Learning Technologies 2013 Review

Learning Technologies 2013 promised to be the biggest and best attended exhibition and conference in the corporate learning sector – and it certainly lived up to expectations!

It was our seventh year at the show and we were proud to be a main sponsor, to be hosting two packed-out seminars and for one of our designers, Kim George, to be a member of the Learning Technologies ‘Twitter Army’. Here’s our lowdown on what we saw and heard over the two days – thank you to everyone who came by our stand, attended our seminars and supported @kineo on the #LT13UK backchannel!

First impressions

For anyone who’s never attended Learning Technologies or Learning and Skills before, it can be a daunting experience with delegates swamping the exhibition floors and a constant flow, if not rush, of people moving from seminar to seminar and to and from the conference. We found it even busier than previous years and Steve Rayson has some great advice for anyone thinking of going to the exhibition next year. If you were attending the conference, you would have been treated to two inspirational keynotes and some top speakers. Missed out? Well here are our thoughts on a few of the sessions – and then our views on what happened down on the floor…

Up in the conference...

From the giddy heights of the third floor, here were some of the highlight conference talks:

Re-thinking learning and re-learning thinking – Nicholas Negroponte, One Laptop Per Child

Negroponte presented a thought-provoking keynote, encouraging us to change the way we believe people learn, based on how he’s observed children learning. Through his work with OLPC, he’s seen poor, illiterate children in developing countries instinctively using technology they’ve never seen before and, within weeks, performing tasks most of us don’t know how to do. Primary school children in Africa were given tablets without instructions and, bearing in mind they’d never seen an on/off switch before, within three minutes they’d turned the tablets on. Within five days, there were using multiple apps and singing nursery rhymes; in three weeks, they’d hacked Android!

As Kate Graham remarked, Negroponte described the children’s attitudes to technology in really positive terms, using words like ‘hunger’, ‘passion’ and ‘energy’, but how often do we hear adult learning and workplace learning being described like this? We at Kineo definitely think there is a lot we can learn from the power of the desire to learn.

The changing face of learning provision – Kirstie Donnelly, City & Guilds

Kirstie Donnelly, Director of Product at City & Guilds, led us through the reasons why we need to care about vocational education – head, heart and balance sheet. She showed some inspirational videos from people like Daphne Koller of Coursera and Salman Kahn of Kahn Academy to show us what’s possible when you bring new technology into education.

She shared the vision for City & Guilds to embrace technology in learning, including (ahem) a recent acquisition of a company that does a fair bit of that. Kirstie showcased some of the exciting work we’ve been doing together on the City & Guilds Way, which combines community, content, and assessment in a full service. Looked great on the big screen!

Making learning a memorable experience – Itiel Dror, University College London & Cognitive Consultants International

What can you remember of the revision you did for exams at school or university? Not much, we’d wager. This is the point Dr Dror first made in his session on learning and the mind: learning isn’t about remembering which is why revision is unsuccessful for so many people. Memorable learning is all about making something accessible so that it can be more easily transferred into our brains for long term application.

Dror also spoke of the effect of the rarity and critical-ness of something. For example, most memorable events are traumatic experiences and so he proposed the things we don’t want to happen are valuable for learning. Dror went on to suggest we should use the power of error in learning and training and even set our learners up to fail, thus increasing a course’s impact and likelihood of being remembered (and hopefully being applied). But if you don’t want to sabotage your learners’ experience, create a scenario where they observe someone else making a mistake. Seeing errors by others triggers an emotional response, a similar effect to making that mistake yourself. We certainly find the most effective elearning courses are those that appeal to a learner’s emotions, reflect their personal experiences, and make them question their actions or behaviours.

Further reflections on Dr Dror’s session can be viewed in a useful mind map by Craig Taylor.

