
  • what is humility?
  • asking good questions
  • why humble enquiry is hard

by the end people should be able to practice humble enquiry on their own because we told them about it and offered chances for them to ask appropriate questions in a humble manner.

It was well received according to the feedback cards of participants.

Play4Agile 2016 – one big family

All in the family

Play4Agile (p4a) 2016 is over for another year. As always it’s part reunion with dear friends, and part excitement at meeting new people at this ‘unconference’, where you learn to expect to be surprised by what you find happening. I mentioned this as part of my brief lightning talk on the Thursday evening. This is one big safe space, where you can explore ideas in sessions knowing that you will get support from those around you. It is so safe that, as mentioned on twitter, a transgender person came out to everyone there. That was a nice moment.

The ‘family’ aspect was reinforced in two ways this year. First, we had the village that is the p4a community looking after Myrta, who was a regular attendee to many sessions as both of her parents are also part of the community. It wasn’t unusual to see Myrta playing with and being looked after by others with her parents in different sessions. This is now the third year where this ‘community childcare’ is happening at p4a and it seems to work perfectly well. At some point I’m sure that we’ll possibly have bigger kids in attendance too. It possibly hasn’t happened as we are limited by space at the event so we can only have around 80 attendees, so they might need to sleep on the floor or in a camp bed.

The other ‘family’ aspect which I realised later was the wonderful way that sessions turned into ‘family’ portraits thanks to the lovely graphical recording work done by Kata and Marti from Remarker, who work the paper together like pair programmers with Kata doing the illustrations and Marti doing the words. One will start something and the other will follow on as needed to fill the large sheet so that anyone coming along later will know the title of the session and see the key takeaways. Having this pair at p4a meant we had a wall of history growing before our eyes. This was a great addition to the event this year and I look forward to seeing them at events in the future. Kata and Marti were told to feel free to choose the sessions they record, and to join any session they wanted to attend too. This is why you’d see them everywhere during the weekend. They are also now ‘family’ as we’ve asked, and they agreed to come join us again next year. As Kata told me, this was the best conference she’d ever been to as they were told to look after themselves and maintain a sustainable pace over their time with us. As a result she was able to take advantage of the location’s facilities and unwind after a long day recording our activities.graphic recording of lightning talks

The ‘family’ aspect was also shown in the relationship between the hotel staff and the p4a participants. We were told that staff avoid going on holiday over our weekend. The staff want to work our weekend. We talk to staff, and they learn our names extremely fast. They even know to pre-order some soft drinks for our members as part of the event. It’s also not unusual now to see staff and guests hugging each other good bye. It’s an amazing event.

The ‘family’ aspect of the event with people feeling safe encourages the learning that we each do there as we’re relaxed and feel that we can move from our comfort zone to our ‘adventure zone’ and learn new skills while also sharing ideas for discussion. I should also point out that the sharing ideas goes on all day and night. Friday and Saturday might go from an 07:00 walk or jog with someone in the woods through to 08:00 for breakfast followed by the open space starting at 09:00 and sessions running until 13:00 for lunch and afternoon sessions then running from 14:30 to 17:30 with an ‘evening news’ at 18:00 followed by dinner and then evening events of games, power point karaoke and talking with friends from 20:00 until 03:30-04:30. You could in other words find yourself with little sleep.

Games for learning

I find p4a so useful as it inspires me with games to use in the classroom and stories to use when talking to students. This year there were several highlights playing games in the bar in the evening. For example, we were talking about ‘real options’ and Olaf mentioned that he uses the game of Fluxx to show the difference between ‘options and commitments’. The rules constantly change so you can’t plan, and have to keep your options open until you find a successful way to commit to something in the game. Adding this game to the classroom will be a good way to bring home the issue of ‘options’ and systems.

Similarly, during a Werewolf session we learned that decisions happen much faster when opinions are reduced in ‘no talking’ rounds. This ‘silent’game round went much faster, than in the rounds where the villagers can talk and argue their opinions.

