Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Learning cultures and gamification at #oeb21 in Berlin

I was really looking forward to the #oeb21 conference in Berlin. I gave a workshop about humor, learned a lot about learning culture and got inspiration and pratical tips for gamification and... we went out dining!!  (while that was no longer possible in the Netherlands because of the evening lockdown). Before travelling I could hardly believe I would travel. The Netherlands was in evening lockdown and I would attend a conference with 1000 people? It wasn't until we got on the train that I dared to look for museums on Tripadvisor :). There were fewer participants at OEB due to corona. There were about 650 people and normally more than 2000. There were quite a few COVID measures: you could enter the conference space only if you were vaccinated or cured and you also had to take a daily corona test. Fortunately, that was just around the corner. Together with Steven van Luipen and Ite Smit I gave a pre-conference workshop on 'Stimulating social learning by humour and playful design', I will write a separate blog about our workshop. 

What was hot?

The theme of the conference was resilience. Corona clearly influenced the content: there were many sessions with lessons learned from COVID-19, and a lot about proctoring in education. And equipment for hybrid classrooms. The debate on Thursday also focused on COVID with the statement:
This house believes education failed to learn the lessons from covid-19
It was a very interesting debate and in the end I agreed with the statement. Furthermore, many sessions focussed on learning culture, gamification, use of video in online learning. What I did miss was some visionary contributions and trendwatchers. Something about new developments & trends, the role of L&D around fake news or the Metaverse? I am not a visionary myself so I like to be inspired by other visionaries. 

Learning culture & workplace learning

I find this topic very interesting, hence attended many sessions related to workplace learning. Stimulating a learning culture means supporting employees to learn and develop themselves, but also collectively as teams and organizations. It is more about guiding change and informal learning than designing learning experiences. 

I was lucky that this was the theme of the opening on day 2 with Sina Fackeler from AXA in Paris and Isabelle Mancel from Thales. The interesting thing about Isabelle's story was that she managed to get a decision that all teams set aside half a day a week for team learning. Great to know that there are organizations bold enough to do this! I always hear from people that they don't have time for informal  learning and reflecting. An organization that dares to invest in this is wonderful news. How does it work?  Each team looks their learning backlog - I interpreted this as a definition of what they can improve and defines learning questions. They call their half days 'learning moments'. Resources are offered, but you can also do a retrospective, for instance visit another team. You can do it individually or with your team. An important success factor is support from higher management. 

Sina had designed some sort of trajectory. She is working on a coalition of changemakers - based on the idea that you can change the norm when 25% are convinced but above all show the 'new' behaviour. To get that 25% there was a trajectory “Be the change” and another trajectory for leaders with “Lead the change”. Unfortunately, it was not entirely clear to me how they describe this change, although they did talk about a new definition of learning: learning happens anywhere and anytime. 

What I missed in the presentation was technology, you could certainly use an LXP platform supporting a change towards workplace learning. What was also funny was that a survey at Thales showed that 77% of employees mainly learned outside the organization, which shocked them. I was think: great - outward looking professionals! 

Laura Overton facilitated a World Café based on lessons learned from a CIPD report titled 'Learning and skills at work survey 2021'. The aim of the café was to looking for effective post-pandemic L&D practice as input for a manifesto. The report consistently distinguishes between organizations with a separate L&D department, organizations where L&D is the task of the HR department, L&D as the task of managers and organizations without an L&D department. The latter appeared to do better on learning culture and workplace learning :).
  (source: CIPD report

Another shock for the L&D staff in the room. My simple solution to abolish L&D is of course too simplistic. How can you ensure that L&D is relevant to the core business? In the World Café, solutions were presented such as internships, making sure that managers and employees are always co-owners when designing learning. How do you develop skills? By developing all kinds of training courses or by stimulating employees to remain curious and to learn continuously?

Be in groove with your talents

This is where Jef Staes comes on stage. Many teachers still work from a 2D mindset: from before the internet. We now live in a 3D world where information is abundant. Jef sees learning like this: you have to find your passion. Your own passion activates your talents. Passionate people start to look for information and take action. At that point, you get dopamine. You learn and experience that learning is fun. 

Many students have never experienced this and that is a shame. Education should focus more on getting that dopamine experience, because after experiencing this you want to continue learning. Jef believes less in changing people and teacher than in looking for a new type of employee. As a metaphor, he uses the world of silent movies that transitioned to spoken films. New actors were found for this, the silent actors were not automatically good for the art of talking & acting. In the same way, not every 2D teacher is capable of making the transition to 3D education. And they are not to blame for it. That is such a great thing to hear I think of you have a hard time coping. 

I'm a fan of Jef's ideas, although he could develop in more detail on how to do this practically. Jef talks a lot about talents, although he also sees that the word talent is subject to inflation, because KFC already advertises with 'We are looking for your talents'. A tip of the veil is: start working earlier, and at the end of your career do what you enjoy, the rest can be done by young people. Waiting until you are 23 to start work is not good, that's not how you discover your own passions.

Gamification en challenges

I missed the pre-conference workshop about online escape rooms, but luckily I did have a conversation with Willi Bernard. That's how I learned he uses Mozilla Hubs to build the escapes. He invites students to built the escapes. On average they spend 30 hours building a 1 hour escape with about 6 puzzles. Want to know more? Download his slides

I did participate in the game about challenge-based learning. In challenge-based learning, students work on complex, social problems from the real world. There is a high degree of self-regulation and people from different disciplines work together. From the examples I liked the example in which students worked intensively for 2 weeks and during these weeks skills workshops were offered, eg learning to pitch. However, they are optional, students choose whether they want to follow these workshops or not. Finally, they present the result to the challenge owners. 

We were asked in groups to design a challenge for students to come up with CO2 neutral transport for 2040. The challenge runs for 10 weeks and requires 250 hours from students. This was done by means of a game. We won, yeah! However, it was an example of a game where competition got in the way of the learning objective. The aim was to design challenge-based learning together and to discuss which teaching methods you offer. We played against each other for Lego blocks. We became so fanatical about collecting Lego blocks that we stopped discussing the best working methods at all :). Which would have been very interesting to do because from the cards I could see that they have thought very carefully about this, such as stakeholder analyses, learning to pitch, etc. I will try to get the full list from them. 

My biggest lesson is that with a game you have to reward the learning dynamics you want to see, so if you want participants to discuss well and choose the best learning activities, give points for the best design, or best fit of methods, instead of random points. This reminds me that I once gave an online workshop in which my breakouts failed and I had the impression participants learned even more than when they had succeeded :). 

More OEB?

If you read Dutch read Wilfred Rubens: his reflections, choosing between face-to-face, asychroon and synchroon learning , do's en don'ts van hybride sessies