GOSH Learning Innovations Conference


After a quick introduction from Cat Oxley, Donald Taylor (@DonaldHTaylor) took to the stage to begin the first Great Ormond Street Hospital Learning Innovations Conference. As I’ve become used to from Don (it’s been a few years since I last heard him talk – but the content is always of high quality) he touched on a number of different areas and immediately promoted some in-depth discussion from the attendees.

One of the first points to come from the attendees was the subject about whether face-to-face is better than e-learning. My views on this were covered in my recent blog post, however it was really interesting to see how many people were surprised by how simple e-learning could be:

As Don’s presentation moved through the “training ghetto” and on to the quality of the learning experience, there were some consistent themes starting to emerge. Within the room (it was filled with NHS L&D Professionals) it was quite clear, we all face the same issues. Budgets are being squeezed, we’re expected to reach out to more people than ever before, in more flexible ways but we had to ensure that the quality remained.It was clear that the attendees agreed that we had to utilise technology to ensure this could happen.

Don closed on the cloud concept. He highlighted the way in which as an organisation we were probably already providing information out from our central area into our LMS. However the model should continue to expand, we must pass more information into our LMS, but also we must get more information from it. Our systems need to talk to each other. HR systems should feed L&D systems (which ironically the NHS does have – it just doesn’t work very well – IMO) and all of these should give and take from other systems and data sources.

Getting started with design thinking

Sam Burrough (@burrough) began his session by introducing an image of his son. Sam explained the way in which his son was having issues with a particular area at school, yet when he had delved down into the issue, the issue was actually about the process in which this was being delivered (by drawing), not the actual subject area. Sam raised the clear point that actually drawing is a concept heavily relied on in schools (they often place artwork by children on the walls) but who ever teaches you to draw?

Being able to visualise the concept and display this to others is a really powerful tool. It helps us (and those observing) to see the idea and this needs to be applied to the design of our products. This concept then extends itself into the actual learning delivery itself – we shouldn’t be designing a small intervention, we should be focusing on the wider experience – it’s not just about a one time event, it’s about how this then gets applied into practice.

Sam then talked through the process of ideaton (which is a term I’d never heard of, but clearly others around had) where you create, generate and develop ideas. There should be no restriction on these ideas. At this stage, no idea should ever be dismissed, or considered invalid, For people who aren’t happy to voice their ideas in front of others, then the process of silent brainstorming can be used (where ideas can be written on post-it notes, rather than verbally suggested) – but the end target is the same – produce as many ideas as possible!

Once the ideas have all been generated, then you can review them. At this stage you can consider how feasible they are, what the reason behind doing it is and what the impact would be of developing the idea (surprising insight).

And finally, once you’ve removed the ideas which aren’t feasible or not possible to deliver, you should consider the remaining ones with a view of “I like, I wish, What if”.

Emotion in learning and challenging behaviours

I’ll admit – on paper I hadn’t quite fancied this session – however as I sat in the room with the session I was meant to be in about to start – I had a last minute change of heart and dashed up to join this session – and was glad I did as it delivered one of my key learning points from the day. Julie Wedgwood (@JulieWedgwood) began the session talking about the use of emotions in learning, and the way in which the attached emotion can help to re-enforce a feeling.

Julie ran an exercise to get the group to think back to specific times in their lives, exploring the memories and the feelings which they promoted. From my perspective, it was really interesting hearing how other people could relay their experiences based on the emotions which they had experienced at that exact time.  As the session went on, Julie demonstracted this theory in practice using a piece of e-learning which had been developed around Safeguarding Adults. What facinated me about this piece was the way in which the story was told. Previously, whenever my team have used storytelling as part of our learning, we always start by introducing the person and explaining their complete situation in text (e.g. this is Nick, he’s 31 years old and works as a…..etc.) but Julie explained that they had not taken this approach, instead choosing to show a video clip of the person in their daily setting – thus allowing observers to immediately draw their own conclusions, and not have them pressed upon them.

As the piece went on, it showed more information, the story expanded, providing the student with more information. What really surprised me was when Julie then explained that due to the sensitive nature of the content, this course was undertaken in a supervised environment (to ensure that the students had the appropriate support they required throughout the course). This struck me as a very interesting approach. Too frequently we place people in a room to allow them to complete a course in a quiet environment, but we’ve never done it to ensure they had access to additional support. Considering the fact we all work in a healthcare setting, it seemed to me that very few of the people in the room really harnessed emotion as a tool for learning.

The lunchtime break then gave a good chance to reflect on the morning, and understand what had been covered. I’d sat through three very different sessions, from three very different speakers – but there was one message which was shining through from all of them:

Learning should be an experience!

 Playing games with health

I had looked forward to this session ever since I signed up to attend the conference. Why? Well not because I enjoy games (although I do) but more out of sheer curiosity as to how you could put this into a real NHS context. We’ve all played ‘Operation’ when we were younger – but did this give us surgical skills? No…so how can games be used within healthcare?

Ben Betts (@bbetts) started his session by asking what a game is. There were many suggestions around the need for ‘players’, ‘competition’ and an ‘outcome’. There was also a suggestion that there needed to be ‘fun’ – which then diverged onto a separate conversation about whether or not you had to have fun whilst playing a game. The end result, seemingly was that you don’t necessarily need to have fun, but there needed to be a sense of fulfilment – which in most cases came from achieving the outcome.

After talking through the 8 kinds of fun (8kindsoffun.com/ ) the discussion moved onto the different types of game. I soon learnt that there are six types of game (Drill & practice, Serious games, Simulation, COTS, ARGS & Gamification) and the ways in which these could be used. We then started to reflect back to the original definitions of what a game was, and explored this in the context of the types of game we were now seeing. For all of these it is clear that there are players involved, and there is a level of competition involved to reach the ‘outcome’ – but then questions were raised about whether you experience this level of fun, for example, in a game which simulated an operation. My own perspective on this was that in achieving the outcome (in this case successful completion of the operation) you would then gain your sense of achievement.

The really interesting perspective which then came through was how the element of competition then shone through. In traditional games (board games etc) we all try to win by scoring the highest score. However, in serious games, there may not be a scoring mechanism and therefore we almost invent our own one by comparing ourselves to others (by leader boards) or inventing our own measures (e.g. I can do this “better”/faster than someone else) so we are inadvertently creating our own competition and developing things into more of a game.

Ben also then introduced the concept of developing the education environment. In this example he talked about how they had developed a fictional town, with fictional people (even to the extent that you could google the name and find a website, look up the people and find social media profiles etc) but it made it a completely immersive environment, one where the line between the training and reality were very blurred, essentially making you feel part of the game and completely involved.

Having now heard this final session – it once again strengthened my earlier lunchtime thought – and what should ultimately prove to be my key learning point for the day, and that is that:

Learning should be an experience

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