Learning Technologies 2014: Now the dust has settled…

Another Learning Technologies has gone by, but this time I have waited to write up my thoughts following the event. This is partly due to the fact that I am crazy busy, but also because my aim was to try and keep the conversation and reflection going after the event was over. This was then reinforced by a Twitter conversation initiated by Jonathan Kettleborough, and his subsequent blog post on the bias of the backchannel. There were some great points raised and I’ll come back to those later.

Conference highlights
It was tough to choose which sessions to attend this year and sadly I didn’t get into one of my chosen sessions as it was so over subscribed. So I hope Julie Dirksen comes back to these shores soon! I will be watching the video to catch up on what sounded like a great workshop. There was a great buzz in the conference across the board but I also heard great things about the session on storytelling from Deborah Frances-White, the Evil Janes (aka Jane Bozarth and Jane Hart) on collaborative learning and McDonald’s insights on their apprenticeship programme.

My personal highlight was Matthew Syed on the myth of talent and the power of practice. A note on his presentation style – he had no slides, and just sat and talked – but the audience was completely engrossed. Never mind the power of practice, that’s the power of great content. I had read his book Bounce so had a good idea of what he was going to say but nevertheless, his overarching message is really powerful. As UK table tennis champion, he maintains that it was not a natural god given talent that led to his success but his dedication to practice. By coincidence he grew up on a street in Reading that I now know really well and on the same street were three other kids who went on to become table tennis champions. This however, was not a coincidence. It was due to a community centre with table tennis facilities that was nearly always open for them to go and play in, and a great coach. The punchline of Syed’s session – and my main takeaway from the conference – was this:


And also this:


I found this really inspiring, that even if you’re not naturally the most gifted, some hard work and lots of practice can elevate your ability to achieve. It also caused me to ponder whether the ability to practice is something of a learned behaviour. My brother is dyslexic and dyspraxic and so is unfortunately very used to finding things challenging. My cousin is particularly clever and has a doctorate in maths. He is used to finding most things quite easy. They are the same age and started learning to drive at the same time. Both found it hard. My brother stuck with it and passed his test on the seventh attempt. My cousin quit and took the bus. I really believe it’s because my cousin has never really struggled with anything like that before so didn’t have that learned behaviour of toiling away at something to get it right. It also raises interesting questions about talent management processes – is it worth identifying those with ‘raw talent’ if you can invest and develop almost anyone in the organisation if they are given the chance to practice what you need them to do? If you get the chance to read his book then do check it out, it’s well worth a read and I liked the way he applied what he was talking about to a corporate learning context.

20140130_101811The keynotes from Brian Solis and Beau Lotto were both thought provoking – and in the case of Lotto, mindbending – but I tend to prefer the more practical sessions. The guys from Elearnity had some great free resources discussed in their session, providing Which? type guides for the learning industry. And I love hearing case studies but thought this tweet was particularly compelling in terms of getting people to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’:


Exhibition highlights
With such a packed schedule, I didn’t get as much time to look around the exhibition as I’d have liked. However, it seems a far cry from the event I first attended 10 years ago. It’s so much bigger and busier, with some really creative and impressive stands. Having been on the vendor side myself, I often think providers are given a hard time from the punters and let’s face it, if they weren’t there it wouldn’t be much of an event would it? But I saw some new technologies and tools which I’d like to look at it more detail like Adapt and some good looking content too. Everytime I went downstairs there was a great energy and there seems to be less of a divide now between what’s being discussed in the conference and what’s being delivered at the exhibition. For me, the gap seems to have closed over the last couple of years and it’s good to see mobile, social and collaborative technologies and approaches becoming mainstream.

