Monday, 6 February 2017

Along for the Ride

It was the annual Learning and Skills Group 'Learning Technologies' Conference (#LT17uk) at Olympia in London last week, and I had the privilege of chairing a couple of sessions in the conference. I also made time to catch up with a lot of my friends and professional network (my PLN) in the breaks and downstairs in the Exhibition.

Once again, I was reminded how things have and are changing - and how quickly - in the world of learning. In the echo chamber of social media, those of 'us' who 'get it' often comment (sometimes rather smugly) how, if only 'the rest of them' would wake up, we would transform learning in business and become the trusted partner at the C-Suite table.

'We', of course, are in the minority and the reality for many in the profession and on the supply side is much more complex - budgets, policy, practice, development time, resources, etc - and for many, that's the value of attending these conferences and exhibitions; to get a sense of good (not 'Best') practice, learn from others' experiences, make connections and have some professional 'me' time to reflect and refresh.

After the conference on Thursday evening, I attended the LPI 'Learning Awards 2017' at the Dorchester Hotel in London. I was a judge for a couple of the categories back in November last year, and I was delighted to be there to witness the winners collect their awards and receive the recognition of their peers and the rest of the industry for their achievements. I was reminded that good practice happens and is happening throughout our profession, and that much of it does not rely on technology, but instead relies on on creativity, commitment and a clear vision of outcome and impact. Technology may well enhance the process, but it's not always the cornerstone of success.

That said, my experience at the LT Conference & Exhibition reinforced my view that, whilst technology is a game changer for L&D, we need not be at the bleeding edge to realise its benefits and apply them. Leveraging what you've got is a good way to start. You've probably already got the tech you need to start to make a difference, but maybe just haven't thought creatively enough about how you could apply it for your colleagues' developmental benefit.

Have you thought about asking them? Because they are already using - or are being impacted by - tech in real life, at home, in their leisure activities, even (Gasp!) under the radar at work.

In Donald Clark (@ DonaldClark) and Toby Simpson (@ pretzelsnake)'s session at LT17uk we discussed Artificial Intelligence. Both speakers reminded us that AI is not some future dystopia about robots coming to take over our jobs, but rather that algorithms are already working away in our backgrounds and making dispassionate judgements on what we need, when we need it and how to provide it. Data is gathered from our Goggle searches, Netflix selections, YouTube watches, Amazon purchases, etc) and is then translated into tailored responses and suggestions. Think Siri and Alexa, and notice how relevant to your query or facebook activity the responses and advertising your subsequently receive really are. Many of our learners are using these tools for themselves and in so doing, now have experience, and expectations, of learning being available to them in similar, contextualised and just-in-time manner. 

What they don't want or need is a L&D-centric, push-provided, command & control solution.

The consumerisation of tech is accelerating this change, I'd suggest, putting the learner as consumer in the driving seat. We are still in the vehicle, but as trusted navigator; curating, adapting and contextualising the route for them. We need to ensure that our own knowledge is sufficient to allow us to be able to suggest the most appropriate and relevant approaches and tools for the journey. If we don't, we will find ourselves standing at the roadside, desperately trying to hitch a lift as they zoom past us towards their different, diverse destinations. 

I'll have something to add about the 'research' that Rachel Burnham (@ BurnhamLandD) and I are jointly conducting into Virtual Reality (VR), to understand it's relevance to and impact on learning, and our experiences trying it out at Learning Technologies and elsewhere, in a later blog.

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