As I write my thoughts (a lot more than originally intended) on the plane home, I’m struck by the fact that my face is rather sore from laughing and smiling so much during #OLCInnovate. Not sure if this is any indication of the last several months or the sheer fun I had at #OLCInnovate?

The Innovation Lab

John Stewart and I volunteered (or were volunteered perhaps?) to lead the “Game Lab” corner of the Innovation Lab. This just meant that we sought to engage folks in the game design process, gameful learning, and the science of play during #OLCInnovate. Consequently, we stocked the Game Lab with “game-making materials” (blank dice, blank playing cards, Twine, etc.) and computers to showcase GradeCraft, eXperience Play, and faculty made Twine games. Originally, we hoped that people would be able to make their own Twine games when they visited the Game Lab, but between sporadic internet and the many events happening in the Innovation Lab, this was not to be.

Fortunately for us, we had lots of fantastic people helping to make the Game Lab a success. I want to take a moment and give a huge shoutout to Rachel Neimer, Kate Sheppard, and Dria Wiltjer who assisted with the Game Lab; Phylise Banner, Ann Musgrove, Dave Goodrich, Ryan StraightSteven Crawford and everyone else who facilitated the other parts of the Innovation Lab; and Ben Scragg whose leadership brought all of these awesome people together. All of you were instrumental in making #OLCInnovate such a great experience for me.

Thinking back, my favorite sessions in the Innovation Lab were all the ones that involved listening to Rick Franklin play blues guitar; from the comical “Whose Design is it Anyway?” led by Ben Scragg to the Game Jam about improvisation that John and I hosted, Rick’s performances elevated my #OLCInnovate conference experience. (And I’ve been listening to Rick’s albums as I write. My favorite thus far is Dancing With My Baby as recommended by Rick. Check it out, because it’s spectacular. 🙂 )

Improvisation

Improv​ as a mindset and a metaphor for life was one of the major themes championed by Ben Scragg and embodied in the spirit (and sessions) of the Innovation Lab. As a mindset, improv seeks to instill openness and flexibility in our perspective. One example permeating conversations was approaching life as “yes, and…” where we expand on each others ideas as we work together instead of dismissing each others thoughts with “yes, but….” Similarly, improv was also presented as a metaphor for life where we can’t control all the aspects in our lives and must be agile as we face unexpected challenges. In particular, Dave Goodrich, Rick Franklin, and I had some fantastic conversations around the role of improvisation, music, games, etc. in bringing people together at #OLCInnovate and more specifically within the Innovation Lab. A week later and I’m still thinking about my life from a new perspective—as one continuous improvisation.

Why Games at a Conference?

One of the best parts of #OLCInnovate was getting to play Nintendo Switch games with both friends and many new acquaintances. Although games are often used to engage people in collaboration, problem solving, and memorable learning experiences (these certainly occurred during virtual cow milking sessions), they weren’t the main reason I brought the Switch. I specifically used this device as an ice breaker to melt the social barriers that keep us from deeply connecting. I enjoyed every moment of making people feeling awkward, get competitive, and bursting into fits of laughter to catalyze relationships and promote discussions around education and more specifically the role of games in learning. (I’m certainly a gaming instigator at heart.) This was one of my favorite aspects of the improv-filled space of the Innovation Lab—just look at the fun we were having:

Goodness, this was SO great! 😀

Game Jam

In addition to playing games, John and I led a Game Jam where we engaged folks in designing games. This was a collaborative activity that we themed around improvisation and we instructed participants to build games using Twine, blank dice, blank playing cards, etc. in under 1 hour. There were all kinds of game prototypes that came our of this experience—board games, card games, music games, chemistry dice games, and more were produced during this hour-long design sprint. For me, it was fun to challenge people to complete a small design project, but getting to discuss design and witness people expressing their creativity was the most rewarding part.

