Playful Learning 24 Keynotes

Nic Whitton

Nic Whitton

Nic Whitton is Professor of Digital Learning and Play at Northumbria University, which basically means she gets to play video games for a living and occasionally say insightful things about them.

Her research focuses on the relationship between play and learning, theorising and evidencing the value of playful learning approaches in Higher Education.

She has written several books on play, games, and education, the most recent being Play and Learning in Adulthood: Reimagining Pedagogy and the Politics of Education (Springer, 2022).

Her favourite game is Monkey Island and she hopes to be a mighty pirate herself one day.

Dharmesh Mistry & Anand Mistry

Dharmesh Mistry and Anand Mistry

Hi Anand and Dharmesh here, we are co-founders of ProjectCHAKRA.

Our work is rooted in our personal experiences having spent extensive time living and working with underserved and resource-poor communities in India. We found this unconventional path brought with it significant personal growth as well as a breadth of networks and opportunities which weren’t generally available in other sectors.

ProjectCHAKRA inspires action for social impact and entrepreneurial leadership in young people through experiential learning. We see our role as facilitators and not educators and that learning happens in context and not just with content. Our approach is rooted in our own experience of active learning through play and reflection.

We utilise gamification and role-play simulations to bring real global development challenges into the classroom. Our experiences evoke real emotions in participants, enabling them to build empathy to connect their head, heart and hands to take their learning to a new level and inspire action beyond the classroom.

We then facilitate programmes, internships and volunteer opportunities through our network so students can continue engaging in social impact work with a view to finding meaningful career opportunities grounded in public service.

ProjectCHAKRA has run these experiences with universities across the UK and India.

We are global education award winners, winning the Progressive Education Delivery Award at the PIEoneer Awards 2022, and ProjectCHAKRA’s approach has been featured in Times Higher Education.

Anand completed a United Nations Development Programme placement working with a social enterprise in India and is New Entrepreneurs Foundation Fellow. He studied at the University of Bristol and the National University of Singapore.

Dharmesh is a graduate from the University of Warwick. He has worked as a Management Consultant in both industry and practice. Dharmesh has served as a Trustee of a charity which designs and delivers service-leadership programmes.

Emma Bearman & Pippa Hale

Emma Bearman and Pippa Hale

Playful Anywhere is a social enterprise with a mission to catalyse creativity, inventiveness and playfulness, where we work, live and travel. Founded by Emma Bearman in 2012 when her children were tiny, observing their playfulness and curiosity and wondering why the built environment wasn’t always friendly to the young, or old. Instead of throwing bricks Emma decided to gather people around their interest in civic place making through series of events, festivals, happenings and fun. Always collaborative, and cheekily prodding people to get involved.

Currently Playful Anywhere has a fleet of ‘Playbox Shipping Containers’ which can land and change the dynamic in a place, much like a Tardis of playful intentionality and possibility. We are developing a peer network of community led Playbox hosts too, for people who believe play in their neighbourhoods is a way to bring communities together. This practice uncovers a host of power dynamics where land and ownership is concerned. We take an ‘asset based community development approach’ to places, seeking to find and support the imaginative capacities of all, and holding space for emergence of glimmers, sparks of energies and ideas about making places work better for people living there. 

Pippa Hale is a contemporary artist based in Leeds and her practice centres around social history, geography and play. Her artworks are often site specific and include large-scale installations in heritage venues, the public realm and galleries in a range of media that includes foam, inflatables, food, film, sound, iron, digital technology, neon and loaned objects.

She is passionate about social history and enjoys spending time researching the history and geography of locations. She loves working with people and her projects often involve large numbers of participants who have a personal connection to the site. Most recently she has begun to explore the idea of co-creation where local people aren’t just participants in the delivery of her ideas, but included in the research, conception and production of artworks.

Much of her work seeks to close the gap between past and present, drawing on history and playfully interpreting it through the lens of contemporary art to connect with audiences in new and exciting ways