Learning Technologies 2014

29 Jan

Are we ready for the future? What part does technology have to play in learning? Will the coming years be more about a culture shift than devices and interfaces? When should we innovate? These were just a few of the questions that were buzzing around in my head after day one of the Learning Technologies 2014 conference, or #LT14uk as the hashtag goes.

The conference was attended by members of the learning community from a range of industries and was designed to help us to share thoughts and knowledge on the challenges and opportunities facing the organisations that we’re part of. There were some amazing stories being told at the event and some great practical advice, as well as a chance to share experiences with our peers – one person I met was a self-confessed Twitter-phobe at the start of the conference and by the end of it she’d set up a Twitter account for her chickens to tweet (cluck?!) from as a way to get to grips with the channel!

For me, LT14uk was an opportunity to learn from and share ideas with those shaping and defining the future as well as hearing from those who might feel intimidated by it. I wanted to come away from the event feeling inspired but also wanted to leave with a better understanding of the challenges facing the learning community and an idea of how I could use technology and digital thinking as a way to alleviate these challenges.

Across the two days, the speakers touched on everything from perception and neuroscience to practical video tips and personal stories. All of the sessions were filmed and as soon as they’re added to the Learning Technologies site I’ll share them on Yammer. For now, here are some of the stand-out messages for me from day one of the conference.

The rise of Generation C

Brian Solis, founder of a research company dedicated to disruptive technology, focused on the rise of ‘Generation C’(where the C stands for Connected). Generation C isn’t defined by age but instead by their access to and dependence on information and connectivity and the fact that they have a wide circle of influence. We’re trying to engage an audience with an audience of audiences, so we need to adjust the way we communicate with this audience and how we use technology. One of the ways he feels we can do this is by identifying learning and communications needs in the way that marketers do. Steve Wheeler, whose session I attended later in the day, summed Brian’s session up well in this blog post.

Reverse mentoring

Marc Prensky, a consultant and author who coined the term ‘digital native’, went on to build on the themes raised in the key note speech, citing some examples of how organisations have implemented reverse mentoring schemesto embed digital and emerging technologies into their culture. I thought this was an inspired idea and a good way to create a ‘safe’ environment for people to learn about emerging channels and technologies where they can ask questions without the fear of failing in a public space like Twitter.

Here’s to the digital troublemakers!

Steve Wheeler, Associate Professor of Learning Technology at Plymouth University and Andrew Jacob from the L&D team at London Borough of Lambeth gave what I thought was the standout session of the conference, posing some tough questions to each other and to the audience about how organisations could manage and use the shift in technology; for example, they asked why should learning be linear when the world we live in isn’t? They suggested that learning, and behaviour on social media should be personally owned but organisationally supported, putting the emphasis on the individual to take the initiative.

Steve Wheeler encouraged people to go out into their organisations and find the mavericks, the positive deviants (and even the troublemakers!) and share ideas with them to drive change. For those not so familiar with social/tech, they encouraged identifying those who have a higher level of digital literacy and learning from them. There was a ‘back to basics’ common sense thread running through their talk and they urged the audience to go back to their organisations and:

  • Start with the problem, not the tech solution
  • Be creative
  • Get involved
  • Encourage P2P sharing
  • Encourage collaborative creation and curation of content.

The talk also made a good point that learning often takes place informally at the point of need through social networks and valuable connections – I think we can already see this happening on Yammer at BP. One of the points they made was that innovation should be disruptive at the right time.

Send in the Trojan mice…

Euan Semple, the author of ‘Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do’spoke about the importance of just in time learning and how to embed this within organisations. Euan stressed how it is important to win hearts and minds when forging forward with the implementation of new ways of learning or new technology. He suggested a ‘Trojan mice’ approach, where small changes are made every day until a culture is transformed – if we can share inspiration with one person a week, if we can make our enthusiasm for what we do as contagious and compelling as possible whilst demonstrating value to the business, we are setting our initiatives up to succeed.

You can find out what others thought of the conference using the #LT14uk hashtag on Twitterand see the videos from last year on their YouTube channel. HR Zone’s round-up of the top 50 tweets from the conference has some interesting points and links. You might even spot a Tweeter or two that you recognise!

Did you attend? Which sessions did you find the most useful? What were the key messages you took away from the conference?

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