Wednesday, October 30, 2013

DevLearn 2013 Lessons Learned

I'm a notoriously bad note-taker (I blame it on paying attention), but coming out of DevLearn this year, I had some big epiphanies that I wanted to get down in writing.

First, thank you, as always, to the e-Learning Guild for hosting a wonderful event. Every year I say I'm going to present less and attend more sessions, and every year my dance card fills up. David Holcombe, Heidi Fisk, David Kelly, Reuben Tozman - another inspiring year! And a special thanks to Juli Balding, who is the world's best herder of cats.

In no particular order, my thoughts and observations on DevLearn 2013:

1. People have a hard time breaking out of "conference mode" - I would have liked to see more people building Lego robots. Maybe next year I can convince them to have a "Battle Bot" competition during DemoFest and bring in a Battle Bot alumni to host (ironically, I know one...). In general, I like the hands on learning activities, but I think it's difficult to get people to transition from soaking it all in to trying something new. Still...I think this is worth broadening and refining - and could evolve into a real application at a conference of immersive learning.

2. I wanted more diversity in the keynotes.

3. I didn't have to explain what immersive learning was so much anymore. I had GREAT turn outs at my pre-con workshop and Morning Buzz sessions. I like seeing the shift from "ooh shiny" technology focus to "what can we really do with this," and not in a dismissive way.

4. The data sessions were packed, and it's clear that many people still don't know what or how to measure. What the LMSs typically measure and track aren't the metrics that executives care about and that is a serious gap we need to bridge. A few years ago, I did a panel with Cammy Bean and Ellen Wagner at Learning Solutions on speaking the language of the business. We need that BIG TIME in data analytics. I want to show more examples. I want to break down a PNL for training professionals to really get what we need to communicate. I already have ideas on how to refine my session. Maybe there's a book in there.

5. There seemed like a lot less higher ed and government attendees. I like seeing a good mix, but all of my sessions were heavy on the enterprise attendees. I'd love to see more diversity, not less!

6. I worry about the new tech hype. As the girl who touted virtual worlds a few years back, I am seeing parallels in some of the new technologies. Augmented reality hasn't found it's home yet. Mobile is still struggling with good design practices. Games are finally accepted as valuable, but still there are so few examples of organizations implementing them in deep ways...still a lot of pilot tests. And now we have AI and robots and Google Glass and sensors...and yet many are still struggling to show how training adds value (and is not just a cost center) to an organization. Which, of course, takes me back to analytics...we need to keep the horse in front of the cart, and while I'm a huge fan of new tech, I worry that we need to catch up to where tech was 3 years ago. (Am I getting old and jaded?)

7. I was thrilled to get to hear Ian Bogost's keynote and even more excited that he delineated games from gamification. It's a message that learning folks need to hear, and he really broke it down well. I hope it helped some of that "let's make this boring activity a game" syndrome. Plus, I fan-girled out a little that he recognized me.

8. I've been talking about ARGs for 5 years and people still don't really know what they are. Part of it lies in the confusion of games versus gamification, but I'd like to really push more examples and case studies. It's a low cost way to create immersive learning that is completely under-leveraged. It may be time to jump back in to that pool.

9. Don't get a tattoo in Vegas when you live an hour from LA. Especially if you already got a tattoo in Vegas last year.

10. People are sheep. NO ONE would enter the Silver Clouds exhibit at the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Bellagio, even after John and I stormed in. Why would you not experience the art? Jump into it, people. JUMP. IN.

11. Every conference I go to, I think about the difference in value of presentations versus conversations.  Presentations are valuable, but it's usually the conversations where we learn the most. What would it look like to structure sessions around conversations with the goal of an outcome. Something like, "I need help with..." and "I can help with...!" and pair people up? Maybe we need problem - solution speed dating?

12. I didn't get as much social time this year. I think that's ok, but I do like to stay for the whole conference, which I couldn't do this year. There's always next year, right?

13. Smart people I admire take lots of good conference notes, or compile peoples' tweets, etc. You should check out Cammy Bean's blog for notes on the sessions she attended (including one of mine, and Ian Bogost's previously mentioned keynote). And David Kelly's compilation of the conference back channel, of course.

14. People really do love I can't tell you how many people stopped me to tell me their personal stories, and thank me for what has done for them. It really makes me proud to represent a company that people feel so passionately about.

A few more thought-provoking conversations will be covered in separate blog posts, but my key take-away from DevLearn 2013? It's still all about the design, and the data, not the tech. We just need to figure out design and data FOR the tech. 

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