This entry is shortlisted in the 2012 Peer Award “Education for the Community” category
MyUK: Playful Digital Learning about How Laws Are Made
how to engage youth with politics for more than 15 minutes
MyUK is an entertaining, informal digital learning activity that engages young people with politics and Parliament, giving them the chance to ‘personalise’ their own version of the UK. Free to use and intended for 13-15 year olds, players are placed at the centre of British politics, where they pass laws and customise and share their vision of the UK with friends. MyUK appeals to its audience through popular gaming dynamics, social networking and light-hearted content – all the while challenging players to engage with the underlying principles that govern change in the UK political process.
MyUK is engaging. Web stats show visitors are spending – on average – over 15 minutes playing MyUK, a very high dwell time for any digital product. MyUK has won praise from youth. For example, it was popularly received in First News – the UK’s widest read children’s publication – inspiring one reader to write a review concluding ‘I would give this 5 stars and it’s well worth a go.’ Teachers are also promoting MyUK, further evidence of its quality.
MyUK has also won and been short-listed for prestigious digital learning awards, such as e-learning and Bett.
Attempts to both entertain and educate youth about the political process are unusual. MyUK took on the twin challenges of engaging youth with politics and the effective delivery of informal education.
Making the complex simple, but also fun, wasn’t easy. MyUK boils lawmaking down to its fundamentals, in a way that serves the intended audience. It also communicates with impact, weaving together game dynamics, customisation, content and social media. MyUK isn’t an off-the shelf solution, but the product of expertise and passion from gaming, politics, education and digital media brought together to create an original and cohesive experience.
While MyUK has ‘spread’ via Twitter and Facebook, it hasn’t had the viral success we hoped for. Players can share achievements via social media, but our stats show MyUK receives relatively low levels of referral traffic from these channels. In retrospect, we see MyUK’s social networking aspects have been most effective when: 1) players are ‘new’; 2) they are supported by broader promotional efforts. We’ve learned MyUK has viral potential, but it won’t necessarily spread on its own. We’ll need to find creative ways to stoke that fire. Fortunately, Twitter and Facebook integration can help us do this.
MyUK was an ambitious project. We tried to engage youth with subject matter (the political process) we know most perceive as remote, complex and boring. And we took several gaming, digital and social mechanics we know youth enjoy and weaved them into an original online experience.
But MyUK’s primary objective was, nevertheless, relatively straightforward: to offer young people an enjoyable way of learning some fundamentals about the way their democracy works.
We believe there is value in understanding that process. And we believe the active, experiential learning that MyUK offers is a powerful and meaningful way of nurturing that understanding.
Joshua Rice is a digital copywriter and producer for the UK Parliament’s Education Service. He was the lead writer and a co-producer on MyUK, made in collaboration with the Bafta-winning games studio Preloaded. He’s previously written other educational games to engage youth with politics, including the award-winning MP For A Week.