Conferences often get me buzzing with too many things to think about, and I’m grateful for the long train ride home to catch my breath and process my thoughts. As noted earlier, I spent this past week at the eLearning Guild Annual Gathering in Orlando. In the spirit of live blogging, this post will be in short bursts of impressions and thoughts – I’ll be coming back to some of these ideas in the future, I’m sure.
Crowdsourcing. Jeff Howe got me thinking about what’s changing… He pointed out that visible activities are often not “the thing” – the thing is what’s underneath or behind them. And all of the activity we’re seeing on the web is reflective of a changed “habit of mind” that favors democracy – everyone wants his or her say in customization, decisions, etc. The implications of that tickle at the edge of my brain. I’m wondering if the implications go well beyond web activity and spill over into overall attitudes… are we developing into a people who want a more direct voice in everything? What will that mean?
Trend headlines. The research trends session featured David Mallon (Bersin), Claire Schooley, (Forrester), and Bryan Chapman, (Chapman Alliance) – smart people whose job it is to notice what’s happening and make sense of it. For me, no real surprises here, just validation.
>> We’re all trying to figure out how to exploit informal learning in a more strategic way.
>> Creating learning assets in small chunks using a rapid process is more and more important.
>> HR practices related to talent management and performance management need to be integrated with the learning strategy (and/or vice-verse).
>> Operational success depends on alignment and efficiency.
>> An “easy” advancement is to wrap web 2.0 functionality around most learning experiences to support application and ongoing development.
>> Deep specialization may be making a comeback. (News to me, and exciting if true.)
Future of higher education and degrees in our field. At this point, we continue to operate in a world where the brand name of the program you graduate is part of your cachet. (Although hiring managers say the degree only “counts” for a few years; then they begin to wonder how you’ve kept up with the field.) As the web opens up possibilities more and more, consider a world in which you might “study” under a variety of well-known figures, ending up with a wealth of experiences and a portfolio of exceptional work instead of a “degree.” Will good “professors” still need or want to associate with a branded program, or can they become their own brand? Will people seek and gain a deep understanding of underlying theory and research or will practice portfolios trump everything? Mmm…. (Thanks to the Will Thalheimer, Allison Rossett, Curtis Bonk, and Fran Keefe who engaged in a lively panel on the subject of advanced degrees in the field that got me thinking in this direction. These are my thoughts, though, not theirs.)
Informal learning. This subject was definitely the featured topic – encompassing both collaborative technologies (web 2.0) and knowledge management concerns. I think organizing and designing informal learning assets is a critical emerging skill area for our field, but I worry as well. We learned a long time ago (see The Social Life of Information(2000) by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid) that having access to information does NOT necessarily lead to learning. We can “push” or “feature” key knowledge assets, but just accessing and reading those assets doesn’t mean people will know how to apply the information appropriately. And compiling assets won’t help people to distinguish between what they should truly know and what they merely need to know how to find. Information alone won’t build skills. So while I think that we need to build up information assets and ensure ease of access to them, we also need to build other kinds of self-study assets that help people to learn relatively independently, or that help people to work with those who can be good coaches and mentors. In embracing informal learning, let’s not abandon our learners. (Thanks to Marc Rosenberg, Bryan Chapman, and others whose presentations brought forward various aspects of the informal learning challenge.)
Magic. There’s a lot to be said for holding a conference in Orlando in mid-March. The topics were thought-provoking; the ideas were timely; the hotel’s poolside was relaxing (and perfect for gathering thoughts and catching up with people between sessions); the weather was beautiful; and the Disney parks were inviting. All in all, it was a fine place to spend a week. Thanks to the eLearning Guild for a great event.