Reflections on #ASTDTK12

What a great time I had at TK12! As one of the conference planners, I had duties that prevented me from attending very many of the sessions, but I can honestly say that the whole event was a learning experience.

We kicked things off on Wednesday with an opening keynote by Jane McGonigal, serious game designer and author of the book Reality is Broken. Jane has an interesting perspective on games and gaming in terms of what games can do for humanity. Many people believe that games are a waste of time, and many learning professionals are coming around to see the value of games and immersive learning in terms of a more effective learning experience. Jane, on the other hand, literally believes that games can save the world. She sees intrinsic value in not only the content of the game, but the act of playing… in the emotions that people experience, the states of mind they achieve, the trust they build with others, and the social problems they are able to creatively tackle while engaged in play. To demonstrate some of these concepts, she led the whole room in what I’m sure was everyone’s first massively multiplayer thumb wrestling contest.

Kris Rockwell and Aaron Silvers, helping Jane McGonigal demonstrate massively multiplayer thumb wrestling

On Wednesday and Thursday, I taught the Getting Started with Storyline Creation Stations, which were completely packed with people doubling up at each computer. There is clearly a lot of excitement about this tool, for good reason. It has tremendous power and also amazing ease-of-use, and we’re already thrilled with its capabilities as we’ve started using it for client projects. Jeanette Brooks from Articulate and Diane Elkins were a huge help working the room and troubleshooting as we covered as much ground as we could in these 75-minute, hands-on sessions.

One of my duties conflicted with Diane’s session on the accessibility options in some of the major authoring tools, but I heard so much great feedback from the attendees! An instructional designer and Captivate developer told me afterward that it was extremely practical, helpful, and timely for some work he was doing — that one nugget of information that she provided had probably saved him six hours of research in the following week. So I’m thrilled that I’m going to have the opportunity to see the same session through DC-ASTD’s Tech SIG next month, and be on the lookout for an upcoming blog post on this topic, too!

When choosing sessions to attend as a participant, I tried to break out of my comfort zone and expand my horizons a bit, focusing on social learning, virtual classrooms, experience design, and the semantic web. The two main sessions I’d like to highlight were Kassy LaBorie’s Games, Activities, and Energizers for Online Synchronous Training and Aaron Silvers’ and Reuben Tozman’s New Learning Modalities, New Technologies.

Kassy LaBorie’s session truly opened my mind to what can be done to promote collaboration and connection in virtual instructor-led training (VILT). We focused on games and collaboration activities, starting with ones that Kassy had prepared and then moving on to taking games that we liked in regular instructor-led classrooms and modifying them for VILT use. In addition to learning more about facilitation in the VILT space, though, I was struck by how using the collaboration software (in this case, Adobe Connect) enhanced the session experience. I often hear that trainers and presenters are threatened by people tweeting while in their sessions, but this was one of the first opportunities I had had to experience a backchannel becoming part of and enhancing a live class, with the instructor’s participation. It was as if everyone — instructor and class — could take a peek at people’s questions and thoughts as they arose. It was very appealing to me as an instructor, although I would definitely employ a producer (another concept that Kassy has helped popularize in VILT) when implementing it in a virtual or on-ground classroom. One plug: Kassy has a book coming out on games and activities in the virtual classroom through ASTD Press this year, and I will definitely buy a copy!

New Learning Modalities, New Technologies was an intriguing look into new – and old but reimagined – ways of providing access to content and designing the experience of accessing content. Both Reuben and Aaron are, in different ways, working on analytics behind learning systems and figuring out how those analytics can inform what L&D does and what the training experience is like. They paint a compelling vision of learning experiences that can be measured and documented in a far more granular way than ever before… not to ensure compliance, which is what much of learning analytics now focuses on, but to better understand the learner and how the learner is interacting with the content. This is powerful for many reasons beyond the seemingly touchy-feely subject of experience design; in a field in which professionals constantly clamor for more respect, more money, and more resources, who wouldn’t love to have the kind of analytics that, say, marketing departments have to show their worth and base their decisions upon. In fact, in reviewing my tweets from the conference, one of the key takeaways I noted from this session was: Think like marketing. Their analytics help them tell a story. You can do it too.

I’m happy to say that TechKnowledge 2012 provided lots of opportunities for pushing the boundaries of attendees’ knowledge, as well as tremendous networking opportunities. As always, if you weren’t able to attend (or weren’t able to clone yourself to attend all the sessions you wanted to), David Kelly’s collected resources are available online. Thanks to everyone who made connections at this event, and I hope to see you at TechKnowledge 2013, as well!

Judy Unrein

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