Story-based and research-informed approaches to teaching and learning.
Shortly after completing my PhD, I began developing story-based approaches to teaching and learning. This coincided with the Covid pandemic which prompted universities to adopt 'blended learning', an approach that saw students either fully or partially taught online. The education system faced a lot of challenges. Commenting on the 'great chaos' that the pandemic inflicted on education, Frey claimed that “In the middle of chaos comes great opportunities" . My thinking is that we absolutely need to hyper-individualise education,” he summarises.
However, like futurist Thomas Frey who has spoken about the impact of the pandemic on education, I recognised that '[i]n the middle of chaos comes great opportunities'. It's a rare thing to be confronted with creative openings in the ceaseless cycle of plans and activities that characterise the academic year in higher education. Like many others in my position, I began to look for new ways to engage students that didn't involve standard briefs and learning by rote. And, I began to ask some tough questions about current approaches to education.
- • Are current approaches to education compatible with the way young people interact with the world, take-in information and learn new skills?
- • Do universities teach students in ways that fit their needs, or do they teach in ways that fit the needs of tutors and administrative systems?
Design students learn best when they give themselves permission to engage in play. Designer Islands is a digital, story-based, game-like teaching tool and learning resource. The underlying principle aims to allow design students to learn in their own time and in their own way. The resource is built on a wiki platform (MediaWiki). Students engage with it in the same way that they would engage in a board game or video game. The home page sets the scene for an epic journey of discovery that begins with the student being cast away on a remote archipelago. In order to achieve their goal of becoming a great designer they have to listen to stories told to them by the inhabitants of four island communities, and meet four challenges of their choosing.
- • helps students to build confidence in making choices,
- • encourages independent and self-initiated learning,
- • enables students to acquire knowledge and skills in ways that are aligned with their preferred learning style.