Game On

One is never too young to learn, as is never too old to play

Today, we have been given quite an interesting task. We have had to think of a lecture when we struggled to explain material to our learners. Then we went in pairs around Manchester City centre trying to buy an artefact that could help us explaining that material. Item was supposed to be freely available, and cost less than three pounds.

This proved to be really challenging task for me. Because I started teaching programming while still doing my MSc, it was easy for me to notice mistakes my lecturers were making, and to avoid those while delivering similar material later on that day. This experience helped me to get into my learners’ shoes and get used to constantly following my own explanation as if I am observing myself at the same time (UKPSF K1, K3). That is why I do not have any problems explaining technical material, which would be worth mentioning. However, I still needed to participate in the task, so I tried using different approach. This world is not only black and white, and, as my father says, not all problems can be solved “into your forehead”. A truly great mind would try to think outside of a box.

First of all, me and my colleague Julia agreed to help our departments with staffing, timekeeping and timetabling issues. To avoid needs for sickness cover arrangements, we quickly agreed to limit our career pathways by the indoor territory of the Arndale shopping centre.

We wondered around for an hour, exchanging ideas, and taking photos of anything that could be used in our lessons as an artefact for demonstration, and – most importantly – attract attention with an unexpected twist. There were some interesting photos with interesting ideas; there were useful photos with useless ideas; and finally there were just eye-catching photos with absolutely no idea behind, like the next one.

Idea of buying wide leather belt with metallic buckle quickly went away as too primitive and predictable. This simple handy tool was used for centuries (if not millenniums) because it proved to be extremely efficient way to control the class discipline, and made even the most difficult material very easy to understand – well, at least according to “exit questionnaires” and “module feedbacks” which were conducted at the end of each session, with that belt still by hand in case of any questions or matters arising. One thousand years later this technique will be known and referred to as “Assess and give feedback to learners” and defined in the UK Professional Standards Framework as reference A3. Yes, I do miss time when teachers were allowed to use punishment sticks in a classroom, but technologies and frameworks moved on since then. These days, however, assessment is conducted in a different way and in addition to well-known summative assessment we have now got one more type of assessment, known as formative assessment. Formative assessment is different from summative assessment in a number of ways.

Firstly, formative assessment can be characterised as assessment which is an integral part of instruction that informs and guides teachers as they make instructional decisions. It is an ongoing assessment which aims to guide, enhance and improve learning (Rea-Dickins and Gardner, 2000; Hall and Burke, 2003). It also allows learners to self-evaluate and self-monitor their progress and performance. And finally, it provides opportunities for “active interaction between teacher and students, and students and students” (Rea-Dickins, 2001: 437). I constantly use formative assessment with my learners and encourage them to self- and peer-assess all the way through the course as I strongly believe that it is guidance and support via qualitative feedback that help learners improve rather than punishment and negative judgmental comments, which do not actually show them any way forward or way for improvement.

What is the modern way to make sure our learners stay focused on the subject and learn? Fix them with a glue? Would not work. Super glue then?!

Well, let’s get back to topic. How to explain idea of creativity to students who are not creative by definition? It is a very well known fact that technical brains of a programmer refuse to function when it comes to arts and design. Simply because technical brain is used to follow very strict world of formulas, rules, and algorithms – everything that programming ultimately sits on. So, how to demonstrate the concept of creativity in the easiest but the most efficient way? The example must be simple but a killer one. Strait to the point and plain like a circle. Close your eyes and imagine a ball. Let’s say, stress ball. Ready? Now open your eyes and tell me how close your imaginary stress ball is to the mine which I picked up this morning from Wilkinson for £2.99:

Well, who said that all stress balls are round?

Let’s stop here. However, to be academically complete, this post requires conclusion – which will be provided at a later stage. Yes, even artefact hunters need to write conclusions!

artefact hunters

Artefact Hunters (published with permission)



Word count: 843

6th January 2013



Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2007) Teaching for Quality Learning at University (3rd edition). Berkshire, England: Open University Press / McGraw-Hill Education.

Hall, K. and Burke, W.M. (2003) Making Formative Assessment Work: Effective Practice in the Primary Classroom. London: Open University Press.

Rea-Dickins, P. (2001) Mirror, mirror on the wall: identifying processes of classroom assessment. Language Testing, 18, (4), 429-462.

Rea-Dickins, P. and Gardner, S. (2000) Snares and silver bullets: disentangling the construct of formative assessment. Language Testing, 17, (2), 215-243.

The Higher Education Academy, 2012. UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF). [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 November 2012].