While playing Escape in the evening we also found a lot about communication being shared (or not) by players, and about the emotional state of players too, as shown in the graphic recoding of the session by Kata and Marti. Thanks to them we realised things, which our observers of the game had said. This was a very nice extra to find them working into the evening sessions and not stopping after dinner.Adventure Zone

Learning with StrategicPlay

The best sessions for me this year were the ones run by Katrin. This started with the pre-conference Agile Game Slam where everyone worked through a number of known games for different scenarios, and then created ideas for other games in the same scenarios, some of which ended up being worked on over the weekend too. This was a good example of Katrin using her CoCreACT process, and as always it’s good to see someone, who loves what she does, facilitate events as she offers so much during the process.

I was also able to see her and Jens guiding the Flowa team through this later too in a slightly different application of the CoCreACT process. Flowa were wanting help to determine where they should go, and Katrin, Jens and I helped them with this. This was a good extra to show how you can always be surprised by the unexpected at p4a. We followed this up with another session using Lego Serious Play process to develop models in relation to various challenge statements about the firm’s vision and ideal customers, which was good to see.

Lastly, I helped Jan run a short ‘taster’ session on Lego Serious Play under Katrin’s guidance, which was fun. Jan, found it a bit more nervous doing this under Katrin’s kind gaze, and people repeatedly told Jan that they liked the session, which was good for her confidence. All of us, who trained with StrategicPlay in being Lego Serious Play facilitators under Katrin have gone through this, so now Jan too has taken this rite of passage.

Rory’s sessions

Although Rory wasn’t here, he was here in spirit with his Story Cubes and in the Extroidinaire design studio, which were both here this weekend. We all received a ‘mixin’ pack of three Story Cube dice as part of the p4a gamafication kit this year, which was a great surprise. Jordann and Alex also ran a useful session on how you can use Story Cubes with agile teams that produced a good number of ideas that I can use, and Katrin and Jens introduced us all to the Extroidinaires as a design thinking approach, which anyone can follow to learn the approach. This will be useful for classes in the future.

The other sessions

I also went to Bettina’s NVC game session, which was the ongoing story of a game she started working on last year at p4a15. I wanted to see if I could glean any ideas for my own conversation based game. Whereas she starts from Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication approach, I start from Crucial Conversations, so while there is some overlap, and her approach is more heavy-weight than what I intend, it did offer me a few ideas for perhaps using ‘scenario’ or ‘concept’ cards so that players get more of the background. However, this might slow the game down and not be so useful for beginners, which is my intended audience.

Tim offered his Scrum Card Game twice it was so popular, and I made it to the second session. I’m always looking for new ways to introduce the ‘feeling’ of a scrum sprint to students and I hoped this might be ‘the one’ to use as it would take away the ‘oh Lego’ feel, which happens when building objects with Lego. I wasn’t disappointed, and hope to see this up on TastyCupCakes soon.

Juhu and I joined together for a session to discuss how to deal with conflict. He had specific issues to cover, and I wanted some feedback on my card game. This worked well for him and folks concluded that you need to develop a sense for issues both at a personal level so that you are aware of your own feelings when things aren’t going right and that you might be building up to explode at someone, while also developing a wider sense of how the team is doing in the sense of ‘danger spots’ in a minefield. Although my idea didn’t get much discussion, that was ok as people wanted to discuss the larger issue of conflict and I found some useful ideas there, which I can carry forward for the next iteration of my game idea.

The last session I went to was Ari-Pekka’s ‘Culture Coding’ session, which I’ve already written about.

I liked co-facilitating the ‘retro-festival’ with Jordan. We tried a new ‘speed’ retrospective with six stalls for people to work their way through in five minute sessions at each stall. As this was with five teams we were able to give ‘stall holders’ a short break as people moved around the stalls. There were stalls for ‘Story Cube stories of feedback’, ‘A sailboat of driving forces and hinderances’, ‘a wishing box of dreams for p4a’, and a ‘back to the future of what was great about p4a17’, along with a ‘weather chart’ of the overall process that goes into a gathering: registration, pre-event info, the marketplace, open space and other things. The format was fun and seemed to work well with some fun comments back from people about our different format.

