Learning Technologies 2014

Learning-Technologies-2014 I just completed two very long days at Learning Technologies at London’s Olympia. I wasn’t at the conference but spent a couple of hours on both days on the Elearning Network’s stand in my capacity as ELN Vice-chair. I also did an Ignite session on ‘Teaching Sells’ where my tech failed me completely but I did manage to recover after losing a precious minute. The lesson – practice with the tech before you rely on the tech! I also joined in the fringe event in the Beaconfield Pub on the Wednesday evening. I’m a sucker for anything fringey or anti-establishment – must be the Celt in me!

The show seemed pretty busy and I had lots of good conversations on the ELN stand – primarily with those e-learning newbies struggling to make sense of the multitude of different approaches to learning online. I’ve been in e-learning a long time and have grown up with it all but anyone new to the scene can easily find themselves overwhelmed. Of course that’s where a group such as the ELN can help – guiding people through the various approaches, exploring the different tech solutions. My most used one-liner at the show was that ‘we are a self-help group for those just getting started in e-learning’. That seemed to strike a chord with most of the people I spoke with.

Some other show highlights in no particular order:

A new cloud based e-learning authoring tool from elearning 24/7 looked really user friendly. Had a great quick tour from Joe Jarlett (Tech Director) and looking forward to having a play myself (blog to follow). Sadly it doesn’t use responsive design principles so isn’t really mobile friendly but it will work just fine on tablets (I’m guessing it publishes to HTML5). Link: NimbleAuthor

Responsive Authoring Tools
This is an area of particular interest for me. I’m loosely involved in Adapt (the Kineo open source initiative) so am keen to see what approaches other companies are taking.

GoMo (Epic)
Epic have completely re-designed their GoMo tool and it now looks and works a lot better than Version 1 (M-Learning with GoMo). And to underline their commitment to the tool they have recruited Mike Alcock (of Atlantic Link fame) as GoMo MD. I’m on the Beta test programme so looking forward to having a play (blog to follow of course). Link: GoMo

Linestream (Line)
I watched a demo of this neat authoring environment where they made an app in 15 minutes (clearly they did some preps before they started in the best TV cookery tradition). Looking forward to comparing this with the GoMo tool. Link: Linestream

The Death of the LMS
One theme that seemed to weave its way around the show was the realisation finally that the LMS as we know it doesn’t really work for learners. I’ve always maintained that the LMS is designed primarily for managers not for learners. Little ‘L’ big ‘MS’ not big ‘L’ little ‘MS’. Toby Harris from Saffron started his talk on their Learning Experience Network with some interesting research from behavioural science and behavioural economics. The key point is that learners don’t learn in isolation and what they learn, or more importantly what they are motivated to learn, is shaped by the behaviour of others. A new manager will be more motivated to learn about a project management methodology if she sees that other managers have been doing the same thing. This of course is not how the world looks when you log-into an LMS as a learner. All you see if what you have been allocated to do by your manager or by HR. Other managers may also be doing the same stuff but you have no visibility of it – you are effectively learning in a silo of one. Anyway I don’t want to go too deep on this topic here but I am really keen to explore Saffron’s LEN which attempts to combine a socially mediated approach to learning with user generated content. Of course the death of the LMS may also result in the death of the conventional e-learning module, and even the instructional designer! Toby is clearly in the  Jeff Bezos camp in that to be really innovative you should  try and kill your existing business model!

Sponge Cake and Champagne
Sponge celebrated their 10th birthday with a sponge cake (naturally) and some champagne (happily). Julie Dirksen of ‘Design for How People Learn’ fame was the guest cake cutter.


Julie Dirksen cutting Sponge cake!

Julie Dirksen
Had a nice chat with Julie while drinking champagne and eating sponge cake. She is considering a refresh of ‘Design for how People Learn’ but there is also the tantalising possibility of a second book on learning and behaviour change. You heard it here first (probably).

Interactive Learning Maps
One interesting new content authoring tool that I came across was Learning Map from Edynco (from wonderful Slovenia). This tool allows you to create a learning resource using a kind of mind mapping approach. It supports text, images, links, audio, video and even includes a question and feedback engine. It facilitates a much more exploratory approach to learning and is a refreshing change from ‘click or scroll to see the next  bit of content’. Link: Learning Map

The LT14 Fringe 
Martin Cousins organised the friendly intimate fringe event in the Beaconsfield Pub behind Olympia. A number of ‘conversation starters’ moved around tables stimulating conversation around different topics while we all drank free beer. Not a bad format for a Wednesday evening. My fave session was with David Kelly from Elearning Guild in the US where we talked wearable tech and all tried his Google Glass glasses.


Me wearing Google Glass at the Fringe event in the pub.

I contributed an Ignite talk on ‘Teaching Sells!’ I also enjoyed Dipesh Mistry’s’ talk on ‘The Value of Paper’. Videos to be uploaded soon!

Overall a great show and a real buzz for the future of learning technologies!

Video of the Week: The OU on Economics

Video is becoming increasingly popular in e-learning. It’s an engaging medium and one that everyone is familiar with considering we spend so much time in front of our TVs and our multimedia devices. Video is also mobile device friendly – videos will run on pretty much all devices and are particularly suited to smartphones with a reasonable size screen. But can you actually learn from watching a video or a documentary on TV? (For more on this : Can you learn from watching a video? ). This video from the Open University teaches us about how the economy works (or doesn’t); pretty topical I think. It also uses humour – something which is sadly lacking from most e-learning programmes (but don’t blame me – clients almost always remove any that I try to sneak in).

BETT Show 2013

BETT 2013Well I made it to BETT this year by staying over in London after Learning Technologies. I had hopes that the new Learning at Work specialist conference thread would be useful but on the day I was there it was poorly attended and both sessions that I went to had little to do with learning technologies. The whole thing felt like a last minute add-on to try and attract some corporate L&D people. It’s a pity I missed Day 1 because both Nick Shackleton-Jones and Steve Wheeler were speaking – I’m guessing they drew a bigger crowd!

The show itself was massive – probably four times the size of learning technologies but of course there are a lot of schools and colleges buying a lot of IT kit in the UK. The big hardware vendors were there including Apple, Dell, Acer and Samsung plus specialist PC education suppliers such as RM and Viglen. Microsoft and Google were also there promoting their education software and services.

As I’ve noted before BETT is about technology in the classroom. It’s main audience are teachers in primary and secondary schools. For this audience online learning is something that isn’t going to happen in their schools anytime soon. Having said that there were a number of VLE vendors but it most cases the VLE simply provides an extension of the classroom experience. Children can access homework tasks, do some research, complete a quiz while parents can monitor their child’s progress.

Moodle was on show by Webanywhere and the good guys at Synergy Learning but it’s used once again to extend the classroom rather than replace it.

There is of course lots of fun stuff at BETT – programmable Lego, cool physics experiments and all sorts of learning games designed to be used in a classroom environment. There are also stacks of interactive whiteboard vendors and people who make charging and security trolleys for iPads that can be rolled from class to class.

Is BETT changing? In the education market is the technology finally breaking out of the classroom? Only very slowly.

Learning at Work BETT 2013

HTML5 Learnographic

It’s a bit out of date but this ‘learnographic’ highlights some of the strengths and weaknesses of HTML5. Click to enlarge.

HTML5 Learnographic


SCORM Explained in under 4 Minutes

This is a nice simple introduction to SCORM. Anyone seen one for Project Tin Can?

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