John Stewart & Keegan Long-Wheeler presenting at Open Ed 16 conference

Anatomy of Slaying GOBLINs – #OpenEd16 Presentation

Last week, John and I gave one of my favorite presentations while at #OpenEd16. We spoke about our game-based professional development program, GOBLIN. During our 25 minute presentation, we combined role-play, gameplay, storytelling, and discussion to emulate the experience of participating in a session of GOBLIN.

Role-Play

To add subtle hype to our final-day-of-the-conference session, we distributed a few sightings of the GOBLIN via twitter:

These “sightings” aimed to invoke curiosity and set the tone for our presentation. John and I intended to paint the attendees of #OpenEd16 as warriors we’d gathered to consult and help us defeat the mighty GOBLIN. As soon as the session started, the role-play was already in full swing. John and I introduced ourselves as the Guru’s of these lands, seeking aid from valiant warriors. We were not disappointed.

One of John and I’s worries of the extensive role-play in our presentation was soliciting buy-in from participants. If role-play is not fun, coherent, or accessible, then it will not be well received—and like GOBLIN, we had crafted role-play into our presentation and staked success on this design. Fortunately, we were relieved at the laugher and feedback from Twitter inspired by our approach. We’d put a significant amount of thought and craftsmanship into how role-play would be integrated into our session and the results were fantastic:

My favorite line to deliver was about the computers, tablets, and smartphones of the participants:

These comments were not inconsequential. They allowed John and I to layer and tailor our own ideas over the real world. We were framing tasks in new light—breathing perspectives and meaning into normally trivial endeavors. In practice, John and I capitalized on the world we created with a short research game.

Gameplay

With our fantasy universe was established, we engaged participants in a simple game. The task was to submit open resources like images, video, or software to goblin.education/opened16. This crowdsourcing of information inflicted damage upon the GOBLIN. The more resources procured, the more points removed from the GOBLIN’s health bar:

Gif of GOBLIN being damaged by recourse submissions

There were so many people attempting to submit resources simultaneously that we crashed the website for a couple minutes! (Which was fine as we only need to demonstrate the concept of the game.) Nevertheless, thanks Lee! 😉

Storytelling

Cartoon campfire

Following the game, we launched into the history of GOBLIN. I framed this story in the context that John and I had encountered this menace before and needed to inform these warriors of the GOBLIN’s origin. This weaving of role-play and reality sure made for some memorable storytelling!

The birth of GOBLIN is quite simple; it arose from a single question:

This question drove the development of GOBLIN. We wrestled with it as developers/instructors and we used it as a point of engagement for our faculty.

In addition to this foundational question, John and I practice experiential pedagogies, and pragmatically, this means we use the concepts we’re teaching in the design of the instruction:

In practice, this meant we:

Once we established these two core ideas in the genesis of GOBLIN, we explained our development process and how open educational resources enabled us to build character cards for the table-top, D20 based RPG named GOBLIN.

But the GOBLIN game was merely a primer for discussion of pedagogical concepts like scaffolding, overcoming failure, and gamification (etc.). These discussions and the exorbitant amount of optional homework completed by faculty were where we engaged participants in professional development. Together, these aspects of GOBLIN resulted in the highest attendance of any faculty learning community we’ve ever facilitated (even ones where iPads were given as part of their involvement)!

However, the story is not all fun and games. GOBLIN suffered from a lack of equal representation among the characters. For instance, it was difficult to find open female artwork that was not heavily sexualized. John and I made it a point to diversify our characters as much as possible. We used labels to imply gender ambiguous artwork was female and ensured that no more than half of the characters where explicitly male. But even with our attempts, we still received feedback that greater diversity should be present. We agree and plan to keep working at improving this weakness of our program.

Slide from GOBLIN presentation showing female character and implied female character, sorceress.
Female rogue and implied female character, sorceress.

Discussion

Fortunately, we concluded our presentation in several minutes of open discussion and talked about these shortcomings with the attendees. There were some great suggestions to engage art students at the university in producing open artwork for GOBLIN.

Others spoke about artwork and their fear of competing against high budget games. John and I let the discussion evolve naturally and many great points arose from these statements:

To wrap it all together, Erika Bullock gave a testimony as a student who participated in developing games for class assignments. She attested to the potential of learning inherent in that design process and her comments encouraged instructors to consider the value of games as instructional opportunities.

What a great time of discussion we had. John and I enjoy crowdsourcing ideas from the discussions we host in GOBLIN or in presentations about GOBLIN. Learning is best as a communal experience. 🙂

Reflection

Presenting at #OpenEd16 was a phenomenal experience. The opportunity to share ideas and work with many of the people I look up to is a fantastic “right of passage.” Like Terry said in his #OpenEd16 reflection, “It is VERY satisfying, when you get up the nerve to tell [your edu heroes] you admire their work…to see them seem genuinely grateful for the praise and interested in who you are.” I couldn’t have asked for a greater audience and location.

One component of the presentation that folks might not have been aware of at the time, is that the entire presentation was a reflection of a GOBLIN session. We used a game to set the stage and add context to the discussion we wanted to facilitate. There were some extra components since it was a presentation, like the dive into GOBLIN history and the how the building process was impacted by open resources. But overall, very similar structure between GOBLIN and this presentation about GOBLIN. #meta

From the feedback we received and the questions following our presentation, I’d call the session a success. I made a lot of connections with folks interested in GOBLIN and look forward to the working with them.

As a reminder, GOBLIN is built using open materials and is also licensed openly for you to take it, adapt it, use it, and expand it. If you want some assistance with the materials, let us know. Be aware that we’re still building pieces of the GOBLIN  website and improving implementation and distribution.

Also, if you want a copy of our slides, here you go:

Finally, if there’s one way our presentation will be remembered, I’m glad it’s because we gifted D20 dice as swag. 😀

The featured image is included with Mark Morvant’s permission.

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