Nov 112011

Dev Learn 2011 Recap: Expanding the Possibilities for Learning

Dev Learn: By Bill Brandon, November 9, 2011, Via Learning Solutions Magazine
“As always, the program delivered an amazing collection of content, delivered by experts who happen to also be your peers.”

Dev Learn: With over 1,800 eLearning professionals participating, and 68 industry suppliers in the Expo, DevLearn 2011 was the largest event in the history of The eLearning Guild! Exciting keynotes, new themes, new featured Learning Stages, real-time curation, and over 100 concurrent and pre-conference offerings across a dozen learning tracks made this an event to remember for all who were there.

Setting the theme

The excitement began immediately, with Brent Schlenker’s fast-paced opening comments. Brent explained that this year at DevLearn, the program view expanded to include how we look at design, how we work with others, and added a lens to look into the future. (Figure 1)

Figure 1. Opening General Session

The DevLearn conference is no longer only about developing courses. The program added new areas, including the ways that technology impacts management, strategy development, and learning development and how these affect the enterprise.

The big word for this conference was “Change.” Change is bringing so many opportunities to us that, Brent suggests, we need to take a step back and look at how we apply everything we do on a daily basis in our jobs.

Dealing with the depth: curation and Twitterstream capture

The larger issues, such as HTML5 vs. Flash, social media, mobile learning, and tool selections tend to get us really excited about the technology. The conference program addressed all of these, in great depth. Because there was so much content, and so many participants using social media to share their experience, DevLearn 2011 applied one of the new tools, curation, to help record and manage all of it.

In a first for Guild conferences, David Kelly was the onsite curator for DevLearn. Literally everything that was tweeted, blogged, or otherwise reported about the proceedings was available in the conference backchannel. David captured this river of information at and the Galleries linked there (try to start). David is continuing to add resources to the curated collection of resources.

In addition, the new online service Hashcaster captured DevLearn Twitter conversations at — and is continuing to add new tweets from ongoing conversations even after the conference is over.


The three keynotes at DevLearn exemplified the focus on change and on larger issues.

Michio Kaku: Learning, Technology, and the Physics of the Future

Dr. Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics at CUNY and well known for his television appearances, took us through a fast-paced guided tour of the next 30 years of learning. (Figure 2) In his opening keynote, he did what physicists are famous for doing: he made predictions.

dev learnThe launching point of Dr. Kaku’s presentation was Moore’s Law on the growth of computing power, and the capabilities and possibilities that increasing processor power bring. Starting with 3-D television without glasses and driverless autos (both of which exist today), and continuing on far into the future with what will happen when computer chips cost a penny each and are simply disposable, he gave a clear picture of how technology can help solve problems that humankind has faced for most of its history.

He concluded by reviewing the three phases of reaction to new technology:

Phase 1: People say, “Uh, oh! I’m too old for this! I can’t learn this – I’ll be left behind. This is for my children! What am I going to do?”

Phase 2: People begin to say, “Wait a minute! I can use this in my work, to socialize with my friends, to reach out and make new friends.”

Phase 3: People say to themselves, “Hah! I invented it! I knew it all along – of course! Everybody knows this!”

The lesson, according to Kaku, is to learn from your children, who are our future. They love this technology. Will there be problems? Yes, just as there were problems with electricity when Edison introduced it, and which continue even today. But we love electricity – we have simply learned to respect it and to manage it for our benefit.

Tom Koulopoulos: Living and Learning in the Cloud

Tom is the author of The Innovation Zone and Living in the Cloud. (Figure 3) In the second keynote, Koulopoulos brought the level of the discussion a bit closer to the present day: Cloud technology. Rather than taking a technical approach to the topic, Tom began with a couple of basic propositions.

 Figure 3. Tom Koulopoulos described “Living and Learning in the Cloud.”

