This is the second year I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in the Innovations in Elearning Symposium.  Much has changed in the last year since I first attended the conference at George Mason University, so this makes for an interesting reflection.

Who was at Innovations in Elearning, and what were their goals?

Like last year, the conference drew in about 250-300 professionals from academia and government with a host of vendors and learning professionals local to the DC area.  Given the restricted budgets of many training departments, this was the main professional development opportunity for many attendees. Judging by the conversations I took part of, they came to get their learn on.

How was Innovations in Elearning structured?

Like last year, the conference began with a full day of pre-conference workshops on Day One, with two keynotes daily and concurrent sessions on Days Two and Three.  A change from last year was the inclusion of a Social Learning Camp running throughout the conference, hosted by the venerable Mark Oehlert (@moehlert).

What were the big ideas you took from Innovations in Elearning?

Games are going change everything.

I was really happy to spend my morning of the pre-conference in the Game Design Workshop run by Brenda Brathwaite (@bbrathwaite).  She introduced game design in ways that were very accessible to instructional designers.  Organized and immersive, she provided the channeling needed to start designing and got groups of us to apply our imaginations to design games for difficult purposes.  If you want to follow up on the details of the session, I highly recommend Wendy Wickham’s (@wwickha1) blog post at http://in-the-middle-of-the-curve.blogspot.com/2010/06/iel2010-gaming-design-workshop-part-1.html. John Romero’s (@theromero) keynote was less convincing in the ties to learning, but he certainly made the case for how big social gaming is getting (more on this when I write on #gls2010). Still, if instructional designers could get immersive experience designing games, out of the subjects they normally design… I think game design is going to alter a lot of assumptions we have about how we teach and how we learn.

You can always create.

Dr. Alan Kay (not on Twitter that I can find) had a wonderful keynote. He talked about what it means to learn something new (that was in the title).  What I learned from Dr. Kay is that we do a lot more coping than we actually learn — that’s training. If we learned it, it might change our DNA about dealing with progress — have some permanence.  The reason why we end up coping, however, is because humans, as inherently as we cope vs. progress, we also create. That’s why despite our best plans, we never get our planning quite right. Kay talked about this in terms of the history of war, where throughout that progression and escalation of technologies, methods, etc, we got ourselves prepared for nuclear warfare, but ended up with terrorist/insurgent warfare.  Dr. Kay also talked about this in terms of the path of “teaching” from before the invention of the Gutenberg Press to today (and how the pictures of what instruction looks look eerily the same). There was something Dr. Kay did, though, that was really metaphoric of who he is and what he’s talking about.  He used EToys (http://squeakland.org/download/) as a visual medium for his keynote, which is a programming environment in the vein of LOGO, in that it’s very friendly for kids — so friendly, in fact, that there’s no typing involved — just clicking on the commands you want.  The thing is — it’s never in publish mode or presentation mode — it’s always in create mode, so he was changing his keynote on the fly, making bugs that crawled around the screen.

What surprised you from Innovations in Elearning?

I was surprised a bit by how much I’ve changed in the last year, to be candid.  A year ago, it was the first time I was asked to speak about anything beside SCORM.  I spoke about something really new, and it was the beginning of an idea that I’ve deepened and expanded since.  I was very nervous, inside, because my participation in Twitter (and acceptance by the learning community that’s grown from it) was still very new.  It was overwhelming to be invited to speak last year, and negotiating my role at Grainger (at the time) and this bit of recognition — it was all very new.

This year I felt a lot more comfortable and a lot more confident.  I was less nervous about my presentation, and maybe a little more nervous about what I was presenting.  Last year, I was reporting out on what I had done and what I planned to do next.  This year I was describing nuanced ideas with bold implications — what might amount to “my life’s work.” Outside of the nervousness that comes from deep sharing, I was extremely happy to be among my tribe (as Wendy put it so well).  I probably spend as much time exchanging knowledge with Wendy, Mark, Alicia Sanchez (@gamesczar), Clark Quinn (@quinnovator), Craig Wiggins (@oxala75), Stephen Martin (@smartinx), Rovy Brannon (@rovybrannon), Judy Brown (@judyb) and Brent Schlenker (@bschlenker) — just to name a few — as I spend with other co-workers.

What left you unsatisfied from Innovations in Elearning ?

I wouldn’t couch it as being unsatisfied, so much as a recognition after seeing Clark and Brent present masterfully that right now I’m not a someone with something to say to the masses.  Clark and Brent are really good at making hard ideas relevant to broad audiences, and both of them use humor really effectively, able to encapsulate their ideas with approachable examples and metaphors.  I thought Brent’s inclusion of the Journey video just hit his presentation out of the park.

I would say that most of the concurrent sessions didn’t seem as interesting to me as I’d like — but to be honest, I really like going deep, which is why I present the way I present.  The conversations I have with people at conferences are really what drives me to want to attend, because the conversations are where we can go deep.  I enjoy getting my mind blown when someone drops big ideas on me, and my conversations with Wendy, Clark, Alicia, Judy and Rovy at this conference certainly did that.