Sunday, October 27, 2013

DevLearn 2013 - Day 3

Conventions like DevLearn are fantastic for bringing together people from across the globe to share ideas. They're, unfortunately, also fantastic for bringing together people from across the globe to share germs. Yup, I caught Con Plague this year (thankfully just a cold rather than a full-blown flu), which is why this post is more than a smidge late.

Ah well. DevLearn was fantastic, so I've decided the cold was worth it.

1) Tips For the Successful Learning Practitioner
Speakers: Trina Rimmer, Jane Bozarth, Tracy Parish, Connie Malamed, and Cammy Bean
Unlike the other concurrent sessions I attended, this one was an informal, off-the-cuff Q&A session with a number of seasoned professionals. No slide deck, no prepared speeches. Just answers to real time questions. Honestly, it had more in common with a Morning Buzz session than most other concurrent sessions, which actually turned out quite well as far as I'm concerned. Having a number of experts with a wide variety of experiences meant that every question got answered from a number of angles and the panelists did a great job of building off of what each other had said.

Now, I could try to describe the session further, but I thought it would make more sense to just show you all my notes on the questions and answers from the session. I didn't capture every answer, and I also didn't manage to note who said what, but it should give you a good sense of the gist of the session anyway.

Q1: What methods/questions do you use to gather info from SMES?
  • "Tell me what these people do all day?" "What training have they already have?" "Where do people make mistakes around this area?" "What do you need people to actually do?" "Tell me more about this subject" "What are the 3 or 4 main points they need to remember?" "Does it really need to be eLearning/classroom/_______?"
  • Remember to say please and thank you to the person who is answering your questions.
  • How to find a great SME? Find one who is newer to their skillset. They'll have an easier time remembering a beginner mindset.
  • Get the stories and examples that AREN'T in the content slide deck(s) they give you!

Q2: How do you help learning practitioners grow (especially those who have gaps in their skills)?
  • Pre-conference workshops. Books. Blogs. Doing things with them that help them diagnose and solve problems, not just build a class. Help them define their role as NOT an order taker. Encourage them to build a PLN. Help them look to other industries for ideas. Get them up-to-speed on learning theory. Find out what they're passionate about and have them work on that. Make sure the branding of the job title doesn't limit it too much in the minds of some employees. Match people up with mentors (or have them mentor others). eLearning Guild online forums. Cathy Moore's eLearning blueprint.
  • Do you have people who only want to be order takers and have no interest in continuing to learn new skills? Maybe they aren't the right people for your team.
  • Find something that they're doing that you can value and praise. They'll feel less threatened in a changing workplace.

Q3: What can you do when your SMEs disagree... particularly when there are many correct options?
  • Build learning so that it shows multiple perspectives, not just one absolute correct answer. Reflect several correct options. Look to how people create learning for areas that don't have absolute right and wrong answers. Video multiple experts talking out how they'd solve the issue so people can see multiple solutions.

Q4: What happens when your audience insists they don't need as much training as you're convinced they need?
  • Are they right?
  • If they're so sure they can do this and really can't, let them make mistakes or even fail. That might be the best option.
  • Make the learning in-the-moment performance support so that they can learn as they go instead of getting a content dump.

Q5: Is there a best team structure for a growing team?
  • Go through all the individual tasks your team needs to do and figure out how best to chunk those tasks into roles.

Q6: What can you do to entice people to take training that isn't mandatory?
  • For competitive learners, tie in to leaderboards. (Note: I'm not sure I love this answer for everyone, especially based on what we know about how leaderboards can actually demotivate some people)

Q7: How do we get people to move away from designing traditional learning experiences and towards more informal learning?
  • Make the people in your organization in charge of the information. Ask does it need to be a class or a conversation? Help people build PLNs. Identify great mentors. Look how we can help people talk to each other, not talk to them. Don't push your own agenda: pull them in to the conversation instead. Understand your organization's tolerances/gaps (e.g. If people don't talk to each other now, creating an internal social network might not help).

Q8: What beliefs/principles do you fight for when designing solutions?

  • Learner 1st. Make sure you're solving the right problem. It's human beings that have to do this. Keep things streamlined. Never think your first design is perfect. Make things attractive and well-designed. Get to the point!

2) Design 3.0 for Learning and Performance Professionals
Speaker: Thomas Spiglanin
This session began with an intriguing question: if we can't possibly know everything ourselves, how do you choose between your options and know you've made the best choice? The beginning of the answer was another question, a quote from Dan Steer: "There are 7 billion people in the world. Maybe somebody has a better idea?"

This is where Design 3.0 comes in. This concept is a social, collaborative, and iterative way of designing. And here's how your typical Design 3.0 process cycle works:

Share early! Share often!

As you can see, using Design 3.0 means you design using not just your own skills, but also the skills of your extended personal learning network (PLN) as well. Of course, this means you need to build up a great PLN long before you start designing. To do this, Spiglanin recommends tapping in to social networks as well as, perhaps even more importantly, online communities. The broader and well-curated your set of connections is, the better the feedback and advice you'll receive during the design process.

So how do you find communities? Places like LinkedIn, Yammer, Google+ are good places to start, as are vendor websites like eLearning Heroes and professional groups such as ASTD and (of course) the eLearning Guild. Once you join a community, there are four important ways to share and get feedback: follow the culture, be polite, make it easy, and don't create barriers. One key point that came up repeatedly in discussion of all of these tips was that being a part of a community is a give and take relationship. You can't just be that person who shows up to the community when you personally need help. You need to give others help too.

If you're interested in finding out more about the idea of Design 3.0, you're in luck: Spiglanin did a fantastic job of creating a resources site for this presentation that you can check out here

3) Keynote - HackLab: Pursuing Progress Through Deviation
Speaker: Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt
DevLearn finished up with a talk on hacking. No, not computer hacking... the speakers were actually referring to the original meaning of hacking: it's not about breaking (or breaking into) things, but more about building things and finding new ways of tweaking existing things to do something different. If you're my age, you probably use a slightly different term for this same idea: MacGyvering.

Regardless of what term we're using, hacking is essentially identifying a system or problem, deciding how it could be better, breaking it down into its constituent parts, and then figuring out what you can change or tweak to make it do what you need it to. These hacks can be major changes, but more often than not they're just little tweaks that add up to a bigger result. This kind of hacking requires nothing more than curiosity, experimentation, courage, and the ability to view failure as just feedback rather that a sign to give up.

So what does your typical hacking process look like? Well, here's a handy flowchart:

In my opinion "Is it awesome?" is a question you should ALWAYS be asking yourself.
Hacking isn't just a process you can use to to help you escape being tied up in a burning building using only your wits and a tuna fish sandwich (and no, I can't stop making MacGyver jokes). It's something you can use to try and fix or improve anything in your life, be it the dreaded office meeting (the example we tackled in the session), trying to make a mandatory course less tedious, or even managing a relationship with a difficult co-worker.

So that's my final day of DevLearn. If you'd like to see the session handouts and resources for all the conference sessions, don't forget that they're all available on the conference handout site.

I'll likely make a final blog post later this week summarizing my overall feeling about the conference. In short, though, I can say this: DevLearn was delightful and inspiring as usual and I continue to be grateful I was able to go again this year.

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