Monday, November 12, 2012

DevLearn 2012: So What's Next?

DevLearn can be a fantastic ride. You spend a handful of days surrounded by new technology, innovative ideas, and people who are genuinely excited about pushing the envelope in our field. Chances are by the end of the third day you're just itchy to get to work on making all the ideas you've come up with over the course of the convention happen.

Then you go back home.

That's when the hard work begins. Taking those ideas and tools and actually making them a reality, well, that doesn't just magically happen. It often requires meetings after meetings to sell others on your plans, scraping up the necessary budget and time, managing pushback from people who don't see the need for change, and sometimes dealing with being told no outright. If you're not careful, all of that amazing energy you picked up from the sessions, keynotes, vendors, and other attendees can fizzle out amidst constant jumping through hoops to actually make things happen.

I know I don't want that to happen to me. So here's what I'm planning to do to keep me motivated and  on-task with my DevLearn-inspired ideas, even when the going gets hard.

Tell others about what I saw, especially while I'm all fired up from having just been at DevLearn
When I got back from the convention pretty much the first thing co-workers asked me was "So, how was Vegas?". Rather than just saying it was fun and leaving it at that, I actively promoted some of the best ideas I had seen in hopes of getting others excited about them as well. I mentioned nuggets of interesting info and, if the person I was talking to seemed interested, then I gave them a quick summary and pointed them in the direction of more. It's been a careful balance, because I wanted to infect people with my enthusiasm, but I didn't want to drive them nuts by going on and on about something they're not particularly keen on.

It seems to have been successful, though, since I was asked me to present the highlights of the conference at our next instructional designer meeting. This should be another good way of getting people curious about some of the ideas and mindsets from DevLearn.

Ask for the changes I want now
Hey, the final keynote speaker did say that we should ask for what we want, right? I've been using the the meetings I've had over the last week to start asking my manager and subject matter experts to consider changes, namely broadening the ways we're delivering content. I've had some early wins here with at least getting people to buy in to my ideas and give initial support.

Does it help that I can now name drop the conference and say things like, "Based on what Speaker X said at DevLearn..."? Yes.

Does it also help that those speakers gave me good business cases for why these changes are the right things to do for both our learners and our learning objectives? Yes again.

Continue to advocate for using technology appropriately
I love technology with all my heart, but I'm the first to admit that you can't solve a learning problem by picking out software/hardware first. You have to instead look at what the learner actually needs, and only then pick out the tools to teach them. I was lucky enough at this year's conference to meet a number of people who feel the exact same way.

I've had projects in the past where someone is so incredibly excited about a new piece of software or hardware that they want to shoehorn it in even if it's not the best solution for the learners. The next time this happens, I'm going to continue to advocate respectfully for basing our decisions on the learners rather than wanting to use a shiny new toy. However, this time I'll do this knowing there are a large number of others in the industry that back up this viewpoint.

Get more involved with the online community
You know what was unexpectedly fantastic about DevLearn? Getting to interact with all my fellow learning professionals on the backchannel. It may be the thing I miss most now that the conference is over.

In the past I've been rather shy about actively engaging with the online community of learning professionals, but I'm going to push myself to do more from now on. There's serious value in tapping in to the insights and experiences of people in the same role as me, but outside of my workplace. I'm also hoping that getting involved with the community will help push my ideas and project even farther.

The only thing I may need some pointers on is where exactly are the best places for chatting with others in the industry.

Keep sharing
Twitter and this blog helped me reach a surprisingly large number of people during DevLearn, so I'm going to keep up with both and see how it works out.

As well, one of my conference highlights was hearing how people tackled different learning projects, so I thought I'd do what I can to contribute to the conversation by sharing my own work when possible.  I work for a financial institution, so I obviously I have to edit what I share because of privacy issues, but I'm hoping what I can disclose about my projects will be enough to help others learn from my successes and problems, and maybe even help me get some constructive feedback along the way.

Continue learning
If there's anything a technology-based conference will remind you of, it's the fact that you have to continually keep building your skills in order to stay current. I'm definitely going to be making the most out of YouTube, blogs, and my membership so that I can keep broadening and deepening my technology skills.

That said, if there's anything to be noted from DevLearn's choices in keynote speakers it's that there are insights to be gained from outside the industry. That's why I'm going to keep challenging myself to learn skills that aren't directly connected to instructional design. For instance, right now I'm taking a millinery course at a local college. Sure hat making is unlikely to directly influence how I design a course, but you never know what sort of design principles or life lessons I could gain from it that might indirectly help me find new or better ways to teach.

So those are my plans for the next year. I'd love to know what you're doing to keep motivated post-conference?

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