Myself and my crack team of tweeters tried to bring those of you who couldn’t attend the event a flavour of what was happening and what was being said, and this is the third year we’ve done this. Jonathan Kettleborough followed the tweets from afar and has done some interesting analysis and raised some good points about where the backchannel could be improved. For me, the multi-tasking and immediacy of reflection is not an issue, I use tweeting as a form of note taking and I maintain that nobody would raise questions about the quality of an individual’s notes scribbled down whilst listening to a session. The key difference is to consider your audience if you are tweeting. Personally, I feel I am providing a service so am ALL about the audience and know there are folk like Costas following from Australia, Bianca in Canada and everyone in between that has an interest in learning and development tuning in. It’s why I structure the backchannel with separate hashtags for specific sessions and why everything is publicised in advance, so that those wishing to tune in and get some value from the event from afar, can do so.

But there is always room for improvement and the backchannel debate does highlight something Don and I discussed this year, which is facilitating more post event reflection. We’d like to use the Learning and Skills Group to be able to do this. The undisputed king of the backchannel LnD Dave has again curated some fantastic resources from before, during and after the event and it would be great to keep sharing between now and the July event. We’re open to suggestions on how best to take this forward and I’d welcome your thoughts and comments on the backchannel in the comments. It’s all done for your benefit so please do let me know how it can be improved for next year.

And I’d love to hear your event highlights and your thoughts on what you saw and heard at this year’s Learning Technologies now that the dust has settled and you’re back at work.

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What I’m looking forward to at Learning Technologies 2014

I thought this year I’d write down things I’m particularly looking to or that have caught my eye in the build up to this year’s Learning Technologies. Hopefully this will help me review the event afterwards. So in no particular order:

Image1) Tweeting (obvs) -  with my flashy new title of Chair of the Backchannel, I’m excited about working with a crack team of tweeters to try and bring the best of the conference (and the exhibition) to those who either can’t be there, or those who are there but can’t squeeze everything in via #LT14UK. Consolidating things into 140 characters isn’t always easy and I’m wary of just producing a stream of  consciousness or a string of meaningless soundbites. For me, every session has a story and I try my hardest to tell that story through social media and point people at useful resources that can be accessed and used beyond the event. If there’s anything I and the team can do specifically to help you, let us know! (Baby Graham won’t actually be joining the Twitter team but he was keen to try out for the job).

2) Catching up with my PLN - this is hands down the most jam packed event of the year for seeing my PLN IRL (in real life of course). I’m looking forward to see people I’ve known for years, people who’ve flown in from overseas and of course meet new people and keep expanding my network. It is a joyous thing and I can’t wait.

3) My sessions - I’m lucky enough to be tweeting from Matthew Syed’s session. I’ve read his book ‘Bounce: The Myth of Talent and ImageThe Power of Practice’ and am really looking forward to hearing what he has to say in person. Would ask him to sign the book but it’s an ebook, rats. I’m also covering Julie Dirksen‘s session on learning design and Elearnity‘s session exploring the EMEA market for learning and talent technologies. On day two I’m attending the Evil Jane’s (the fabulous Jane Bozarth and Jane Hart) on collaborative learning. Then it’s Helena Moore and Lucy Ventrice on embedded learning (I’ve met Lucy before and what she’s done at easyJet is fantastic!) And to finish up I’ll be listening to Clive Shepherd on blended learning. A real mix of topics but all of which float my boat – just hope I can do them justice!

Image4) Seminars - I am going to try and get to some of the free sessions if I can. It looks to me like the suppliers have really put some effort into providing free seminars that have some value and aren’t just about promoting products. I’ve heard really positive things about Saba’s approach to bringing social learning into their platform so will try and get to their session. Hearing how Compass and City & Guilds Kineo are transforming qualifications is definitely one to watch and I am really keen to find out more about Tin Can API in action so hope I can catch Netex talking about this.

5) Being bowled over - whether it’s a new tool, new resources, new blogs, an idea, a concept or a conversation – anything that is interesting and awesome. I want to be really wowed by something. Challenge laid down then, let’s see if someone out there will accept it.

…And one thing I’m not looking forward to: the food. My top tip is to take a sandwich as the options to buy food at Olympia are not good. Failing that, there’s a Tesco Express over the road!

See you there – or online

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Learning Technologies 2014: Backchannel details

Ahead of this week’s Learning Technologies event, I wanted to supply some more details on how to make the most of the backchannel from near or far. Based on feedback from last year, I have set up the backchannel to run along the same lines in an effort to make it as easy as possible to tune into the sessions or speakers you want.


