Programme Session Details 2024

Imagining new worlds: Project Dandelion

Corresponding Author: Lucila Newell

All authors: Brena Collyer de Aguiar

Length: 60 minutes
Location: Gallery Room 2


This session will share the experience of an innovative gamified module for an Online MSc module in Sustainable Development at the University of Sussex.

The session will explore the importance of playful learning for creating imaginative and hopeful futures in the context of the climate crisis. The module in question looks at different aspects of the relationship between globalisation and the environment. Project Dandelion, the name of the module in its gamified version, is an invitation to learn in a different way. It requires students to choose one key super challenge to focus on – climate change, food and agriculture and waste – in order to learn, connect, collaborate and act towards creating pathways to change. The narrative starts in 2047, a year in which key environmental challenges have been resolved, but the question is -how did we get here? This is what students need to work out. The spark for the game was not only the experience of students feeling depressed, anxious and helpless by the themes of the module, but also by the question Robyn Wall Kimmerer (2013) asks of us: ‘How can we begin to move towards ecological and cultural sustainability if we cannot even imagine what the path feels like?’ (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 6).

In this module, we take this question seriously. This gamified module is an invitation to think through scenarios of environmental change, that start by asking ‘What if?’. Serious games are defined as games that are primarily centred around a different primary purpose than entertainment, such as learning (Michael and Chen 2006). Failure to imagine new futures is more a failure of the imagination than a fact (Jameson 1994). This is where play comes in, as it is one of the most creative and engaging forms of learning that enables and develops the imagination (James & Nerantzi, 2019). Furthermore, playful learning in higher education has shown to create communities where students feel safe to take risks, to reduce fear, stress and anxiety, and to stimulate intrinsic motivation, and thus increasing engagement and increased learning (Forbes 2021, Whitton & Moseley, 2014, Deci & Ryan, 1985).

In this session, we will:
– Share the structure of the module and its gamified elements
– Ask participants to experience and play with us imagining and creating the seeds of new futures by tackling together a quest around a chosen super challenge
– Have time for discussions
-Share the results and feedback from the experience of running the module and from the students in this gamified version.

References, web links and other resources:

Yes, out project dandelion website will be shareable, but it is in construction!