DevLearn 2010 Recap

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Overview

Once again the eLearning Guild did a fantastic job putting on DevLearn.  This year the event was held in the City by the Bay, San Francisco.  The lineup of speakers was fantastic and as usual there was an extremely wide range of sessions to meet a diverse attendance from beginners to experts who were interested  in a wide variety of specialties from rapid eLearning development, to scenario and game-based learning to social and informal learning.

The Transamerica Building in San Francisco

With the exception of attending all but one of the keynotes, my focus was on attending sessions related to mobile learning.  And there were plenty.  The first two days of the conference the Mobile Learning Jam held non-stop sessions on various mLearning topics from some of the most recognized leaders in mobile learning.  Topics ranged from developing an mLearning strategy to how to measure the effectiveness of mobile learning.  In addition, virtually every concurrent session had at least one presentation related to mobile learning.

The hot topics that got the most attention this year were, mobile learning, gaming and easier ways to develop advanced learning interactions.  As usual the keynote presentations were excellent. At least the three I attended were. I ended up missing one to attend one of the Mobile Learning Jam sessions.  I understand the idea of concurrent sessions, but having to decide between attending a keynote speech and a really interesting session on instructional design for mobile was disappointing.

As expected, virtually everyone had a smartphone. I expected to see many iPads; but even I was surprised by just how many there were (I’d estimate one in three attendees).  The mobile app created for the conference, EventPilot by ATiV Software was well done.  It was nice to be able to pull out my phone or iPad and see where the next session was.  You could also preview many speaker’s slides prior to a session to see if the topic was really something you were interested in attending.  The app itself was a great example of mobile learning.  It’s amazing to me how many people are engaged in mobile learning every day and don’t even realize it.

Some Nuggets from the Conference

John Seely Brown who is the co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge and was previously the chief scientist for Xerox and the director of its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) gave a keynote on The Power of Pull which also happens to be the title of his new book.  In his keynote, he presented a strong case for why in the age of information, society is increasingly moving to one where we are more comfortable seeking out the information we need (pulling it) than we are having it thrust (or pushed) upon us.  This bodes well for mobile learning as mobile technologies make it easier for people to access the information they need, when they need it.

Futurist Thornton May gave a very lively keynote related to his book, The New Know. While entertaining, overall, I found his presentation very abstract and difficult to apply to the current business landscape.  However, in one exercise, he asked us to predict three things that would be markedly different three years from now.  As we discussed this question in our small group, it struck me that trying to predict what the world will be like in three years is probably as difficult as trying to predict what life would be like in 30 years back in 1980.  The world seems to be changing so fast and at an ever-increasing rate.  It also got me thinking about the implications for companies trying to do planning and forecasting.  Where organizations used to create 3, 5, and 10 year plans, it almost seems like some companies in dynamic industries need to be creating 3, 5, and 10 quarter or month plans!  What is so revealing is just how nimble companies have to be in order to react to the pace at which change is occurring.

Silke Fleischer and Eric Converse of ATIV Software gave an interesting session on ePub, the open e-book standard by IDPF.  ePub is a content delivery format for mobile devices.  In their presentation, Silke and Eric highlighted the benefits of ePub over formats like PDF, namely reflowable content.  But they also described some of the limitations and compatibility issues associated with this format.  The flexibility ePub offers in terms of the ability to read and search text on a variety of mobile devices, with different size screens and resolutions, makes ePub a very powerful tool for delivering mLearning content.  We will post a more complete article specifically on ePub in the near future.

I also attended two very interesting sessions related to interactivity.  One was on immersive learning simulations and the other on Alternate Reality Games (ARGs).  Both gave excellent insight into the importance of learning by doing.  But, what struck me about ARGs is how relatively easy and inexpensive they can be to develop.  Karen Burpee, an Instructional Designer with the Canadian Army Learning Support Center (ALSC) presented her team’s work on an ARG for new employees.  Her presentation focused on how an ARG was used as a mobile learning exercise to enhance the instructor-led training already being offered to new employees.

Finally Tom Crawford, CEO of Visualization Network, conducted a session on the Future of Visualization that was very informative.  While not specifically geared towards mobile learning, Tom presented many creative ways to represent information in order to help people understand and communicate better.  The concepts and ideas he presented are every bit as important in mobile design and development as they are in traditional forms of learning.

All in all, it was a jam-packed three days in San Francisco. Aside from all the great mobile learning information I took in, the Giants had just won the World Series, the weather was absolutely beautiful and of course the food was exquisite.  DevLearn 2011 will have a lot to live up to next year in Vegas!

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John is the Managing Partner for Float Mobile Learning. He has over 18 years of experience in helping clients change to be more successful and helping those clients navigate those changes. He works with Fortune 500 organizations to help them define and design learning strategies with a focus on mobile learning. His client list includes Caterpillar, Anheuser-Busch, Museum of Science and Industry and Pioneer Hi-Bred, a subsidiary of DuPont.

John is a member of both the E-Learning Guild and ASTD where he is active in speaking about both eLearning and mobile learning topics.

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On November 15, 2010
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