Saturday, October 3, 2015

DevLearn 2015 The Recap - "Listen"

Me Aculpa...And All That

Let me be the first to apologize: For as much as my "Why I Blog" post referenced conference blogging, and how I live blog everything I'm in, I did a marginal job, at best, this time, and definitely feel light in the blog department.  But with that apology comes another...

Sorry...not sorry.

See, there was a reason for the lacking blog presence, and it wasn't that the conference was lacking, or that the sessions weren't diverse, or that something was wrong anywhere.  It was the total opposite: At this conference, I found more going on, more being taught, more intriguing "stuff", and it led me to do something that, admittedly, I'd not done in a long time: Stop typing/tweeting/etc. and LISTEN.

This year's DevLearn was off the chart in a number of areas, but the one that seemed to rise to the top in all accounts was keeping me busy.  And busy is a good thing, I's why:

Honey Do, Honey Do
One of the biggest differences for me this year was that I went from a paltry ONE session being presented to being involved with FOUR (assuming you consider the Morning Buzz among my numbers...which you should...just sayin).  And while that would likely sound like a deterrent to anyone with their head on straight, any of you that know me know that's not the case here (re: my cranium being one attached in a straightforward method).

All kidding aside, being as busy as I was made everything I was able to attend that much more poignant.  I found myself almost "thirsty" to absorb whatever I could amidst my own obligations (and in no way, shape or form am I saying that because I couldn't attend as much things were better...I'm saying that the content was incredibly rich in the narrow windows I could "attend", so I can only imagine how less busy people felt!).  Additionally, presenting/participating as much as I did lent itself to my own personal learning (see: gleaning) from the awesome attendees that were in my/our sessions.  We all know that peer-to-peer education is the strongest, retention-wise, and I feel like because I was surrounded by so many phenomenal audience members, I gained that much more. 

(Not saying I want to do 5 or 6 sessions or anything, Dave...but busy works for me.)

The Spice of Life...(AKA Variety)

Another factor I noticed this year, in and among my attempts to breathe, was the sheer robustness of the conference.  I am in no way, shape, or form saying that any previous DevLearn was lacking - Nothing could be farther from the truth.  But this year, felt a way I'd never experienced it before. 

It's not like I adhered to a track...or hung out with a docent...nothing like that.  I wasn't there looking for anything in particular.  But it was almost like I couldn't turn my head 90 degrees in any direction without finding/seeing something worth attending and learning AT LEAST two or three things I hadn't walked in with.  Even MEMEs, which I consider myself mildly to moderately proficient in, proved educational to me (see: PechaKucha).  And for a longstanding attendee, like myself?  That's pretty damned awesome...(though I'm still working through what, exactly, xAPI actually is...but I'm getting there, Aaron/S Put). 

Overall, just a bigger, better, badder, more innovative conference...I can't say it enough: DevLearn is the Cadillac (or whatever brand car you like best) of the eLearning circuit.

Adam Savage.Relax.  This isn't me fanboying out any harder than I already did (but BELIEVE ME, I could).  This heading is about, first of all, the greatest keynote speaker DevLearn has seen/heard...ever...yes, ever (so much for the not fanboying), but it's not for the reasons you'd think.  It's not for the content, necessarily, of his keynote...though MY GOD it was amazing, wasn't it? (Strike 2, Rosler...).  There were three different times, in the Q&A with Dave, nonetheless, where Adam Savage, for as long as I've watched him/been a fan, had me identifying with him hardcore (and feeling good about my faults):

1.) It's hard to be wrong...even for Adam Savage.  I admittedly can't recall whether it was during his keynote or in the Q&A after, but Adam related to us all how he's had a problem with not knowing things.  Well, last time I admitted that, Neil DeGrasse Tyson threatened to slap me (true story), so imagine my delight knowing that it's really okay (confirmed, even) to not know things.  That one of the greatest joys in life is to actually hang around people who know more than you and just soak it in...that it's a badge of honor, in Adam's eyes, to admit you don't know something.  He related that the smartest people he knows aren't that ones that always have the answers, but, rather, the ones that can ask for the answer when they don't know. I've struggled since the beginning of my career (and then some) to be okay with that, and hearing him say that made me that much better.

2.) It's hard to be a good listener...even for Adam Savage.  For as much as I've always struggled with the whole "knowing everything" issue, those around me have (for the most part) patiently endured my perpetually pending need to spring forth with a quip, analogy, or related story when they've been telling me something.  So, imagine my surprise when someone who I sincerely look up to (yes, Mr Savage) comes out to the audience as a terrible listener!  And, it circles back to the whole "not knowing the answer issue"...if I've got something spring-loaded quick enough, it won't matter that I don't know...they won't have the time to realize!  But it's okay to not know, and it's okay to listen and absorb...again, super reassuring.

3.) Being enthusiastic about things we like is awkward, sometimes...even for Adam Savage.  Probably the point that left me the most gutted, though (in the best way, mind you), was Adam recounting how he liked things that other kids around him didn't when he was 9...and his childhood was awkward, difficult, and so on because of it.  And that it hadn't ended...that even today, mega-success that he is, there's still interests he has that there's a moment (if not more) of embarrassment when he realizes those around him see his enthusiasm...and judge it, if just a bit.  I don't know that there's anyone who grows up to be an e-learning practitioner/figure/guru that DOESN'T experience this, and it was nothing short of reassuring to hear the face of science on Discovery channel say: It's okay.  Be honest - Your interests are different...they might even be weird.  But they're only perceived that way because the perceivers are the ones who are limited.  And the weird kids?  They grow up to be the cool(ish), smart(ish) "adults".  Trust me on that one.

But, At The End Of It All...Community Wins Again

I've exhausted my ability to recall the names of the people I used to simply watch from afar who now accept me as one of their of our I won't even try (with thanks to Mark Shepperd for the idea to not namedrop).  But, long story short, DevLearn is to me, and continues to be to me about COMMUNITY.  Plain.  Simple.  Truth/

YES...I get it, that's my presentation.  YES...I get it, that's what I wrote my recap on last year.  YES...I get's almost a softball response.  I get it all...ALL of it.'s true.  And every year I embed myself further, it becomes more and more true.  The people make the event.  The people who appreciate each other, draw from each other, and give to each other tirelessly.  Let's see if I can do a mass name drop (and if you're not in the mix...sue me):

Jane Bozarth, Ellen Wagner, Dave Kelly, Kevin Thorn, Sarah Gilbert, Cammy Bean, Mark Shepperd, Tom Spiglanin, Jeanette Campos, JD Dillon, Tracy Parish, Aaron Silvers, Sean Putman, Bill Brandon, Clark Quinn, Karl Kapp, Julie Dirksen, Mark Britz, Joe Ganci, Brian Dusablon, Trina Rimmer, Connie Malamed, Steve Howard, Neil Lasher...

Okay.  Enough.  But, as I told people in my session about Community, THESE are the people I can count on, day or night.  THESE are the people who respond at odd hours almost immediately to what questions about damn near anything.  THESE are the people I was nervous to approach and say "Hey...I think things...", only to find out they think them, too.  Just like me. 

And WE...well, we're still smarter then long as you just LISTEN.

Thanks again for another phenomenal experience...can't wait to do it all over again in 2016.  And there WILL be ukes.

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