Beyond the obvious: re-defining the meaning of learning in a networked society – Gerd Leonhard, The Futures Agency

The second day’s keynote was not only memorable because Gerd Leonhard, a futurist, is such a motivational speaker but also because his presentation slides were the most visually exciting we saw at Learning Technologies (they can be downloaded here). Leonhard’s session explored how digital technologies, particularly mobile, are impacting our lives and how we learn. He says technology is redefining the relationships between us and information, teachers and learners, work and ‘play’, taking us towards a society driven by ‘So-Lo-Mo’ (social local mobile). It’s our learners leading innovation, he says, and this mobile connectivity we’re starting to experience is constantly reshaping the way we learn.

One thing that particularly resonated with us is how mobile technology means the end of ‘I don’t know’ for users because all the information we need is potentially at the end of our fingertips: anytime, anywhere. It’s an ‘information tsunami’ that will engulf us, leading to a ‘learning landslide’. As a result, we need filters to help us manage information more effectively and curation, context and interface will become even more crucial.

In brief, Leonhard helped us imagine a future of hyperconnected individuals, augmented reality, automatic language translation, and a shift from the download of information to a constant flow of information.

Why we need instructional design more than ever – Alison Rossett, San Diego State University

Alison Rossett’s session proved to be popular with our learning designers, keen to hear Rossett’s argument for the subject they live and breathe every day at Kineo. The importance of instructional design is frequently questioned: what exactly is it? Do those who design training or learning need knowledge of ID theories and practices or can anyone design a course using authoring tools? Does the term ‘instructional design’ truly describe what it is or should be? If not, should the term be rephrased?

Rossett’s session was less about defending instructional design or its term and more about singing the praises of great learning design, and defining that ‘ID greatness’. A few things stood out for our designers:

  • Good instructional design should touch hearts and minds; focus on the learner and create a vivid, authentic and relevant experience (“Yes!” our learning designers cried)
  • It should assure success but also challenge the learner (linking to Itiel Dror’s argument for creating an opportunity to make mistakes, even fail, therefore making the learning memorable)
  • There’s a fine balance between making something too easy (boring!) and too difficult as too much challenge can reduce confidence and motivation
  • Instructional design theories can be considered as ‘arrow’s in a learning designer’s quiver’ (we like this phrase)
  • When designing a piece of learning, target a ‘push’ (of information to the learner) but look for ways to create an easy ‘pull’ (the learner using their initiative to find out more)

Down on the floor

At the ‘business end’ of the show on the exhibition floor, it was busier than ever. More vendors than ever before, and lots of new players putting their toe into the West London water.  Some very nice stands, lots of marketing money being spent. Everyone seemed to be on the up – it’s a good time for the industry overall it seems.

It seems everyone does everything now – lots of full service solutions. For someone coming to the show looking for a partner to solve their problem, it must be difficult to really tell who does what really well.

We can only comment on how busy it was for us, since we hardly got to step off the stand to look around. It was great to have new colleagues from City & Guilds with us – we had lots of productive conversations around blended programmes, apprenticeships and qualifications. Of course, being a learning technologies show we had huge interest in our new RED approach to multi-device elearning, and in Totara and its roadmap.

It was standing room only at our seminars on RED and on the City & Guilds Way project. You can find out more about what we talked about here:

See you next year?

Hopefully this gives you a taste of how inspiring and exciting these two days were, and are sure to be in years to come. Whether you attended the conference or just explored the exhibition, you were bound to have noticed the energy and passion of the L&D industry for hot topics like mobile, social and multi-device learning. 

We were struck by the increase in size of the exhibition (and of the stands), the volume of visitors, and the introduction of fringe events like the CurationCamp hosted by LearnPatch – a great way to continue conversations after hours, with a glass of wine! 

It’s clear Learning Technologies is the place to be – ideally in person but on Twitter if not (the event was trending within a few hours on day one) – and we’re looking forward to seeing what the next year brings.

Looking forward to seeing you next year – we’ve rebooked already!


You may also be interested in...

Leave us your comments...