While the Game Jam was happening, John Stewart & Dave Goodrich also hosted a Virtually Connecting (VC) session that involved several awesome folks, but unfortunately suffered from intermittent internet at #OLCInnovate. Nevertheless, I want to give a huge shoutout to the facilitators Sundi Richard and Wendy Taleo as well as all the participants for their interest in this event. As a shameless plug for VC, I encourage you to explore the other great conversations that took place at #OLCInnovate:

We’re @Vconnecting from #OLCInnovate on April 5-7, 2017

Games as Models for Learning

Another highlight from #OLCInnovate was the panel/discussion that John Stewart, Kate Shepard, Rachel Neimer, Ben Scragg, and myself hosted. Instead of a typical panel, we each gave quick overviews of our game projects before breaking into smaller discussion groups. John and Kate focused on Rezzly/3DGame Lab and how they used it to gamify their History of Science course. Racheal Neimer showcased GradeCraft as a platform to facilitate gameful pedagogy within classes. While Ben and myself focused on the eXperience Play (XP) professional development program to empower instructors to integrate game design into their courses.

A crowded room of people attending our #OLCInnovate session about games and learning.

The crowded room where we engaged folks in discussion of games and learning.

After our introductions, we split off into the corners of the room and had participants migrate to the topics that interested them most. The conversations and questions we had at this point were phenomenal. I walked through Twine and gave an overview of the eXperience Play curriculum to folks that had self selected to learn more about text-based game design in the classroom. Some of the questions I received related to the technical prowess of Twine and how it could be used to teach coding, digital literacy, web literacy, information/media literacy and more; while others asked for examples of how they might integrate the game design process into their courses. One of my favorite inquiries was from a business instructor. He was wondering where text-based game design could engage his students and I recommended using it as an opportunity to facilitate the exploration of business ethics where students could simulate real world choices with real world consequences. We were both pretty excited about this idea!

With XP programs at both the University of Oklahoma and Ohio State University, I’ll be interested to see if folks from this #OLCInnovate session consider using the eXperience Play curriculum. (Let me know if this appeals to you.)

Connecting

In addition to all the above shenanigans, I finally got to connect with twitter folks I’ve been wanting to meet in person for quite a long time. Chris Gilliard, whom I met last year while attending #OLCInnovate virtually, was one such individual. We shared many laughs playing Nintendo Switch games and discussed #OLCInnovate, the state world, etc. I was excited to learn Chris was an avid gamer and look forward to connecting more with him between our passion for education and games. We need to both get Mario Kart 8 Sir! 😉

Meeting @brocansky, excuse me, Michelle Pacansky-Brock was also great since we’d connected virtually at the last #OLCInnovate and during the previous year between Canvas and our shared friend Laura Gibbs. This year Michelle gave a compelling “Lightning Talk” during #OLCInnovate that will stick with me for a while. Thank you for that @brocansky!

On Thursday evening of #OLCInnovate, I shared an epic meal and equally epic conversations with Matt Crosslin, Rachel Neimer, Dave Goodrich, Ben Scragg, & John Stewart. Not only did we discuss our current projects, but we also delved into what’s in store for the future. Building relationships with these folks was phenomenal and our shared interests and passions may lead us to some fun collaborations. I look forward to working more with this great group of people, especially now that we’re forever bonded by “choose-your-own-adventure-incarnate-man” and our “love for westerns.” 😉

As this post is considerably longer than I’d intended, I’m going to wrap up here and publish a followup post since I haven’t made it to some of the heavier topics that arose from the Prophet of Innovation Doom tweets, Chris Gilliard’s #OLCInnovate blog post, and conversations with Matt Crosslin and Dave Goodrich around the definition of “Innovation.”

Comments

  1. Great reflection post, Keegan. It was a huge highlight of the conference for me to have met you and to shared that epic meal, conversation and night on the town with y’all. eXperience Play is appealing to me in many ways and I look forward to learning more in the weeks and months ahead. Thanks for making the Innovation Lab such a valuable place for people to connect and learn by your and John’s major contributions. You took the Lab to a whole new level this year.

    1. Yes! That night was spectacular. Will stick with me for a long long while. Do you like westerns?

      Back at you for making Innovation Lab a blast! Events like that are only as fun as the people involved, and like I said, my cheeks hurt from laughing so much at #OLCInnovate.

      If you’re interested in using eXperience Play or other collaborations, let me know Sir. 🙂

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