Gerd Leonhard at Learning Technologies 2013Each conference session has an individual hashtag that will be used in addition to the main #LT14UK hashtag. So if you’re following using TweetChat or a similar application, you can search on the specific sessions to keep your focus on a particular topic. Below is a list of these hashtags and which of our tweeters is covering those sessions. Hopefully you can start following them in advance and really hone in on any areas of interest during the event. Note, the keynotes and opening and closing addresses won’t have individual hashtags. For the full conference programme, click here.

Day one: Keynote: What’s the future (WTF)? The effect of emerging technologies on business and cultureBrian Solis

Day one: 11.30 – 12.30

Day one: 14.00 – 15.00

Day one: 15.30 – 16.30

Day two: Keynote: A beautiful mind – deepening our understanding of perception, creativity and how the brain learnsBeau Lotto

Day two: 11.30 – 12.30

Day two: 14.00 – 15.00

Day two: 15.30 – 16.30

For all the Twitter handles of the team covering the sessions, see my earlier blog.

Official app

The official conference app is now ready to download on iOS, Android and ‘all other internet-enabled mobile phones’. You can download it now to get the latest information on all these sessions, the exhibitors, speakers and more: http://showcase.genie-connect.com/learningtechnologies/?f=1

The good folk at Towards Maturity have also devised a useful guide to making the most of the Learning Technologies exhibition which you can find here: http://www.towardsmaturity.org/article/2014/01/13/towards-maturity-definitive-guide-making-most-lear/

I hope you’ll join in this week, whether it’s just reading the Twitter stream or joining in with the tweets or adding further thoughts and reflection through your own blog posts, I’m looking forward to a week of sharing and connecting. Tweet me @kategraham23 or feel free to drop me a comment below if you have any suggestions for how we can make this the best Learning Technologies yet.


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Learning Technologies 2014: Join in wherever you are

Hammersmith and Fulham-20120125-00133It was recently dubbed ‘the greatest show on earth’ – albeit by someone who, in his own words, needs to get out more – but yes, it’s time for the annual Learning Technologies conference and exhibition. As chair of the backchannel, I’m looking forward to a busy couple of days bringing you all the latest from the world of learning and development, whether you’re attending in person or following from afar.

The back channel
There are multiple ways to tune into the backchannel. Firstly there’s the Learning and Skills Group community sit where members will be posting and links will be available to resources from the event. Anyone can join the LSG for free so if you’re not already a member, sign up here: http://learningandskillsgroup.ning.com/

Myself and other members of the backchannel team will be live blogging, or reflecting on what we’ve seen after the event. Relevant links will be publicised as soon as they become available. And the main place of interaction will be on Twitter. You don’t have to have a Twitter account to follow the back channel, just search for www.twitter.com/#LT14UK.

Although now’s as good a time as any to sign up if you’re not already on Twitter. Even if you only start by following what is happening at the event. I know so many people who now get so much value from being a part of the interactions and conversations that happen on Twitter. It’s a great opportunity to reach out worldwide and build a PLN (Personal Learning Network) – and this is such a good excuse to take your first steps into the Twitterverse.

As well as following on Twitter, you can also register on Lanyrd as a way of connecting with other attendees: http://lanyrd.com/2014/lt14uk/

The team
Opening address
I’m joined by a fantastic team of learning professionals this year who’ll be helping me cover what’s going on during sessions and across the event as a whole. My next post will details who’s covering which session, but for now, if you’re not following the people below on Twitter, start now so you’re all ready for next week.

Don Taylor (Conference Chairman) – @DonaldHTaylor
Learning Technologies official feed – @LT14UK
Me – @kategraham23
Nic Laycock – @alc47
Alex Watson – @s0ngb1rd
Joan Keevill – @designs_joank
Kim George – @kimsgeorge
Susie Finch – @susiefinch
Lee Jones – @ljones8500
Hannah Gore – @HRGore
Sukh Pabial – @sukhpabial
Jo Cook – @lightbulbjo
Ollie Gardner – @olliegardener

Also, check out:
David Kelly - @LnDDave (curator of resources and all round L&D guru!)

