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Introducing Play In A South African Design Education Project: A Case Study

This practitioner-based presentation demonstrates how play was introduced in the context of design higher education in the hopes of enriching the student design process. During a four-week design project, final-year Information Design students at the University of Pretoria are required to design educational, game-based toolkits for children between the ages of 8 and 12 that address social issues in South Africa, and are encouraged to understand the potential of design as a tool for social good: an inclusive and creative method for problem-solving that can connect with children and parents in an engaging and convincing way. Play was explicitly introduced as part of the project process, to enable students to better engage with the audience that they are designing for. Furthermore, students were encouraged to play amongst themselves during the design process, as well as to prototype their toolkits with children through play. Students worked in groups of three to design the toolkits and documented their process extensively following guidelines provided by the educators. Students reflected throughout the design process – many insights gleaned from these reflections provide the educators with useful material to refine coursework, as well as where and how play is incorporated, to benefit future projects. This presentation focuses on presenting two case studies of student toolkits completed in 2019, namely Kabusha (figure 1) and Foe Fiction (figure 2). Kabusha aims to teach children about conservation and challenges players to “reset, rethink and revive” their mindset with regards to consumption and conservation. Kabusha’s narrative is set in Africa, and features indigenous animal protagonists that carry through all activities in the toolkit: a lift-the-flap book, a board game, a mastery-play activity and creative play. Foe Fiction is a conflict resolution toolkit that leverages African folktales and makes use of mainly bibioplay and dramatised play/ role playing to teach and practice conflict resolution skills in a classroom environment. Areas highlighted from each case study include: the group’s design process, a summary of student reflections, feedback from prototyping sessions held with children, a snapshot of the final toolkit design, as well as a critique on each design output from the educator’s point of view.

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