Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reflections on DevLearn 2011 - A Review of a Monumental Learning Event

Once again DevLearn has come...

And once again, it has gone.

I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that in my three years of attending, this has been my absolute favorite. Now, true, it might be partly because I didn't have to present this year (always a bonus), but there's a lot more to it than that.

This year, I felt a certain level of 'establishment' in the industry I haven't felt till now. Folks who, admittedly, intimidated me a bit (@janebozarth, @LearnNuggets, @cp4tl, just to name a few) definitely made me feel massively unsure of myself. Not through anything they did, mind you - it was because of their vast expertise in the field, incredible thoughts, ideas, and writings, and their position in the industry.

No, this year, I felt like I came into my I arrived. True, in my sessions I felt like I had bigger, better ideas than years past and brought more to the discussion than I previously have...but what really cemented it for me this year was #lrnchat in person. Being around a likeminded groups of, who I would consider to be, icons in the industry (folks above, plus @cammybean, @bschlenker, @LnDDave, and @Aaronesilvers) made me realize one majorly important thing, all through the magic of Social Media (and, in essence, Learning):

I might actually know what the hell I'm talking about.

(As Andre the Giant said in The Princess Bride: "Don't worry...I won't let it go to my head."

So, with the warm and fuzzy feel good retrospective over and done with, let's get down to business. I might know what the hell I'm talking about, but...well, what the hell did I learn? As I have in years past, I've selected three words to segment my takeaways into. For DevLearn 2011, they are SOCIAL, PRACTICAL, and KAKU (<-- the fanboy emerges). Let's get started...

SOCIAL - Another Year of We Being Smarter Than Me
With many folks presenting on a variety of Social topics, I will absolutely admit that @janebozarth's presentation is what spurred me forward to create an entire section on this vast topic (even edging out @jaycross' influence on my thinking...that's saying something). Imagine my surprise, as well, that, upon my return to my place of employment, the 'Internal Social Media' system that they had been discussing for so long was up and running...what timing! The usage rate, however, of this new system hasn't exactly taken off, so what's one to do?

Well, Steve Yacovelli, in his session, provided a phenomenal idea to push it forward. Improve the attitudes toward both eLearning and Social Learning by increasing three areas: PC Competence, Attitudes towards eLearning, and Attitudes towards Computers (in general). Seems simple enough, but how many of us in the know carry the 'curse of knowledge'? We think that, because something is simple to us, that what we perceive to be a simple explanation is adequate. Problem is, if you think your explanation is simple enough for the lay person, it might be based on your heightened understanding of the topic at hand. As Steve quoted "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." (Einstein) That's one that's going to stick with me for a while...truly appreciated. And in explaining in such a fashion, you will turn your Social and eLearning foes into supporters!

Another point of knowledge came from the, IMHO, legendary @jaycross. Simply put, "People need to be happy to learn." Don't get me wrong - we're not talking about handing out anti-depressants or shots of Patron during class/the workday. Instead, people need to feel trulyhappy to learn. We talked about motivators, such as money and the like, then Jay revealed a scale (top 10 style) of what makes people happy. Imagine our collective "no S" when the #1 item on the list was sex. Of course it was. But in close second wasn't wasn't a lot of things I thought it would be. It was Conversation as Part of Work. Wow. Simply put - If you ever needed a leveraging platform to get that Social Media/Learning idea across to your powers-that-be...there you have it.

Yet another item, part of the Curation keynote by Rosenbaum, was the following fact (and the follow-up to said fact). "Between the dawn of civilization and the year 2003, 5 exabytes of data was created. We now create that much information every two days." Now, if that doesn't put your head on tilt, you're numb from the neck up. That is, quite literally, a staggering statistic. But just think - In that much information, how much of it is garbage? How much of it is false? A good amount, to be sure, and that's why Rosenbaum suggested to the crowd in attendance that it is now CRUCIAL for those of us in the industry of learning and knowledge transfer to not only distribute the information...make it available...but, also, CURATE that very same information. Be a filter for your learners.

Finally, and you might say I saved the best for last, @janebozarth gave me a mindbomb that gave me a rock solid answer to one of the #lrnchat questions. Social can you be sure they're can you be sure they're using it well, often, and effectively? Simply put: Back the hell up. Back off your employees when it comes to using Social Media for Social Learning. The more you loom, the less they learn. Plain. Simple. Employees are smart enough on their own...give them their space.

PRACTICAL - Reasonable Practices Yield Profitable Results
Admittedly, the Social section will be the longest, but don't get me wrong - There was more to be learned than just all things social. I took away three solid practical tips that I kind of knew (in some cases), but needed to be reminded of...