Martin Couzins – @martincouzins (who runs the really useful L&D media start-up LearnPatch)

Each of us will be in different sessions throughout the conference, live tweeting and bringing you all the latest.

To follow the action
To focus in on what’s happening follow the hashtag #LT14UK. And if you’re tweeting (whether you’re there or not) use #LT14UK in your tweets. The team and I would love to be able to bring your thoughts and questions into sessions even if you’re not able to be there. So if you’re following the back channel, don’t be scared to pipe up and join in!

So we can cut through some of the ‘noise’ on Twitter, each conference session will also have its own individual hashtag so you can just tune into what Itiel Dror or Matthew Syed or any of the other speakers are saying. Again, details will be posted here so you can plan in advance which sessions you most want to follow.

And if you’re attending the event, the organisers have arranged for big screens all around the exhibition and the conference so you can follow the back channel and see who’s saying what in real time.

What else is happening?
Fusion Universal seminar
More is to come over the next few days, but on top of conference sessions, visiting the exhibition and catching up with your fellow L&D professionals, here are some activities taking place that you might want to check out:

I’ll be posting more over the next few days building up to the event with details of speakers (including Twitter handles and where to find them) and conference sessions (including individual hashtags) and more details on how we can make the most of the back channel together.

See you next week

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The biggest learning journey of them all?

So 2013 was not the year for blogging for me, with only a measly handful of posts. No, 2013 was the year in which I worked a lot, was pregnant a lot and had a baby. Which didn’t leave me much time for blogging. However, I’m coming out the other side of those crazy first few months and am already back doing some work. You might think I’m nuts but running your own business means a different set of rules, plus I’m lucky in that I love what I do and never completely tuned out of the wonderful world of L&D even when I was off (well, maybe whilst I was in hospital).

20131021_154945I’ve been through some steep learning curves in my time – leaving home for university, living abroad, carving out a career, setting up two businesses – but becoming a parent is possibly the most epic learning journey I’ve ever been on. Baby Thomas is the most amazing thing to ever happen to me. And even though I wasn’t naive enough to think it would be a cake walk, I have still been amazed by just how much there is to learn. The sheer volume of information available is astonishing but ultimately you have to find your own way through pregnancy, birth and parenthood. There are some great resources out there, and like any good learning journey, it’s about taking the best of the information you can find, then applying that in practice and/or referring to it when you need it.


Baby Centre Online Forum

Funnily enough I have created a blended learning approach without even realising it. My best sources of information have been my peers (friends who now have kids), those senior to me (mum, mother-in-law etc), books, online forums, live demos (hat tip to John Lewis), free resources from suppliers like Boots plus instructor-led training (pregnancy yoga and antenatal classes). I also now have two apps on my phone that I wouldn’t want to be without. In all honestly there is too much information out there and my mum has often joked about how on earth people coped in the good old days before all of these resources existed. But they’re there to be used, so I went about selecting those I found most useful or approachable, sticking with them and filtering out a lot of what I deemed to be superflous. At the end of the day, babies are obviously all different so what works for one won’t work for another. And it’s the very fact that there are no hard and fast rules that generates the wealth of information available.

A lot of it is obviously on-the-job training as well. The saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ was never more true for me than when it came to bringing a baby into the world. I personally think there’s a lot of things people don’t tell you until it’s too late so you can’t back out, but there are all sorts of details like say how to put a baby to sleep in his cot that I was completely unaware of until we got home from hospital with him. Turns out there’s a whole checklist of dos and don’ts that you’re supposed to follow – who knew? Not me until I looked it up online.

