Tuesday, October 6, 2015

DevLearn 2015 - Day 1

Well, my plan to do video recaps at DevLearn didn't go exactly as planned. The Day 1 video refused to upload to YouTube and I got back way too late on Day 2 (thanks to attending a surprise wedding renewal... a nice problem to have!) to record coherent sentences. By Day 3 I figured this was all going to be post-conference reflections and that was just going to be okay.

Now that I'm home and have access to delightfully strong Wi-Fi, I've posted that Day 1 video after all (you can view it here). But since I'm doing all the other days as blog posts, I figured I may as well just recap it in text too.

1) Keynote - Learning Disrupted: The unrecognizable new world of tech and culture
Speaker: David Pogue
Who doesn't want to start a learning & tech conference by looking at the absurd amount of things our tech can do these days?! From keeping track of your health to making your smart phone into an ocarina, Pogue talked about we are surrounded by new tech. And what's cool is this tech doesn't just make our lives better (or, at least, more ocarina-infused), it also changes how, what, and why we create, share, and interact. No surprise, that's why it's important to keep on top of it, especially for those of us in L&D.

So there's that point, but Pogue also made another important one: not all these tech ideas are going to make an impact. For every tech success, there are dozens of products that don't pan out (or, let's be honest, were just too stupid to succeed... I'm looking at you Nintendo Power Glove). It takes all that trying weird ideas and often failing, though, to find what sticks.

2) DIY Music Tracks - Loops and Virtual Instruments
Speaker: Don Bolen
If you're looking to create a more immersive experience in your eLearning, videos, podcasts and other cool training mediums, adding a soundtrack can help you out. They're great for conveying moods, emotions, transitions, and/or a sense of place, all of which can make what you create feel more realistic. That said, most of us aren't trained composers. But thanks to loops (tiny snippets of sound/music you can chain together to create songs and soundtracks) all of us have the ability to put together our own soundtracks with a bit of effort.

When it came to what to compile your loops in, Bolen recommended GarageBand. This was because it's cheap (well, it's cheap IF you already own Apple products), easy to learn, and, best yet, comes with free loops already installed. If you want to use other software or if you need to expand your library of loops, though, Bolen mentioned a few options for acquiring more cheaply, including:
On a related note, if you're looking to make your own loops, I've actually bumped into a few easy-to-use iOS apps that are great for that. As of late, I've been playing with Auxy, Beatwave, and Figure, all of which are worth poking at with a stick.

3) We don't own social in the workplace and we never will
Speaker: JD Dillon
Has the universe ever conspired against you? That's how I used to feel about JD's sessions. If we were both speaking at a conference, then inevitably we'd always be scheduled at the same time, much to my annoyance. Thankfully, the universe clearly got lazy this year because I FINALLY got to see him speak. No surprise if you follow him on Twitter, his session was both useful and hilarious.

Basically, lots of organizations have invested in social tools that it turns out their employees don't care about using. Some companies like to make the excuse that it's just because people don't know how to use the tools (and then WE all get called in to build completely unnecessary training), but JD says that's not the real problem. It's not that they don't know how to use the tools - in fact, many of these tools are just as easy to use as Facebook or Instagram - it's that they don't automatically see how the tools fit into what they're trying to accomplish at work.

So what can you do to help people want to bother with those social tools? Well, a lot of what JD found helpful was actually modeling using the tools to get things done. Want your team to use your chat tool to keep in touch? Chat with them through it so they can see how it's useful. Want them to start using Slack instead of email? Start running a team project through it so people can figure it out (are you thinking of doing this? Then go bug JD on Twitter about how he got his team using Slack). People don't just magically understand how whatever tool you're trying to launch will make their work lives better. Often you've got to help them see the value.

One of the other key points he brought up was that, for social tools to take off, L&D shouldn't actually be leading the work on them. Sure, L&D should have influence (and often we're in a pretty great position to test out new tools and weigh in on what's actually worth bothering with), but for social to actually take hold it's got to be used beyond just in training.

4) The past, present, and future of games and learning
Speakers: Julie Dirksen, Sharon Boller, Koreen Pagano, and Bianca Woods
Hey look! It's one of my sessions!

Since I was actually speaking and not live tweeting the thing, that makes it a bit tricky to cover afterwards. Instead, let me just give you a taste by answering the last two questions we were asked.

What's your favourite game that you've played recently?
Oh boy... this one's weird. I'm quite keen on both games in the visual novel genre as well what you could basically categorize as "bizarrely random stuff from Japan". My most recent fav, Hatoful Boyfriend, sits well within both of those areas. The thing is a spot-on spoof of Japanese dating sim games, but with one weird twist: all the characters you're trying to romance in the game are pigeons. So it's super weird, but I love it. I adore branched storytelling and it's such an excellent example of how differently a story can go based on your choices. Plus, it just cracks me up every time.

What game do you think people should play to better understand games and learning?
I took a slightly different turn with this question. Rather than recommend a specific game I recommended a specific process: back a game on Kickstarter. What's great about this approach is that games that go up on Kickstarter usually haven't been developed fully yet... and the developers send backers updates through the entire development process (yup... even if you back them at the lowest price point available). I have learned so much about how to develop a game just from all of the backer updates I've gotten through the years, so if you're looking to create or purchase a game for learning, why not learn from the experts?! Plus, I've found there's a ton of overlap between how we develop everything we create in L&D and how game devs approach projects. Even if you never make a game yourself, you can learn a lot about great design and development approaches from these updates.

5) Keynote - Digital badges and the future of learning
Speaker: Connie Yowell
And, to cap things off for the day, another keynote!

Yowell opened with what we need to solve for if we want to reimagine learning: lowered student engagement, entering the workplace without the skills employers want, and a lack of equal access to the tools/programs/resources that help students succeed. To solve for this, Yowell looked at how successful adults mapped the things that helped them learn. As it turned out, they didn't just point to the traditional school path; they also mapped a wide (and not particularly linear) range of other connected and networked ways they learned new skills.

To reimagine learning in a useful way, then, Yowell said you need to find a way to capture and share that wide range of experiences. And the best way to do that is through open badges.

The open badge website has some wonderful content on what exactly these things are. The VERY condensed version is that an open badge carries data about who earned the badge, where they earned it, what they did to earn it, and a connection to relevant standards. You would earn badges for learning new skills anywhere (not just in school) and those badges could be shown to others as a way of displaying the skills you'd learned throughout your life. Kind of like a combo transcript/portfolio/scouting sash that follows you throughout your career and documents a wide range of knowledge. And that broader system of showing a range of experiences could be just what we need to solve the problems Yowell discussed at the beginning of the talk.

So what makes open badges different from any other badges? It's that ability to take them with you anywhere. In most systems the badges you earn are for that system alone. If you leave the system, you don't take the badges with you. In the world of gaming, that's like me earning achievements on my PS4 but not being able to transfer them to an Xbox One. That's annoying, but it's way worse in your work life. You're constantly learning things at work, but your record of that progress doesn't travel with you if you move to a new company. With an open badge system, though, it would. And that would be great for reasons beyond keeping you from having to redo the same legally mandated health and safety training every time you move to a new company.

That's a wrap for Day 1! My Days 2 and 3 coverage will be following along later this week. But, for now, sleep. Sweet, glorious sleep!

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