My dear, old do I love thee. Well, it depends on the day. BUT, with that said, I was reminded by a colleague presenting (who actually just started using Captivate, so not as jaded as me) that "Captivate, if used intelligently, CAN do it all." Having worked with it since the days of RoboDemo, honestly - that's an eaasy one to forget. But when I step back and really think about it, Captivate has become the PowerPoint of 10 years ago. When I was student teaching, I can remember using PowerPoint to, what I now know was, create my first stabs at eLearning (as an undergrad, no less). Having been a techie, I knew some tips and tricks that floored people with PPT. I know now that it is likely this predisposition, to use something not for what it was necessarily originally purposed for, that has fueled my longstanding love affair with Captivate. Thanks for the reminder...

One other quick bullet item centered around video. Taking a foray into a different venue in eLearning where I'm still employed, video is now becoming more and more a concern. Imagine my relief when I realized a bank wouldn't have to be broken to accommodate this new requirement, and that it's actually quite doable. In the words of Matas, "A budget video studio is not only doable, but it's professional as well as practical". When I think to the future, and the purchases I may very well have to submit for, I will be eternally grateful for and frantically reviewing the information from this presentation!

Finally, just an item of note: Google Fonts. I had no idea these existed. I can use these. I will use these. True story.

KAKU - or "Dear God Help Me...My Brain Just Melted"
I will be as upfront as possible here: I am a Michio Kaku fanboy. Anything he is on, I watch. Anything he says, I listen. My glee that I experienced being able to see him in person, listen to him speak, and actually meet him, I will likely hold onto for a very long time. One of my colleagues, @ohmar9 (Omar N.), sent me a text or two from another conference about Bill Clinton keynoting at his conference. Given the fact that I saw Dr Kaku, I was okay with that.

Anyway, I say that to say this: I overheard people grumbling that Dr Kaku's presentation wasn't exactly 'learning centered' or was more about technology than learning. Everyone has their own perspective, and I couldn't disagree with these people more. The fact that we are learning professionals leveraging technological platforms to get our message(s) across only speaks even more strongly to the fact that Kaku was not only appropriate, but a genius selection - kudos to eLearning Guild for the right pick.

So, what did I learn? Well, I was reminded that basic education hasn't changed much in 2,000 years (true story). What I had not thought about was that this is why costs for education have would happen with anything that resists change so adamantly. It's only when we being to embrace said changes...said technological advancements, that we'll be able to lessen the cost, and make it more accessible for all.

Unlike learning, computer chips, as a device, will cost one cent or less by 2020 (as foretold by Moore's Law). Did you catch that? .01 or less. Imagine what we'll be able to do with that price point...I won't give it all away here (and some is in my recap of his keynote back a couple pages), but trust me...the results will be epic.

Technology-wise, the Internet and computers, in general, will be "Everywhere and Nowhere", just like electricity has become. Think about it: When's the last time you even used the word electricity? We hide cords, power sources, and so on...and, even now, with wireless, we're beginning the 'hiding of' the machine. Just think where it will be - contact lenses, glasses, toilets, will be EVERYWHERE (and nowhere).

As such, Augmented Reality (AR) will invariably revolutionize the classroom. It will revolutionize life, in general. Think about it: Instead of struglling to remember who someone is, your contact lens will bring up a context sensitive display, based on the person's face you say 'hi' to that provides you with name, phone number, and context in which you know said person. If you are in a foreign country, it will display the translation for the cab driver yelling at you in a foreign tongue. Navigation from point A to point B will be as simple as keeping your eyes open. Of course the pitfalls for learning exist (see: cheating), but if you're not excited about this, you're already one foot in the grave.

Longwindedness Aside, Was It Worth Going?
As I said above, for many reasons, this was the pinnacle of my three conventions attended. It was enriching ('rich', in the words of @ohmar9), it was beneficial, and it was time well spent. Of course I will attend next year (and the year after, etc.), and this time around, I won't stand up @bschlenker for the Ignite! speaking gig.

If you're thinking about going, do it. eLearning Guild puts on an amazing event. I feel lucky to have been able to attend, and fortunate for having spent time with a good number of people who I consider colleagues, peers, and friends.

See you all next year.


  1. Hi Shawn! I am so glad that you enjoyed the event. I am sad to hear that some people grumbled about my choice of Dr. Kaku. Judging from the epic line at his book signing I would say the number of grumblers must have been small. Thank you for making the connection as to our selection in your blog.
    The social aspect of our industry is growing and its so fun to see so many people embrace "the social". And then to see everyone f2f is such a treat. Thanks for being such a strong supporter of DevLearn and The eLearning Guild. Without you and your eLearning colleagues we wouldn't be able to put on a show like DevLearn. So, many many thanks to you!
    And yes, your time has come! But with great power comes great responsibility! :)
    Brent (@bschlenker)

  2. Connection was incredibly easy to make...I pity those who could not put it together. They will, more than likely, be the 'anchors' around our collective necks as we strive to leap forward into the future.

    Agreed on the F2F time - it is incredibly valuable. And, to be honest without having a moment here - Your words mean A LOT to me. It certainly felt like a coming of age for me, sitting at that table, and my only hope is that I not only carry that responsibility, but do it well.

    Thanks again,