20131226_135847I’ve also discovered that parenthood is a very emotive subject and one that everyone has an opinion on. Well meaning friends and relations tell you horrific birth stories when you’re 8 months pregnant (not helpful), or tales of how to get through sleepless nights. I have listened politely to it all and used only snippets that I felt would work for me. And in turn now, I find myself offering advice but trying very hard not to push it on people because ultimately there’s nothing like actually doing it in practice. But despite being uncertain about lots of things and a little on the tired side, it is the most fantastic journey I’ve ever been on. The only real downside has been being awake during the night to watch England’s horrendous performance in the Ashes in real time!

I’m thrilled to be back working and finding a balance between my ‘old’ life BT (Before Thomas) and my new life with him in it. I’m lucky to have a great support system and the best colleagues and clients. Also, the timing is fantastic because one of my first projects is chairing the backchannel for Learning Technologies 2014 which is just around the corner and I can’t wait. Bring on the next learning journey and the continuation of this one which I’m sure is set to last a life time in the best possible way :)

P.S: This isn’t going to turn into a baby blog. I have got a separate one of those so this remains focused on L&D, marketing and anything else that floats my professional boat.

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What I’m looking forward to at #LEARNINGLIVE

Dear readers I need to begin with an apology. I urge my clients and people in my PLN to blog, I wax lyrical about the benefits of writing and sharing with the world…and then I don’t take my own medicine. I can only apologise for the huge gap between posts as I’m sure you’ve all missed me…*tumbleweed blows across the screen*

LEARNING-LIVEAnyway! I’m here to preview one of learning and development’s leading industry events: LEARNING LIVE. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend this event, run by the Learning and Performance Institute, for the past few years. It’s always interesting and enjoyable, and it’s growing every year. I really like the approach the LPI has taken for 2013 of inviting speaker submissions for the conference. This has opened up the programme to include some new faces which is great. But what I find even more positive is that many of the speakers are on the front line of L&D, facing challenges that arise in organisations every day.

Individuals like Sam Burrough, Andrew Jacobs and Craig Taylor fight the good fight for learning – often on their own or in small teams with little support. And I can’t wait to hear from people on the coal face who are tackling real-world problems head on.

Don’t get me wrong, I always benefit from hearing independent experts share their stories and the latest thinking. And I think it’s the breadth of speaker backgrounds that will make LEARNING LIVE not only exciting, but even more relevant for attendees this year. The rest of the line-up can be viewed here and I’m also looking forward to hearing from the likes of Fiona Quigley and Owen Ferguson on topics as diverse as storytelling and data!

As well as the conference, there’s an exhibition showcasing solutions from providers who again are proving themselves on the frontline day in, and day out. It’ll be great to see some of the latest innovations from the organisations like Kineo and KnowledgeAdvisors.

I’m also joined by fellow tweeters Marco Faccini, Sukh Pabial, Stephanie Dedhar, Annie Garfoot and Ollie Gardener and, as always, I’ll try and bring you a flavour of what transpires over the next couple of days and hopefully lots of food for thought.

If you have any particular questions you’d like me to pose at the event, just leave a comment or tweet me @kategraham23. I’ll share my thoughts during and after the event here (without a huge break before my next blog!)

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Learning and Skills Group Conference 2013: Tune into the back channel

Well a new blog entry is long overdue! Shows what a busy year 2013 has been so far. And what better way to get back into the groove than with a fantastic L&D event?

After a virtual conference last year, a newly refurbished London Olympia once again hosts the annual Learning and Skills Group Conference. The Learning and Skills Group conference will take place next Tuesday 18th June 2 and will explore some of the main themes from the Learning Technologies event in January, the monthly webinar series and online discussions on the Learning and Skills Group community site. And I am privileged once again to be working with Don Taylor and the organisers to bring you a back channel  that is worthy of such a great event.

Learning Technologies Summer Forum
This year, there’s also a new addition alongside the conference, the first ever Learning Technologies Summer Forum. This is an exhibition hosted on the same floor as the conference. It’s a brand new event and there is an exciting free seminar programme which adds an extra dimension to the conference sessions that you can see here.

