Dare you join the playful rebellion?

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Authors: Gemma Spencer, Emma Gillaspy,  Abhi Jones, Julia Robinson, James Thompson, and Michael Smith (University of Central Lancashire)


The playful rebellion is made up of an interdisciplinary group of academics on a mission to transform higher education. Whilst we understand that more traditional methods of teaching and learning have their place, we strive for the integration of more contemporary pedagogies. We love to play, and we love to talk about it!

On 17 May 2022, the first Playful Learning Marketplace was held in the Creative Innovation Zone at UCLan – to showcase innovative and creative approaches from across the University. Staff were invited to drop into the marketplace to:

Explore new approaches and learn about different playful facilities across our campus.

Play with existing games and creative ideas already used in teaching.

Create and get ideas to take forward into their own teaching.

Staff from various academic disciplines showcased their creative teaching ideas – including escape rooms, Lego, virtual reality, and board games to demonstrate academic learning.

“What a brilliant afternoon. We have come away with so many ideas.”


The concepts of playful learning and gamification are not new. Have you ever asked a 5-year-old what they do at school all day? Very often the answer is ‘play’. So, why do we shy away from this as adults? ‘Learning through play’ is known to improve cognitive development in adults and children, and has deep roots in traditional learning theory (Piaget 1962; Vygotsky 1962).

Student evaluations to such creative approaches to teaching and learning have been overwhelmingly positive, with students asking for more of these kinds of sessions (see previous CCL blog post regarding Escape Rooms for further details).

Staff responses to the playful marketplace were very encouraging, with many intrigued as to how they could incorporate such approaches into their teaching practice (see examples below). It was great to hear the chatter of moments of inspiration after visiting one of the stalls.

“Great! Can we have an away day for developing resources?”

“Lots of amazing and transferrable activities. Thank you.”

“I didn’t realise there were so many connections between language learning and learning how to teach in higher education.”

“Inspired. Thank you.”


If you have been inspired by this blog post to join the playful rebellion – or if we can support you in anyway, please do not hesitate to contact any member of the team:

We have also created a Padlet full of useful resources to get you started and to share information regarding future playful learning events.

Now what?

How can I see some hands-on examples? I hear you ask. Well, we have a game for that!

As part of our playful learning day, the wonderful Jim Thompson in game design created a playful learning trail across the UCLan campus where you can explore some of the facilities available.

A Playful Rebellion

You are invited to follow this trail around the UCLan Preston campus to discover what playful things already occur. You might be surprised how many examples of games and playfulness already exist in our teaching.

Each stage has some information and questions about play and playfulness that you might wish to consider in relation to your own work. We hope you will take this opportunity to reflect on your own teaching practice. Maybe there is a playful opportunity you have not yet discovered?

How to play!

You will first need to download and install the app ‘Actionbound’ from the app store on your device.

There are two versions of the trail. The first; ‘A Playful Rebellion’ will take you on a walking tour of the Preston campus where you will discover locations mentioned and activities described. A good way to get your steps in.

The second version is for off campus use and does not require you to move around the Preston campus, so you can do it from the comfort of your armchair.

Take a look at the on-campus version

Take a look at the armchair version


Piaget, J., (1962), Play, dreams and imitation in childhood, W. W. Norton & Company, New York

Vygotsky, L. S., (1962), Thought and Language, Wiley, New York


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