Dice flying, cards dealing, hands scoring, spinners spinning, mouths cheering, legs running, iPhones snapping, and hashtags tagging. If you’re already picturing kids, picture again. If you’ve been around the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery in recent weeks, you would have seen rooms of full-grown adult educators playing and making games all day. They were participating in one (or more) of our two recent workshops — all-day sessions that lend the opportunity, space, and freedom to explore, tinker, dream, and cultivate ideas centered around Field Research, Games, and Learning through Design.
You probably get the drift these weren’t your typical professional development days. There was no sitting back and absorbing an abstract decontextualized lesson. Instead, everyone got involved in the action. While the workshops opened with a mini lecture, of sorts … a laying down of the vocabulary and learning science, we dove in quickly by playing games. In the Field Research workshop, this looked like getting outside and playing a mobile game about sustainability right on campus. And in the Games workshop, this meant playing Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and Munchkin (among other board games). The afternoons consisted of really challenging conventional thinking by actually designing and building tools and games. In the Field Research workshop we focused on developing a Siftr (a simple, mobile hands on field research tool), and in the Games workshop we designed, built, and play-tested ARIS games or board games (you read that right, actual board games– it’s not just about tech here!). From a card game based on Cards Against Humanity intended to help at-risk youth with social situations, to an ARIS game about the history of music, it was awesome to see what could be created and iterated on in just a few short hours.
A driving philosophy behind Field Day and our workshops is that the one who builds is the one who learns. We throw educators right into the design process, where they must consider and attack all elements and sides of a learning topic. Our hope is to see teachers working alongside their students … to see them designing concrete learning experiences rather than simply stuffing more abstract content into kids’ brains. Our workshops plop teachers right into the roles typically held by the kids, the learners. We challenge roles. We challenge modes. Why give kids games when they can design their own games? Why give teachers learning tools when they can create their own tools? We like to dream, imagine, and then go for it. What would happen if educators had no-holds-barred time for experimentation? Would they walk away from a single day with a workable prototype (without having any programming skills at all)? Our workshops proved a resounding YES. Not only did everyone leave with a prototype, but they also left with a room full of new connections and friends.
The one who builds is the one who learns.
–Field Day Lab Philosophy
The sun is setting, the games are packed away, and the workshop participants are abuzz, sharing dinner at Graze. The results of the workshops are evidenced in beaming faces and excited conversations. The participants loved having an entire day to dig in and experiment with support staff and fellow educators nearby to bounce ideas off of. They felt their perceptions of field research and games were challenged or changed, and they were inspired to keep moving forward on their designs. (One participant even stayed up all night at her hotel, working!)
This is our vision for Rally Wisconsin … joining forces with amazing educators in order to make amazing things. To learn more about upcoming workshops, see our website and follow along with us on social media. We are also excited to hold workshops hosted offsite! If your school, CESA, or organization is interested in hosting one of our workshops, please contact Jim Mathews at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until we meet again … RALLY ON.