Reinforcing Games as an Educational Tool for Social Change

- a professional development training for youth workers & youth leaders - 

IMPRESSIONS ​FROM THIS TRAINING

Youth workers are challenged to constantly create learning opportunities for the young people with whom they work to tackle crucial topics such as social exclusion and youth marginalisation. A very powerful tool to do this is playing games because "Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning" - Diane Ackerman. Games can address a whole variety of topics in a very accessible way and in a short span of time. Whether it’s global warming, poverty, leadership skills or conflict transformation: a game can help us to actively process new and complex information and find creative and innovative solutions and ideas for initiatives to tackle social problems and raise awareness. Especially when working with young people, playing games is a great way of connecting with them, enhancing their sense of social belonging and stimulating them to learn new things. However, because youth workers don’t always have the know-how, the time or the inspiration to come up with new and exciting game-based activities, we designed this project to create a platform for youth workers where they can learn how to create educational games, practice game-building skills and share ideas and good practices with other youth workers from Austria, Armenia, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine.

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The aims and objectives of this project were:
- raising awareness about gaming and gamification in educational contexts and introducing it as an efficient alternative tool in youth work;
- improving competences in engaging young people in their communities in their regular activities by using gamification techniques;
- creating a framework for developing educational games through experiential approaches towards learning;
- developing a set of educational board games to be used in the youth work field.

Learning experience:
The main activity of this project was a professional training course for 24 participants from Austria, Armenia, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine who came together for a week and learned about the framework of gamification and gaming, including major principles and mechanisms and gained a common understanding about the essentials of board games in the social context. Further, the participants got introduced to the concepts, tools and techniques needed for designing and developing board games with educational value in social contexts that can be applied to young people. As a next step, participants worked in small groups and designed their own games that address different social phenomena that the group was concerned about. Participants were supported by two experienced trainers during the training to design and test several games. Finally, the participants had the opportunity to pivot their newly designed games and think together about future action plans to be implemented on the local level and beyond.

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Outputs of the project:
The results of this project are directly connected with its main objectives and the desired learning outcomes and impact. One of the tangible results is the set of six educational games that were created by the participants on different socially relevant topics during the training. These topics were Bullying, Inclusion, Intercultural Dialogue, Political Participation, Democratic Participation, and S.T.E.M. After the training, a resource folder was created and shared with the participants where additional materials and manuals were compiled and presented to the group of participants in the learning environment created by the team. Besides the tangible outcomes, results of this training mainly lay in its intangible outcomes, which are directly connected to learning and competences acquired by the participants, who went through the whole cycle of the educational game creation process, understood, internalized and practised each step and are now able to adapt and apply these learning outcomes in their work. More details about this project are published on the ERASMUS+ results platform in this Project Card.

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This project was funded by the ERASMUS+ Programme of the European Commission through the Austrian National Agency OeAD.

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