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Game Based Learning at Curtin University - Guest Post by Karen Miller #blogjune

Games can be very powerful learning tools, and at Curtin University, as at most higher education institutions, there is momentum to introduce games-based learning into the curriculum.  In 2014 Curtin library set out on the journey to introduce games into the library.  With no experience or expertise behind us, we acknowledged that it would be challenging, and recognised that the best approach was to be playful and learn through a process of experimentation, trial and error, without fear of failure (just like you might in a game!). Needless to say, this looked like it might be a fun journey.
An opportunity to explore and develop games in the library opened up through our involvement with Curtin AHEAD in School. AHEAD (Addressing Higher Education Access Disadvantage) is an education program for high school students from low socio-economic backgrounds, to introduce them to campus life and to encourage them to aspire to a university education.  The program works with around 12 schools with students returning throughout their high school education to participate, with a visit to the library included as part of their campus visit.  
AHEAD purchased a set of ipad minis for the students to use, and so, wanting to make use of this fabulous resource, we designed some hands-on, game-based activities around the use of the ipads for the students’ visits to the library.  We wanted to help them develop digital literacy skills by exposing them to some apps they may not have encountered, as well as help them learn some things about the library.  
Our first activity was for Year 11 students whose teachers were very keen for them to learn some research skills to help with their study. So we designed a game called “Publish or Perish”, where the students work in pairs to complete four challenges which involved watching videos that we had created and then doing various activities with apps that put the learning into practice – activities around searching, evaluation and referencing information.  When their challenges were complete, they then created an ebook using the Book Creator app. They had to include the title page and verso and correctly referenced information they had located, and illustrations using Book Creator. Finally, they viewed their finished product in iBooks and we gave a prize to the group who produced the most complete book.
We then moved on to the Year 10s. Having been reliably informed that this age group were at their best if they were kept physically active we decided to create a scavenger hunt style game called “Pace Space Race” – again using the iPad minis and a range of apps. This game involved the group spitting up into three teams and exploring 3 levels of the library – we used QR codes to access floor maps and they worked in pairs to find particular reference books or various facilities or spaces, where they would use Aurasma, an augmented reality app, to find a secret word or hidden message. The students absolutely loved the augmented reality – I don’t think any of them had experienced it before – and some of them were really excited when we were able to show them how to create them for themselves on their own devices. 
Finally, toward the end of the year we developed an activity for Year 8 students.  In my view, this has been our most successful activity of all.  The focus for the year 8s, as their first visit to the campus, was to introduce them to John Curtin and the leadership values that he has the capacity to inspire – we had a wealth of educational resources and archives to work with from the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.
Drawing on archival material from the collection we created 10 posters covering aspects of Curtin’s life, and included augmented reality content, layering some storytelling via cartoons, some videos, some textual or graphic information. The students were formed into ten teams and each team was asked to create one quiz question each based on the information from one of the posters.
We then entered the quiz questions into Kahoot while they looked at the rest of the posters to prepare for the quiz.  Each team then competed in the online quiz via their ipads – and had a huge amount of fun, as this 3 minute video of one of our classes in action, shows so well.  Pretty much without exception, the students were fully engaged in the activity, which I put down to not only the highly interactive nature of the content, but their investment and contribution to the development of the game itself.
We’ve had very positive feedback from staff and students involved, and have continued running the activities this year, continually reassessing how we can develop or improve the program, as well as consider how this approach to learning can be adapted to our undergraduates.  We’ve also had the opportunity to run the activities with other student and community groups, including Year 3 refugee children and Year 6 regional students, and later this year are hoping to work with clients from the Prison outreach program through Curtin AHEAD in Community.
We’ve put together a LibGuide for the library AHEAD program, so if you would like more information about the activities, some videos and access to our materials, please check it out
 For those of us involved in the project – which has included some of my very skilled and able library technician colleagues – it has been an exciting journey together, and a great learning experience, and a heap of fun.  We’ve learned to use a large range of tools including Crazy Talk animation software, Animoto, iMovie, Aurasma, Photoshop, Sketchup, as well as a whole variety of apps. We’ve also learned a lot about the benefits and challenges of teaching with ipads.   There have been a number of opportunities to share our experience through giving presentations and have run workshops with academic teaching staff around creating engaging learning activities using augmented reality.
One of the best things for me has been experiencing first-hand how wonderful it can be to learn through play, through experimenting, through not being afraid to try things out and see what happens.  

This cartoon I created sums up, for me, the ethos we have followed – to jump out and take a leap of faith, without fear of failure.

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