Friday, October 25, 2013

Devlearn 2013 - Day 2

Ah DevLearn Day 2. You were completely exhausting, but entirely enjoyable. This was a day that I didn't actually get to attend many sessions, but I had so many fantastic conversations with fellow attendees that it completely made up for it.

1) Keynote - The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You... and Your Learners
Speaker: Eli Pariser
The opening session of the day took apart a major perception we have about the internet: that we all think we're seeing the same information on it as everyone else. Little do many know, this isn't actually the case. What we see in our searches and social media is actually a filtered version of the world, be it filtered by our own choices of who to follow (or not follow) or by the algorithms that are used to make many of the online sites and services we use function.

This invisible filtering causes a number of serious problems. It can make diversity of opinion invisible and cause the internet to reflect you instead of the actual world. It can also make it rarer to discover the kind of content that challenges you. This filtering make it easy for the "junk food" of the internet to rise to the top, since it's likely to be enjoyed by everyone, and the more uncomfortable or complex issues to be simply swept under the rug. Nothing against fluff... goodness knows I enjoy a hilarious cat video as much as the next girl... but when we only see the trite and uncomplicated then we aren't challenged to think about topics that are hard, depressing, or even meaningful. We also don't grow as much as people if we're always in an algorithm-enhanced comfort zone.

That said, Amazon is pretty darn good at choosing books for me...

If you're curious to know more about the actual content covered in this session, William Chinda did a fantastic job of covering it on his blog here

Beyond the content (which I enjoyed immensely), I thought this was the perfect example of a great keynote because of what happened on the backchannel and after the session: debate. I had a fantastic conversation with my co-workers afterwards about what in the talk we agreed with, what we didn't, and why. This session sparked a level of conversation with us that no prior session had managed to reach. Even when everyone in the discussion disagreed with a few of Pariser's points (in particular, we thought algorithms were made out to be, unfairly, a bit of a super villain in this story), we each had our own perspective on why that was the case. The session itself was great and the chatting it sparked was just as informative.

2) Putting the Smart Into Smartphones with Performance Support
Speaker: Ruth Haddon
Here's the awkward thing about conferences: sometimes you attend a session and it is excellent, but you're just not its intended audience. That's what happened here for me. Haddon did a spectacular job of outlining the basics of why mobile is particularly well-suited for performance support and the specific ways you can consider using it for this task... it's just, what I personally needed was something that went beyond the basics. She also said a great deal about the importance of structuring your resources in a way that people can actually, you know, find them when they need them (or even know they exist in the first place). While this is something I already knew, it's always lovely to hear other people confirm an idea that's near and dear to your heart. What can I say... I very nearly decided to become a librarian instead of an instructional designer. Organizing content in the optimum way for your audience is something that makes me giddy in a dorky sort of way.

So I quite quickly figured out I wasn't going to learn much that was new from the session, but decided to have a "make it work" moment and spent most of the session studying the design of Haddon's lovely slide deck. The layout, colour palette, and font selection were all completely harmonious and consistent. A particularly good example of what session decks should aspire to be.

Seriously, my photos aren't doing this deck justice.

I've got to add, is it just me or is the design quality of the slide decks at this year's DevLearn higher than years past? I've been so happy at the lack of bullet point slideuments over the past two days.

Edit: You know what's really classy? When you complain about wanting a session to go beyond the basics and the company that put together said session sends you a link to more in-depth materials. So kudos to Haddon and Epic Learning Group for going above and beyond what's required of a confernce session. I couldn't appreciate it more.

3) Not Just For Superheroes: Exploring Learning Through Comics
Speaker: Me!
Hey look! It's my own session!

Hello beefy superhero silhouette!

I'm more than a bit anxious about public speaking, so the lead up to actually presenting this content was more than a bit stressful for me. Thankfully, when I actually got in the room and settled in, the nerves calmed down substantially.

As expected, the crowd at DevLearn was friendly and inquisitive. I thought everyone in the session asked great questions and seemed legitimately interested in figuring out how comics could fit into their bag of learning tools. They also were happy to chime in with their own suggestions and examples. I couldn't have asked for a better group.

In my usual spirit of sharing, my full session resources, slide deck, and even speaker's notes are all available online. To check them out, just click here.

4) DemoFest
Okay, so this wasn't just my first time presenting at DevLearn. It was also my first time presenting at Demofest as well. I was in love with the project I brought, a series of branched simulations on successful career conversations, but I wasn't sure if anyone else would be curious to check them out. I was vaguely terrified that I'd end up sitting sad and alone at my table the whole night. Thankfully, though, I don't think I had a moment's rest for the entire Demofest time period. Once again, the level of questions people asked were stellar. This is one of the the things I love so much about DevLearn on a whole: how curious we all are about what each other is doing and how we're all doing it. That's what makes something like Demofest such a spectacular resource for us to learn from.

My little corner of DemoFest

There were only two sad things about Demofest. First, as the lone person representing my table, I had no time to check out all the other projects that were on display. I really would have loved to see what everyone else brought to show. Second, they ran a live #LrnChat during Demofest that I wasn't able to participate in. Yeah, those are some first world problems there. Otherwise, it was a fantastic experience that I'd recommend everyone try out at some point.

I am ridiculously tired and am probably losing my voice but, body pain aside, I am also so thankful for all the people who stopped by my session and/or Demofest table... and even the people who weren't at DevLearn but sent questions and words of encouragement via Twitter. You guys are absolutely the best and you completely made my day today.

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