Hello…the work is done, now it’s time for some fun!

Donna O'Toole, The Communications Director, Digital games, Siri, Mad Libs,

In the immortal words of Adele – “Hello from the other side…”

I’m sorry I’ve been away from this blog for a little while – I’ve been building another!

Nuts? Probably. But there is a reason…

I jumped on board a runaway train and have been hurtling full speed into a tunnel of website building, social media developing, personal branding and company creating – and I have now finally reached the light and emerged on the other side as The Communications Director and it’s time to get back to business.

Business for me is all about language and communication, it’s a massive passion in my life, you might have noticed me talk about when I finally took the plunge and headed off to Uni to study English Language – I knew then I had picked the right path.

But my love for linguistics is also a big part of my personal life (this is not all about work guys I promise), after all, we all talk and write all the time don’t we….and I like nothing more than to spend time ‘communicating’ with my hubby and daughters.

Well this week we had a lot of fun ‘communicating’ and it was all down to a little app called Mad Libs (this is not a sponsored post btw – this is a very real recommendation).

Now, I’m not one of those people who thinks there should be an educational opportunity in every single ‘game’ kids play – I actually think that fun is fun, and learning is learning, and the two can be combined or separated at will. We can all generally learn something fairly useful from the fun experiences we have in life without them always having to be about playing chess or scrabble (goodness knows some of my best life-lessons have come out of some of the most fun I’ve had) and sometimes the stuff that’s meant to teach us actually turns us off if not delivered in the right way.

I also think digital games, apps and innovations are fabulous for kids’ imaginations, communication and creativity – if used interactively, collaboratively and usefully they can inspire all sorts of mind-blowing fabulousness. Even good old Siri, Apple’s ‘natural language assistant’ achieves a lot of laughs in our house, especially when proposed marriage to, which may sound mighty silly, but if I told you that proposing marriage to Siri was actually teaching my kids about the possibilities and limitations of computational linguistics would you think differently?

This week The Redhead said she had a game we should all play, and after an hour full of lots of giggles and with my ever-present love of language always lurking, I wanted to share why I think this particular game is a tween parent’s dream, and a communication lover’s friend.

So Mad Libs is an app, and the basic premise is to ‘fill the gaps’ with your own words – except you cant see the story, so you have no idea what gaps you are filling -all you have to go on is a title. The outcome is a silly story, full of nonsense that uses your words to create a story that has been built around a programmed theme.

What really struck me though was how this game translated across all ages and linguistic abilities, and was really engaging for both the tweens and us oldies.

The Redhead and The Blonde took it in turns to be the compere, directing us to add a noun, verb, adjective or adverb in turns (this is not a test of how well you can label words – unless you want it to be – just have a dictionary to hand if you need inspiration) then at the end all the words were put together within a story framework and the compere got to read it out.

Now that doesn’t really sound hilarious does it, but remember we were playing this with tweens – so when your noun is a body part or your verb is a rather slapstick action, the final story is hilarious for the nominated tween to read out loud! One of our final stories involved a lonely giraffe with long stretchy boobies and a rather windy habit – natch!

The game also helped the girls to differentiate between and remember their verbs, adjectives etc, so there was definitely a huge educational value without them realising it, but that really wasn’t the best thing – the best thing was to be having a big giggle as a family over what silly nonsense stories we could create by the end, and who would be brave enough to read out such naughtiness.

In fact, this game crossed the age divide so well that at the end the Hubby said, ‘make sure you get that app before we next have friends for dinner – it could get VERY funny!’

Brilliant fun you clever Mad Libs people – well done, we needed another table-game and this is a winner.

Have a go yourselves, pizza nights may never be quite the same!

Donna x

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