Ready, Set, Go Gameful at the 2018 Gameful Learning Summer Institute

Evan Straub, Learning Experience Designer, Gameful Learning

To be completely honest, it was about this time last year that I was having a bit of a panic attack.

Picture this; it is the Summer of 2017. A new face at the Gameful Learning Lab – I had been in my position as the official Learning Experience Designer for Gameful Learning for about six months. Earlier that year, I was about two months into my new job and we were still kicking around the idea of whether we could pull off a conference for a new lab within the Office of Academic Innovation. We had very little time and a topic whose meaning was (and still is) being negotiated in literature. Would we have content? Would we have a speaker? Could we pull this together in time? Even more terrifying for me, would anyone show up?

Fast forward to July 2017 and I had one of the most rewarding experiences of my career when I co-hosted the first ever Gameful Learning Summer Institute.

The 2017 Gameful Learning Summer Institute brought together educators from K-12, higher education faculty and staff, and University of Michigan faculty. Unifying this mix of experiences and backgrounds were the messages that I heard from our participants: We can teach differently. We believe that students can make choices about their learning. We believe that challenge is important to learning and failure can be productive. We believe in mastery and multiple opportunities for success. We are willing to try something new.

Large group photos of conference attendees from the Gameful Learning Summer Institute 2017.

After the conference rooms cleared and the feedback collected, we reflected on the experience of the 2017 Gameful Learning Summer Institute. What went well? What should we have done differently? Most importantly – Should we do this again?

We believe in practicing what we preach. Therefore, we developed the 2018 Gameful learning Summer Institute using the lens of the underlying philosophical beliefs that, we believe, make gameful learning different. Gameful is not just for the classroom. To build autonomy and choice, we sent out a call for presenters and were thrilled by the number of people who were interested in sharing their experiences. As a result, we will offer concurrent sessions to elevate new voices in gameful learning with speakers from all over North America. In addition, we are thrilled to have Erin Baumann, Assistant Director of Curriculum and Pedagogy with SLATE (Strengthening Learning and Teaching Excellence) at the Harvard Kennedy School, join us as our keynote speaker on Monday, July 23.

Personally, I am excited for a session planned with our public engagement team around crafting meaningful narratives. As educators, we are always seeking ways to reach our audience. From empowering students to share their stories to finding ways to communicate our own content, storytelling is a powerful tool. Using feedback from last year’s Institute, we learned that participants wanted to feel more competency around course design and the use of GradeCraft. So we have added a half- day workshop on Wednesday, July 25, to provide attendees with focused time to redesign a course from a gameful perspective. Of course, we also embrace a sense of play. On Monday, July 23, we have a super fun social activity planned when we will head to Pinball Pete’s Ann Arbor for an evening loaded with nostalgia in the form of arcade games, pinball machines, skee-ball, and more!

As we slide into the home stretch for the 2018 Gameful Learning Summer Institute, I’d love to say it was easier the second time around. We learned a lot from the first Institute. However our participants challenged and inspired us to do more than just a repeat of last year’s event. In true gameful learning fashion, our gameful team will take risks to continue to level-up the experience. We hope you’ll attend and become a part of our learning community. Ready, Set, Go Gameful!

Visit the event page for more information about the 2018 Gameful Learning Summer Institute.

The Gameful Learning Summer Institute kicks off on Monday, July 23, and runs through Tuesday, July 24. The half-day GradeCraft workshop will run on Wednesday morning, July 25. For more information on the Institute including speaker information and frequently asked questions to to register for the Institute visit the event page. Register now before it’s too late!

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