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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Gambling on Education

In the last year I have realised how old I am, becoming not just an educator on accreditation for the benefit of the British Council but having spent nine years on the board of being elected to trustees at the Jane Goodall Institute UK after nine years, two of them as chair. I have also been working for DfID out in Pakistan on an exciting new education project during the last six months on an SEN-related theme. I’m not sure how this all stacks up in some respects but, according to an article I read on LinkedIn by Jane Hyde Walsh, it has been calculated that you need 10,000 hours of learning to become an expert in your field.

I mention none of this from a sense of my own self-importance or to suggest that age and wisdom should ever go hand in hand as a matter of course but merely to imply that at some point we move from a position of being new on the block to actually becoming the voice at least of some authority, though I have always steered away from anything more immodest than that. As an example, it has been with some interest that I have been involved in the drive to educate young people against the issues of problematic gambling and social gaming.

For those of you who don’t know, I started my working life as a teacher of English & Mathematics. Thereafter I spent almost a decade with the awarding body, ASDAN, both as Regional Manager for London and the South East and also as Head of Business Development and Marketing, creating both national and international projects. All of this meant I spent my life writing curriculum, delivering CPD workshops to teachers and working on accreditation. A lot of our work centred on PSHE, Citizenship, Skills development and, most importantly, experiential learning. It seemed most obvious, then, to adopt some guiding principles from ASDAN and apply them to writing a curriculum and training materials on gaming and gambling, especially when you consider ASDAN had about 6,000 secondary schools and colleges on their books at their peak!

I’m not sure how this all stacks up in some respects but, according to an article I read on LinkedIn by Jane Hyde Walsh, it has been calculated that you need 10,000 hours of learning to become an expert in your field.

Nothing, though, had prepared me for the mysterious worlds of gambling and gaming which I encountered as part of my own initial consultancy work five years ago. When requested to create a curriculum and resources I started my research into the subjects. What did I find out? Firstly, there had been previous efforts in this learning space but with no real degree of success in terms of application. Secondly, that the time was right to have another go, in terms of the tsunami of criticism which the gambling companies were encountering.

As you can imagine, I also had to try out some experiential learning for myself before I could write any curriculum or training, given my sole attempt at gambling (by proxy) had been my wife buying a single lottery ticket in 1995. More to the point, I hadn’t even played Candy Crush, let alone anything more exotic! I applied myself single-mindedly to my task, visiting the casino, the betting shops, talking to big gambling companies, researching in schools and colleges and finally listening to those who had their lives affected by gambling. I also spent an afternoon shooting virtual zombies, much to my discomfort, in the name of gaming research.  In terms of resources I knew exactly what I wanted. Nothing preachy, nothing along the lines of banning gaming and gambling and nothing dull either! I wanted research, curiosity, investigation, balance, and no right or wrong answers. I also wanted creativity to be at the heart off my curriculum, so I deliberately asked young people to make films, create apps, develop safer games, have debates, even to paint a picture!

I also wanted the curriculum to be an off the shelf, easy-to-use option for staff and students, so I divided into modules, all based on skills – think leadership and teamwork – and even links to school subjects (though I confess I couldn’t find any chemistry links). There were also bite-size challenges as well as longer projects, meaning you could flag up gaming and gambling in your own particular way. Teachers and trainers also asked for lesson plans, PowerPoints, films, infographics as well as Primary and Parent resources. I also focused particularly on the needs of SEN and vulnerable learners with regard to gaming, both positive and negative.

It has now been five years since I started my work in these particular areas and I have followed both the education conversation and industry developments through this period, with both narratives exploding into the public consciousness. Now I find myself delivering webinars on gaming for the Boarding School Association, looking at the good, the bad and the misunderstood, and also writing new materials in preparation for an exciting upcoming education announcement we will be making as part of the Seventh Wave Education Group. These are exciting times indeed and it will be good to put in the creative work and marketing values as we make our way through the coronavirus lockdown and head back to some kind of educational normality.

Adrian Sladdin

Adrian is one of the founding partners at Seventh Wave Training, writing and delivering innovative corporate training as well delivering on large-scale international consultancy work for the financial sector.

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