Congenial atmosphere and productive, free-flowing and enjoyable exchanges characterised the four days of intense training (10 – 14th of April), organised by our partner organisation – EUNET, and facilitated by a group of experienced trainers in the field of education. The course, which took place in Gläntan – a secluded area in Sweden that strikes visitors with its undeniable charm and exuberant nature as well as its friendly and hospitable inhabitants, aimed at introducing participants to a rather unconventional approach when it comes to learning and influencing behaviour, bringing a spark of creativity and originality to the stale and outdated modes of teaching that we have grown so accustomed to. Being swept into a whirlwind of activity from day 1, with quite a dynamic cast of characters, I’d describe the overall experience as instructive, insightful and tremendously inspiring.
LARP or Live Action Role Playing, which is reminiscent of the use of drama and theatre arts in education, was a concept thoroughly discussed and put into practice in the course of the seminar days. To provide the reader with a clear cut definition of what LARP is might prove quite challenging as one needs to act out this particular type of interactive game and storytelling to grasp its essence. The method could be extremely useful in changing the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of people when it comes to addressing and discussing controversial issues of social and political nature, such as migration in general and the refugee crisis in particular. It is valuable in the sense that it can strengthen the emotional and psychological appeal of certain messages and provide an interesting and innovative way to explore sensitive issues, particularly with young people. Much like theatre techniques and simulation games, using LARP as a creative educational tool offers an opportunity to debunk myths and present a more balanced view while actively involving audiences in the experience, thus engaging them emotionally and not merely on a cognitive level. Such attempts to offset a tendency to intellectualise topics at the expense of other approaches is a trend we should labour to continue.
Balancing this enthusiasm for novel methodologies in the context of education and learning with sufficient practical-mindedness, however, is crucial as the purpose behind it all is not to simply evoke an emotional response but to deliver a message in a way that youth can understand and act upon. Further, it must be noted that an evaluation component is vital for any LARP to ascertain how the ‘game’ is affecting its target audiences and whether the original goals and expectations are met.
By Magdalena Tashkova