Guest post – DigiLearn: Playfulness in Adult Education: “Let’s not be Board”

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Author: Jaqueline Williams – Senior Lecturer (School of Social Work, Care & Community)  

The concept of visual representation for learning is essentially a simple idea whereby, as educators one provides a visual hook for students to anchor to, as they develop their knowledge and explore their learning across the session. I now use differing aspects of digital imagery throughout many of my sessions and continue to develop these in an innovative way, as I progress through my academic career.  

For this blog I will be scrutinising the use of on-line family board games as a form of visual representation or visual imagery, for developing those key skills which, can be used to support theoretical knowledge. Board games are significant in most of our memories, when thinking about early childhood and family time. Images of playing around the kitchen table evoke such feelings of pleasure and happiness. However, maybe some of this engagement is missing within the psyche of this generation, due to their prominent interest in the virtual world. So, my thoughts go to re-engaging this generation of students with this type of learning opportunity, encapsulating all of these salient benefits, but with a modern twist using the on-line digital platform. B 

By using digital technology, in the form of on-line games, certainly re-engages this type of pursuit for the benefit of the contemporary generation. The gamification of such experiences is classified as an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments, something I have develop a deep passion for. The goal is to maximise enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning. So, for example when considering a subject such as research, we all know that the teaching of ethics is one of possibly the most important components of this, and as such is often integral throughout all research sessions. To enable students to recall this recurrently, when introducing ethics, I engage the students in a popular on-line board game called Scruples. The students readily participate in this fun on-line activity with the increasing development of the awareness, that ethics is not only a complex subject, but also something that needs to be viewed from a variety of perspectives, many of which they may not have initial considered themselves. The game of Scruples engages students in these challenging debates, with their peers, until a consensus of the most appropriate solution is achieved, through engagement with lively deliberations and critical on-line dialogue. Certainly, this ability to analyse issues from both sides is a salient skill which students are required to embed.  

There are of course many more examples of imagery building through on-line board games, including the game of Risk which, enables students to develop skills of diplomacy and negotiation, Monopoly encourages probability and social interaction, Chess is significant in developing cognitive ability and thought processes and even Scrabble can be adapted to include research terms and concepts. Simply put, from a humble game can come those key attributes for success. Good practice in the teaching of the conventions of representation is suggested as one of the key principles of ensuring early and more explicit recall of information. However, specific research and development is needed, especially around the use of technology, if this key aspect of knowledge acquisition and display, are to be fully recognised in the varied curricula of formal education. 


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