Board Game Jams and Creative Learning


Playfulness has always been closely tied to the activity of learning for me. The fact that my mother was also my kindergarten teacher may have had something to do with this. Whenever I have an opportunity to bring something playful to a learning experience I leap at the chance. So when my colleague, Gavin Willshaw, suggested running a Board Game Jam as part of Innovative Learning Week 2016, I thought it was a fantastic idea.

Innovative Learning Week, now the Festival of Creative Learning, is a programme of events and activities running throughout the academic year, along with a curated, week-long programme of events in February. Both staff and students are invited to apply to run events and it’s a great way to experiment with new teaching and learning formats.

Our reasons for running a Board Game Jam were:

  • to encourage the use of and promote the incredible collection of digitised images by the University’s Centre for Research and Collections
  • to encourage and educate on the used of licensed digital resources
  • to encourage and educate the creating, licensing, and sharing of open educational resources to create some board games and have plenty of fun.

Fourteen students attended the all-day workshop and were guided through multiple steps to create their own board game. These included prototyping, play-testing, and adding variety and fun by employing different game mechanics.

At the end of the day students were filmed (using an iPad, nothing terribly hi-tech demonstrating the games they’d created. The games have been licensed and made available online for adaptation, modification, and re-use, using Creative Commons licenses. These can be viewed on the Open.Ed website.

The games were created using digitised images from the University of Edinburgh Library. Students reported leaving the session with a greater understanding of the resources available for them and how they could share their own work for others to re-use.

The event won that year’s ‘ILW Most Creative’ award, and we received requests to run an additional event for staff. Since February 2016 we have run an additional full-day workshop with the postgraduate Design Informatics students, two half-day workshops, and a one-hour challenge for staff. A further two events are planned for 2017, one as part of the Future Teacher program of events steered by Sian Bayne, Assistant Principal for Digital Education, and another for Peer Learning Support student volunteers.

The Festival of Creative Learning curated week of events, funding, and year-long support is an excellent opportunity to try out new formats of teaching and learning, and a great space in which to experiment. The ongoing enthusiasm and support we received for the Board Game Jam was made possible by the Festival and we really encourage anyone thinking of running an event to give it a try.

We’ll be returning for 2017 with an updated event, Board Game Jam: the expansion.

Board Game Jam materials are openly licensed and available on Open.Ed

View student’s games from the 2016 event on Open.Ed

Learn more about the Festival of Creative Learning

Charlie Farley

Stephanie (Charlie) Farley is the Open Educational Resources Advisor with Information Services, Learning Teaching and Web Services Division. She provides support and training in the creation and use of Open Educational Resources (Open.Ed), advises on the use of Social Media in Learning and Teaching, runs Board Game Jam sessions for various groups at the University, and runs the 23 Things for Digital Knowledge programme. Her background is in academic libraries with interests in open education, open access, copyright, and digital literacy.

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