Because of prior commitments, I only got to attend the last day of the TechKnowledge conference, to participate in two panels, one on mobile and one on instructional design, and then listen to the closing session. Some thoughts stuck with me:
The Mobile Panel
It’s clear to me that many folks are still thinking of mobile as content delivery in a course mode. There’s nothing wrong with content delivery, e.g. for performance support, and for course augmentation, but the panel (Kris Rockwell, Ed Prentice) was wisely arguing for a broader vision for mobile learning.
Kris mentioned the possibilities of just using voice, and I chimed in with the potential for using SMS. Again, you really want to think a little differently to take advantage of mobile. I also mentioned the other 3 C’s: Compute, Capture (images, videos, audio), and Communicate.
The possibilities provided by knowing where you are, that these devices have GPS in many cases, was also mentioned. The real point is you need to move beyond thinking of content for courses to really take advantage of the opportunities mobile presents.
Instructional Design Panel
With participants as widely experienced as Steve Villachica, Ellen Wagner, Karl Kapp, and Allison Rossett, you’d expect fun and irreverence in addition to sage advice, and that’s just what you got. Topics ranged from what should be taught in classes to the reality of practice in the field. There was some disagreement (I was a self-labeled contrarian a couple of times), but in general we were nodding at what others were saying.
One of the major points was that just understanding instructional design wasn’t enough. Ellen told the story of her journey out of academia and the wake-up call she received when having to work in an organization. Steve talked about how they wanted learners to understand business and project management, and Karl talked about the internships they use to ground their classes.
The counter came from the audience where instructional design departments of one were concerned about having time to take on a ‘consulting’ role in addition to meeting their required duties, and how to accommodate the need to add things like mobile to their repertoire. The need to move up to thinking at a higher level is easy to proselytize, but hard to accomplish in practice. However, I do argue for the bigger picture, asking you to avoid Learning Malpractice.
The closing session was a brave move by ASTD, and more credit to them for giving it a go; they had a BBC host conduct the session in a TV-style presentation, with rapid fire interviews mixed in with video footage, a quick SkypeCast with a UK-based expert, and tweeted questions. In the end it came across as a bit too much (the videos had gratuitous graphics and the soundtrack was too like an advertisement), but it was lively and I have to commend experimentation. It certainly was better than some alternatives I’ve seen (e.g. another conference that closed with a content-free motivational speaker).
One of the most contentious points was a face-off between the view that we’ve been using things like social learning for ever, and only the tools have changed to a contrary point that our learning fundamentally has changed. The latter point got cheers, but I think what’s changed is we’ve moved away from industrial age efficiency and back to matching our our brains really learn, but with new tools. So I disagree with both (there’s that contrarian thing again :).
I like the TechKnowledge conference, as I think they work hard to get mostly the right folks (tho’ I confess to being surprised to see a ‘learning styles’ workshop put on pre-conference), and many of our top colleagues have taken a shot at serving on the program committee. I think it’s in Las Vegas next year, and a good conference to attend regardless.