This week saw the fourth annual Learning Technologies Summer Forum take place at Olympia in London. And although the format itself remained largely unchanged, there was a definite shift in the content and the mood around W14.
This began in style thanks to a keynote session with a difference. Deborah Frances-White is an author, screen writer and comedian whose work I was aware of but not seen. She delivered a track session on storytelling at a previous Learning Technologies which went down a storm so I had high expectations. And boy did she deliver! Deborah explored the ‘power of play’ and its relevance to learning. The subject matter was engaging in and of itself, but it was her presence and facilitation that really set the auditorium alight. When she asked her first question of the audience, nobody answered or put their hand up…but by the end of the hour, the entire audience was on their feet cheering on a fiercely contested paper/scissors/stone tournament. I kid you not. She eloquently demonstrated and described how we lose the ‘gossamer threads of play’ as we grow up and become serious adults that are all about work. As the mother of a 20 month old who is learning every day just by playing, this really resonated with me.
She acknowledges the need for work and that not everything is suitable to play or being gamified. Work and play are both processes and both can deliver results. But I loved the message of making things more lighthearted and embracing a less serious side to learning.
As if to prove a point, once we were out of the keynote and into the exhibition, one of the first things visitors came to was a company giving people a ‘go’ in Deborah’s speak, on a set of Occulus Rift goggles. There is such a sense of fun here – imagine if we could transfer even an ounce of that into some corporate learning.
Reproduced with permission from Kim George and Martyn Stevenson-Read.
Breaking out of the L&D bubble
It wasn’t until I got home and was reflecting on the day’s events that I realised there had been a number of influences outside L&D on my takeaways. Lisa Johnson of Barnardo’s is a Learning Technologies regular but was unable to attend because of an internal Senior Leadership event. When she came to look at the back channel tweets via #LTSF15, she found that many of the key themes mirrored content from the event she had attended that day.
We heard from the world of comedy thanks to Deborah. Plus speakers with backgrounds in marketing, video production, personal development and psychology. These people don’t necessarily bill themselves as learning experts. But they all had so much value to give. And this is particularly rewarding for me as someone who is not strictly speaking, an L&D professional.
Mark Davies on video production revealed top tips on which equipment to buy, how to shoot different camera angles, how to edit video and capture interesting and engaging footage – all incredibly useful and practical. My key takeaway from Mark is such a simple but important one:
In the same track, Gemma Critchley from BP revealed the story behind its online video ‘Hub’ – an internal sharing platform that provides both professionally produced content from the learning team, but also user generated content created by BP staff. They work on a theory of providing their learners with ‘effective context’. That is, if the learner appends an emotion to what they are seeing then they are much more likely to remember it, therefore making the learning more likely to ‘stick’. For example:
The punchline to this is that Gemma actually has a marketing background. So when asked how BP measures the success of the Hub, she referenced metrics more typically associated with marketing like Net Promoter Score and using Google Analytics to understand hit rates and key search terms. They are treating their learners more like consumers – and guess what, it’s working. The engagement stats for the Hub are great.
Sheena Wyatt’s session after lunch was a workshop focusing on maximising personal impact. Again, as a marketing professional this resonated with me, but her insights on personal branding are important in any profession. And I do think that L&D as a function needs to consider its ‘personal brand’ within an organisation. Is it a department that takes orders for training courses? Or is it a proactive business partner that helps solve problems by developing the performance of its staff? One to seriously think about – and again, not learning specific.
There were still lots of sessions with insights from L&D experts. I was delighted to see Gill Chester presenting on ’10 design ideas for your next elearning project’. I am a huge fan of Gill’s practical, hands-on approach and her lively session left people buzzing with ideas. I heard similar things about the likes of Binnaz Cubukcu and Julian Stodd too. Chairman Don Taylor has skilfully moved the agenda on from some of the theory and abstract ideas on taking learning technologies forward, to the context and realisation of how we can actually do it. Asi De Gani for example had a long line of people wanting to talk to him about how he’s successfully implementing mobile learning at Telefonica.
But there is no doubt in my mind that the external influences will also help move the L&D conversation forward. It is good to look outside our bubble and be challenged by other ideas and philosophies. I would love to hear your takeaways from the event and if anything popped up on the back channel that particularly struck you as useful – please do share!
I can’t finish this post without a massive thank you to Mark, Ian, Jonquil, Don, Annie and all the team at Closer Still for yet another fantastic event. But the last word is reserved for the brilliant social media team – Nic Laycock, Michelle Parry-Slater, Sam Burrough and Tanya Randall who all tweeted their fingers to the bone in order to share the highlights from the day’s proceedings. Plus a special mention for Con Sotidis who is such a great participant all the way from Australia. I love that the back channel opens the event up to the world and he has set up Eventifier to help dig further into the shared content. As always, if you have any feedback on the back channel, let me know. And there is a separate post in germination on our first Periscope experience too.
Roll on January…