Curation enriches conferences

At the turn of the century, blogging was brand spanking new, Twitter had yet to be born, and backchannels referred to espionage by double agents. Back then I tried to capture and share what was going on in lengthy blog posts. For example, here’s my report on Elliott’s TechLearn 2001. And here’s my review of Online Learning 2001.

Dave Kelly has made curating conference exhaust — the Tweetstream, presentations, photos, recordings, and related links — into an art form. For people who can’t attend an event in person, the backchannel provides the next best thing to being there. For those who do attend, the backchannel keeps the content alive. If I want to revisit what Aaron or Clark or Gary or Brent said about something, I can find it on the persistent backchannel. As a result, I no longer compulsively take notes at events.

Here’s a Dave Kelly’s backchannel for mLearnCon and a synopsis of mLearnCon. Don’t miss Kasper Spiro’s mindmap of the closing session.

Resources like these convert conferences from one-time events into on-going processes.

From now on rather than write an exhaustive blow-by-blow account, I’m going to post only a few thoughts I draw from events I attend. Here goes…

Mobile is mandatory

Mobile learning has crossed the chasm. Smart phones and tablets are crowding out laptops (see The Last Laptop). Five billion people have mobile phones, one billion have smart phones, and the U.S. has more mobile phones than citizens. Savvy developers are writing software for mobile first instead of as an afterthought from the PC version.

Neil Lasher
Neil Lasher getting high on sugar before moderating our panel session.

A member of the audience at the panel session asked how to build a learning strategy. Her manager had asked her to create a training course for the iPads they were buying. I replied that she should explain that figuring out what you’re trying to do comes before deciding how you’re going to do it. I also recommended checking the free parts of the book Lance Dublin and I wrote ten years ago on implementing eLearning.

Mobile learning is inevitable because mobile business is inevitable. As the pace of business is ever faster, working and learning become one and the same thing. There’s no time to learn in advance. Besides, learning at the time of need is more effective.

Business is becoming SoLoMo (social-local-mobile, a coinage of venture capital icon John Doerr). SoLoMo business requires SoLoMo learning.

A participant at our panel session asked how one could make sense of the diverse mobile technologies, user populations, toolsets, standards, apps, and devices. I suggested the starting point is not the technology, but what can improve the business.

Tin Can

mLearncon was the coming out party for Project Tin Can, AKA next-generation SCORM.

Image by Liz Burow

Tin Can will be important because it’s a Rosetta Stone for creating an interoperable record of all sorts of learning experiences, not just individual courses (which was a major limitation of the original SCORM.) Several vendors demonstrated mobile apps that utilize the beta Tin Can API.

Clark Quinn
Clark Quinn opening the Wednesday session.

How to Think Mobile

Okay, I’m biased. (Aren’t we all?) Clark Quinn is a close friend and a colleague in the Internet Time Alliance. I like Clark. And Clark’s presentation was the best advice I’ve heard on mLearning.

Consider these five things when augmenting our limited brains wherever we are:

  1. How does your mobile device make you smarter? (Content, communicate, computer, capture)
  2. Anything but a course. (Courses are for optimal execution. Innovation takes “Big L” Learning.)
  3. Where’s the business need? (Location, location, location.)
  4. What’s the least I can do for you? (Do the 20% that yields 80% of the results.)
  5. Do you have a mobile solution? (If not, you’re toast.)
Separated at Birth?
eLearning Guild has announced a Performance Support Symposium that will take place this fall in Boston. Hooray!
For years, I’ve argued in favor of Gloria Gery‘s notion that Performance Support and Learning have the same objective: working smarter. The trade-off is whether you put the knowledge into the job (support) or into the performer’s head (learning). The argument has fallen on deaf ears because the performance support silo was far from the learning silo; rarely was one person able to make the trade-off.
The move to mobile is blurring the line between support and learning. Many apps are both. And as long as they help us working smarter, who cares what we call them?