Wrapping Up

p4a is still the best conference that I attend. I ALWAYS find useful ideas that work their way into my teaching and facilitation practice. It provides good space to try ideas and receive useful feedback from other practitioners, who face these problems and issues on a more regular basis than I do in my classroom. This is the place where I can validate my book learning through conversations and facilitation practice so that it becomes valid praxis for me to use everyday. This is me doing my professional development. This is what I do for ‘work’, although admittedly at p4a it doesn’t feel like work. Not even with when you’ve only had three or four hours of sleep.

Culture Coding Concept

The last session I went to at #p4a16 was ‘Culture Coding’ from Ari-Pekka Lappi was great. He explored how you can use the notion of ‘coding’ with its ‘function’ concepts to build design routines into your practices. In the same way that a kid could use Scratch with its drag-n-drop code snippets to form loops and such, you can do the same when trying to generate new ideas, or to build upon other ones that you already have. This was something I’d not thought about before and was just ‘so cool’ that I’ll need to use it with CityLab students this week and see how it works in practice.

The basic idea goes from the observations noted in the Tweet from @cuxdu during the session:

With ‘code’ snippets on Stattys we can easily move the concepts around to try different ideas. The concepts came in different formats. There were ‘functions’ like ‘define main function(s)’, ‘contrast’, ‘polarise’, ‘overlap’, ‘oscillate’, ‘compose music/make a constallation’ and others likes ‘loop’, ‘repeat 3 times’, ‘combine’ and similar. There was also a notion of conceptual layers like ‘family’, ‘criminal mind’, ‘work’, ‘business’, and others which you could pull in as context as needed. Another group was around objects with concepts like ‘pick an object’, ‘pick another object’, ‘define main function(s)’, ‘eliminate the main function’, ‘think of the use of the product’, ‘why would anyone want it’, ‘how it feels’, ‘swap the core essences’, ‘substitute the main function of one with the main function of another’, ‘add something to the object to make it impossible (surrealise)’

The best(?) bit was using examples like this ‘pick an object’, and ‘pick another object’ whereby you’d pick someting in the room and take something away so that it doesn’t work. For example, take a chair and remove a leg and while it maintains the shape, it won’t work the same way anymore.

This was real cool as with this process you should be able to take a group of people and have them run through a few of these exercises and generate a number of possible product or service ideas without too much trouble. With a bit of practice delivering this as a workshop one should be able to guide them to useful ideas.

It will be interesting to do this with a group of students on Wednesday for the Aberdeen CityLab project and see how they are able to apply this to their current ideas.

UPDATE 5 November 2016: I used this in a workshop at #creakix 2016 which went well, and helped me as this  ‘culture_coding‘ workshop .

Importing excel files into NVivo for Mac

As part of a project I was trying to import a spreadsheet of data into NVivo for Mac so that this would become the classification sheet for each instance of the data. However, it kept reporting an error about the data having different numbers of columns in the rows.
Several hours of frustration later, having checked for spare commas, and other characters, which might cause problems in what should be a csv file, I checked Google and found my solution.
This page http://forums.qsrinternational.com/index.php?showtopic=5361 has the answer: everything has to be utf-16 as unicode text and then it will all work correctly. For me this meant downloading the data from http://www.typeform.com as a cvs file and then converting that to utf-16 as a text file and then importing it into NVivo. If you put it into excel format, then it gets messed up along the way it seems so better to stick with the text formats as long as you can.
Anyways, I hope this helps someone else the way it helped me.

Build a Better You Through Failure – #lascot15

I am presenting a talk on how to use ‘becoming comfortable with uncomfortableness’ as a growth strategy at Lean Agile Scotland 2015 in Edinburgh. I’ll add more to this for later, but this will work for now.

This is where you can find edited the slides, from the presentation – now without the errors of the event 🙂 Those really were an accident, but did work well for the session as they were my own failures in the heat of the session.

These are the sources I used while developing the ideas over the years:

Scott Adams, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

Jules Evans, Philosophy for Life and other Dangerous Situations

Andy Hunt, Pragmatic Thinking and Learning

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow

Kelly McGonigal, Maximum Willpower: How to Master the New Science of Self-Control

Steven Pressfield, Do the Work!

David Rock, Your Brain at Work

Julien Smith, The Flinch

Mark Williams and Danny Penman, Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world