So what’s happening on the back channel?
As always, I wanted to let you know a little bit more about what we’re up to and who to follow so you can get the most out of it. That’s whether you’re attending the conference, the exhibition or following from afar. There are so many international members of the LSG who can’t be with us, as well as those in the UK who can’t be there, but we’re aiming to help you enjoy it and bring you the very best insights and coverage. Anyone can join the LSG so if you’re not already a member, sign up here.

The main place of interaction will be on Twitter. You don’t have to have a Twitter account to follow the back channel, just search for www.twitter.com/#LSG13.

If you’re not already signed up, I’d encourage you to give Twitter a go. Even if you only start by following what is happening at the event. I know so many people who now get so much value from being a part of the interactions and conversations that happen on Twitter. It’s a great opportunity to reach out worldwide and build a PLN (Personal Learning Network) – and this is such a good excuse to take your first steps into the Twitterverse.

As well as following on Twitter, you can also register on Lanyrd as a way of connecting with other attendees (hat tip to Craig Taylor for setting this up).

The team
I’m lucky to be joined again by a brilliant team of LSG members who’ll be covering what’s going on during sessions and across the event as a whole. You can see below who’s covering what and if you’re not following them on Twitter, start now so you’re all ready for next week.

Don Taylor (Conference Chairman) – @DonaldHTaylor
Learning Technologies official feed – @LT13UK
Me – @kategraham23
Alex Watson – @s0ngb1rd
Barbara Thompson – @CaribThompson
Julian Staddon – @JulianStaddon
Lesley Price – @lesleywprice
Martin Belton – @martinb66
Dan Roddy – @danroddy

Plus keep your eyes peeled for Martin Couzins – @martincouzins – who’ll be doing some live blogging and capturing all sorts of video and insights for his site Learn Patch.

To follow the action
To focus in on what’s happening follow the hashtag #LSG13. Try and use this if you’re tweeting (whether you’re there or not!) The team and I would love to be able to bring your thoughts and questions into sessions even if you’re not able to be there. So if you’re following the back channel, don’t be scared to pipe up and join in!

So we can cut through some of the ‘noise’ on Twitter, each conference session will also have its own individual hashtag so you can just tune into what individual speakers are saying. Note, the keynotes and opening and closing addresses won’t have individual hashtags. For the full conference programme, click here.

Keynote: Work, learning and living in the future – Gerd Leonhard

Session one: 11.30 – 12.30

  • Open learning: opportunity or threat – Steve Wheeler #T1S1 (Covered by Barbara Thompson and Alex Watson)
  • Ensuring true interaction in live online learning – Phil Green #T2S1 (Covered by Julian Staddon)
  • The seven habits of highly aligned L&D teams – Laura Overton #T3S1 (Covered by Dan Roddy and Kate Graham)
  • Learning resources: how long is long enough? – Stephanie Dedhar #T4S1 (Covered by Lesley Price)

Session two: 14.00 – 15.00

  • The TinCan API: connecting the dots with data – Megan Bowe #T1S2 (Covered by Julian Staddon, Alex Watson and Dan Roddy)
  • Using open badges for accreditation – Doug Belshaw #T2S2  (Covered by Barbara Thompson)
  • Big data: a guide for those without a love of statistics – Nigel Paine #T3S2 (Covered by Martin Belton and Lesley Price)
  • Lessons from the virtual playing field – Ben Betts #T4S2 (Covered by Kate Graham)

Session three: 15.30 – 16.30

  • Moving to social learning – Harold Jarche #T1S3 (Covered by Barbara Thompson and Lesley Price)
  • The learning design challenge – Julie Wedgwood #T2S3 (Covered by Kate Graham)
  • Mobile devices: learning and the mind – Chris Atherton #T3S3 (Covered by Julian Staddon, Dan Roddy and Alex Watson)
  • The TinCan API workshop: putting the Experienced API to work – Megan Bowe #T4S3 (Covered by Martin Belton)

No doubt there’ll be lots of other folk their tweeting and sharing their thoughts so do tune in and I’ll be doing my best to curate useful thoughts and resources throughout the event and beyond. If you’ve got any additional information you think would be useful, please do leave it in the comments below.

See you (in person or online!) next week

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