A screenshot of the 2011 DevLearn app

DevLearn 2011: Cloud computing, mobile learning, gaming

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DevLearn 2011 was bigger and better than ever. This year there were more attendees, more sessions and a bigger expo – not to mention the fact that it was held in Las Vegas at one of the newest and most modern casinos, The Aria. I was expecting the rooms to be nice, but I was not expecting the personalized high-tech welcome. I won’t spoil it for you in case you stay at the Aria some time; it’s a nice touch.

As usual, DevLearn started weeks before the conference with an active hashtag on Twitter: #devlearn.

A screenshot of the 2011 DevLearn app

DevLearn 2011 app screenshot

There was also a buzz over the new conference app available for iOS and Android. The impressive app was nicely done. Some of the great features were the ability to create an agenda based on sessions, strong social media integration and even a game aspect to encourage engagement. I enjoyed the fact that I could see who was attending the conference and reach out to them before the conference to say hi and ensure we connected at the conference. I also liked the fact that I did not need to carry any printed materials around. I only had my devices… a nice green aspect to that.

Attending a conference like DevLearn is a personal experience, meaning everyone who attends will get something different out of it. However, there is always an overall theme or tone for the event. My observation is that this year, some of the main messages were cloud technologies, mobile learning and gaming.

According to Koreen Olbrish, there are seven levels of mobile-enabled games.  She would not tell me what they where during our interview, but promised to explain it to me in detail at another time.

There was also quite a buzz about the new iPhone 4S and Siri. Brent played up Siri in his opening keynote and made light of a typical Siri conversation. It was a nice touch. The question was how would we use voice technologies to help learning. Can we find ways to leverage this exciting frontier in technology to improve how we reach learners?

All of the keynotes were great and kicked off each day like an espresso shot. Brent Schlenker welcomed attendees with a witty snapshot of the learning journey we were about to engage in. Brent has a way of setting the tone for DevLearn and getting us ready for the week.

Jeff Tillett and Dr. Michio Kaku

Jeff Tillett and Dr. Michio Kaku

The first keynote speaker was physicist and futurist Dr. Michio Kaku, who taught us about what things will be like “in the future.” Dr. Kaku shared insights from his latest book, Physics of the Future.  Using Moore’s Law, he showed us how technology becomes more accessible and affordable as time moves forward.  A key take-home message from Dr. Kaku was that because of this accessibility and mobility, learning will be everywhere.  We will learn what we need when we need it. Kaku’s thoughts seemed to validate some of the discussion we have been having in the mobile learning space. I love this recap covering the details of Dr. Kaku’s presentation by my friend Cammy Bean.

After the keynote, if you were there you would have seen me dashing over to the Expo to have a copy of his book signed. Don’t worry – I did not run over anyone on my way there.  Okay, I am kind of a geek. I am thankful to Brent for snapping this photo. Dr. Kaku looks thrilled to meet me, don’t you think?

Tom Koulopoulos opened day 2 of the conference with a keynote titled, “Living and Learning in the Cloud,” based on his book, Living in The Cloud (available for free on the eLearning Guild’s site). Tom called the cloud a classroom without walls, instructors, or curricula. One key concept Tom talked about was how we are working differently by leveraging cloud technology: he called it work 2.0. He also pointed out how easy it is to plug in and work or learn now using technology, giving us access to what we need and when we need it, a term he called extreme availability. Even though it’s not exactly his DevLearn keynote, a similar presentation from Tom is on YouTube.

Day 3’s keynote featured author of “Curation Nation,” Steve Rosenbaum. Steve pointed out how our role in this world of over-abundance is to be curators. This is a role we should be comfortable with as learning and development people. The issue today is not the lack of information available, but that there is too much to consume. It is up to us to filter and share or become curators. For example, it would take eight years to view the videos put up on YouTube yesterday. With the amount of information available, we need to act as stewards of information.

In this world of social media and open source, sharing is something that is natural and easily done. One of the challenges I have seen in some of the large organizations I have worked for is that there is so much information, including training content. Say goodbye to search, say hello to curation. It is our job to put content in context and share it out to our network.

Here are some of my thoughts of three of the hot topics this year from DevLearn.

