Another academic marathon: a week-long EU/CEDEFOP-funded study visit "Gamification in Education & Training", hosted by Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz. Organised by Mikołaj Sobociński and myself, with help from the Office for International Cooperation and volunteer student teams from English Studies and Gamedec: Game Studies & Design.
It has been immensely busy - creative, productive, educational and fun. Day by day: get up early in the morning, coordinate / participate in the programme 8:30 - 16:00+ - then take just a 2-3 hrs break and meet the guests for the less official but no less intense "subgroup work" in the evening. Sometimes extending long into the night. All that set in the most beautiful May in the city, with trees and shrubs in full blossom as I'd never seen before.
Sunday: Kick-off meeting in the evening.
Monday: Introduction. Definitions. Guest presentations. Guided tour of Bydgoszcz. Evening talks in the local brewery.
Tuesday: The group goes to Toruń (nearby town) to visit a center for cognitive science at Nicolaus Copernicus University. I'm out, called off to our Department Board meeting and an urgent talk with Education Committee about the summer game design school we are preparing for launch in July. The game design school gets green light. But I lose the whole day of the study visit.
(No, not the whole day. The evening talks over dinner still count!)
Wednesday: I had given a talk on edu-gamification in High School 1 / Classical Gymnasium of Bydgoszcz several months ago, and it turned out one of the teachers actually tried this! We visit the school to see a gamified class in 1st grade of junior high, and talk to the teacher and students about their experiences.
Then we go back to UKW to play an edu-larp written by Krzysztof "Shaman" Chmielewski. The game is called "Night over Bay of Pigs", set in the Cuban crisis in the Cold War era, and supposed to train soft skills - negotiations, leadership etc. Evening talks take place in Wiatrakowa Club at the Pog(R)adajmy! event: a series of monthly meeting of the gamer community with game dev professionals, taking place simultaneously in 5 Polish cities. The larp and the game night talks deserve a blog post of their own, so I'll drop it until then.
Thursday: No visits out of university. We sit tight and practice the design of gamified language courses. We have more presentations from our guests. Also, we've got a short workshop by two pedagogy students from UKW volunteer group that runs fun events for children. And it is fun. (No, I'm not going to spill the beans about the sausage dogs!) Plus, Gamedec / Russian Studies students give a brief presentation of the urban game they are preparing for the academic festival 28-31 May. I set them up to talk to Anna from FRSE, our National Agency for Erasmus+ and other funding programmes, to find out about funding options for similar projects in the future. Similar projects will come along, that's certain.
Then another evening out - and this time it goes crazy. Dinner. Elegant jazz club. Small sailing club. Large student pub with two dance floors. Some of us leave no sooner than 3:30. People asked to move the start hour from 8:30 to 10:00. Initially, I said: no way, we are professionals - we will make it. But I declined. About 7:30, I send info to all guests about the change of hour. They deserve the additional hour of sleep.
Friday: Still, I can't be sure everyone receives it at such short notice, so I go there at 8:30 anyway. Good call: 3 people arrive early, too. Kudos to Bart: slept for 3 hours, came on time, and immediately got to work on the text of the final report!
This day we work on the design of cross-disciplinary modules inspired by Quest2Learn and Playmaker schools. Actually, we use the Q Curriculum Design Pack from Q2L. We come up with very promising concepts - although the design pack itself is not appreciated as a design tool. A few business people from Bydgoszcz come over to participate in the workshops and look for prospects of cooperation - something to be looked into soon!
And there is the last programme item: draft the final report, starting with the whiteboard with conclusions:
Then there is the closing dinner at http://ogniemimieczem.com/, my favourite restaurant in Bydgoszcz. It's historically-themed in line with the period I used to explore as historical reenactor. To add even more historical flavour, I dig out my garb and weapons, and show up costumed and armed (would 'dressed to kill' be an appropriate expression?).
Saturday: Our foreign guests left or leaving. But it's not the end for us. We host a meeting of Polish edu-gamification enthusiasts as a follow-up event to the study visit. It's small, informal, laid back, but highly productive. Again: it calls for a separate blog post. Maybe tomorrow.
Sunday: Finally time to rest after the hectic week. I go out of town to relax. Not alone - in the company of 40 mock exam essays, 30+ mid-term tests, and several RPG scenarios to be checked. Time to enjoy my well deserved holiday! :)