Leveraging Cloud Computing for Learning

The discussion of cloud computing is not a new one. However, there has been a number of new cloud services that are creating a quite a buzz. Apple’s recent integration of iCloud into iOS 5 and other advances – such as all of Google’s cloud-based apps – have brought this technology to the forefront. IT departments are looking at cloud-based solutions to cut costs and reduce workloads.

At DevLearn this year, there was a lot of discussion on how this all applies to learning and development. While there is no real answer to this question yet, I think we all would agree there is a lot of potential in this area. Some would say that cloud-based tools will replace what we know today as the LMS.

We need to also look at how mLearning will leverage cloud technology. Mobile devices are a core reason that cloud technologies are evolving so quickly. An example benefit of cloud-based learning might be that I can train on any number of devices from any location. What if I could start a course on my desktop at the office and finish it on the train on the way home?

I would venture to say that cloud technology is a very important aspect of how we will learn in the future.

The cloud is not a new concept. Here is an early discussion with Steve Jobs talking about this technologies.

Mobile learning

Mobile learning created quite a buzz around DevLearn this year. There were several great sessions around this topic, as well as a workshop hosted by mLearning pioneer and author Clark Quinn. Even though many companies are still trying to figure out how to best bring mobile learning into their organizations, we are starting to see some good case studies surfacing.

I had some conversations with people who are seeing great results in this area. This area has so much potential. We are a ways away from hitting the mainstream – however, some companies are solving business needs by leveraging what mobile has to offer. Gary Woodill and I will be hosting a free webinar in which we will be going over some case studies that he used in his book titled, The Mobile Learning Edge. The webinar is Wednesday, Dec. 14, and you can register now >>


I have heard a lot of different names for using games for learning such as immersive, gamification, gamified learning, and serious games. I’m sure I am missing some, but the bottom line is engagement with rich interactivity.

Today’s learning can leverage the power of technology for users to have experiences, rather than sit back and try and digest information that is coming at them. We learn by doing, experiencing things, and trying until we get it right. Learning through play is not a new concept. The same can be said for learning through social interaction. All we have to do is think back to kindergarten. The K-12 age group has always used games to connect with students and help them learn. As adult learning professionals, we add activities to our classes to enhance engagement. I think we can all see the value in this. Today’s tools are making it easier to produce high-quality games and simulations. In the case of gamification, you are adding a game layer to any activity – something that can take a not-so-fun learning experience and make it exciting and fun.

Now the focus is on content and context. We can produce highly customized games that are almost intelligent. We can track much more about how the learner interacts in our gaming environment and use that information to provide specific coaching or feedback. We can assess what and how they are learning and adjust the game to what is happening. We also have a better idea of what is not working. Maybe gaming is the new LMS. We have these standards like SCORM and AICC, but we mostly just track what page of the course the learner is on and if they completed the training. My feeling is this space is about to explode because of the available technology and the work of some smart people showing us how to make better learning.

Kris Rockwell presented a session on CMI5 – the next gen of SCORM. I am scheduling a Skype interview with him on the subject. Add Float Mobile Learning to your circles on Google+ to be among the first to see the video. Here is a link to his slides from the session.

Check back tomorrow for my video interviews with various thought leaders from DevLearn, including Koreen Olbrish, B.J. Schone, David Holcombe, Brandon Carson, Neil Lasher, and Henry Ryng.

So, what did you think of DevLearn 2011? Did you have different takeaways than me? How did you like the keynotes? What were your favorite sessions? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Jeff Tillett

Jeff Tillett has been working with computers and Internet technologies for nearly twenty years starting as a Graphic Designer and Web Developer. A survivor of the Internet boom, Jeff assisted many startups to successfully build business and ecommerce ventures. His first involvement in instructional design was as a developer for a distance learning Internet start-up. There Jeff and his team crafted a custom LMS as well as all of the content that went in it. Discovering he had a passion and knack for learning design, Jeff has worked for a number of companies as an Interactive Learning Developer and Instructional Designer including T-Mobile USA and Microsoft. At T-Mobile, Jeff lead a group known as the Innovation Team that advocated and piloted emerging learning technologies for the organization. There he built expertise in mobile delivery and design and bring that knowledge to Float as a Mobile Learning Strategist.

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On November 16, 2011
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