First, he said that the role of education is disruption. The disruption isn’t welcome, but it is necessary in order to change our organizations and to change the world, even as we deal with complexity and uncertainty. Yet, we don’t behave as innovators. We see the world through cloudy lenses. We always get the future wrong

Second, he made the point that the foundation of everything we accomplish, and key to dealing with uncertainty and the future, is connections. It is a startling fact that the number of connections available to us through technology — 70 billion by 2020 — is approaching the number of connections between neurons in the human brain — and this is taking place in the Cloud.

The obstacle is getting value from all the ideas and all the connections available to us. Koulopoulos cited two game-changers that will force us to deal with the possibilities.

The first is the need to deal with the context of uncertainty that surrounds us. Uncertainty is not a new thing, but it has never been as prevalent and as disruptive as it is now. What we have now is the increasing ability to help people handle the uncertainty by accessing the information they need, at the moment of need. The economics of the Cloud are not about cutting costs, but about content and context, value, real-time innovation, and experience.

The second game-changer is the generational mashup, the clash of generations. In our organizations, we will have four or five generations of people thrown together. How can they work together? Tom says he doesn’t believe in the generational labels – how people actually behave is what counts. That’s what defines how someone fits in the demographics. Innovation is not a solo flight. The way we play is the way we will work.

Concluding, Koulopoulos built on an idea from Dr. Kaku: build systems for your children. Build organizations you want them to be part of.

Steve Rosenbaum: “Why the Future of Learning is Context”

Steve Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation and the father of user-generated video, picked up where the earlier keynotes ended, with the Cloud, what technology can do to help humankind deal with information and uncertainty, and why eLearning professionals are critically important. (Figure 4)

 Figure 4. Steve Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation, explained “The Future of Learning is Context.”

It takes more than technology to make the incredible volume of information today digestible and usable. Five exabytes of information added to our world every two days, 10 billion Twitter tweets, and eight years of video added to YouTube yesterday, drives the need for curation. “Search” is no longer adequate.

What is curation, and how does it affect your life? Algorithms are not good at understanding patterns and creating a coherent, organized collection of information. That’s what humans are good at doing. Curation is the selection of what’s important. Steve introduced four key points that drove much of his talk:

  1. Content is still king, but it requires curators.
  2. Publishers are in a position to lead curated Web content. Who is a publisher? Ultimately, everyone.
  3. Your network can function as a curator for you.
  4. The curated voice is powerful.

In a noisy world, Rosenbaum says, readers hunger for clarity. He suggested three powerful ideas that will help you be the person who provides that clarity through curation. First, you need to choose your digital clothing. That is, decide how you will present yourself to the world. Focus on your area of interest, where you will serve as a filter. This is what your network wants to know. Second, remember that listening is more powerful than speaking. Be an active listener, by using alerts and saved searches. Third, try out different tools to help you in your curation — experiment and find what works.

Summarizing, Steve asked, “What is your curation equation?” He offered his collection of best practices in curation.

  • Define quality for your readers.
  • Give context — strong headlines and powerful, edgy commentary provide something that people will remember.
  • A well-curated site gives high value by telling a story.
  • Have a theme, and embrace it. People come to you for your point of view.

Today, Rosenbaum says, we are all creators. The Web becomes a human network, which is a little scary and daunting. The Web is Us.


As always, the program delivered an amazing collection of content, delivered by experts who happen to also be your peers.


During the two days before the main conference began, a variety of one- and two-day workshops provided in-depth coverage of critical skills. From the basics of design, storyboarding, and storytelling, to the details of Articulate, Captivate, dealing with audio files, creating serious games, project management, and more, the vital topics for designers and developers were in the program. (Figure 5)

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Figure 5. Preconference workshops were full. (Joe Ganci’s “Getting Started with Captivate for eLearning”)

 Morning Buzz

On the other end of the detail spectrum, Morning Buzz sessions every morning of the last three days of the conference (18 in all) gave early risers a place to have their coffee and conversation with small groups about a variety of topics.

Concurrent sessions

Over a hundred traditional concurrent sessions and Learning Stage presentations carried the bulk of the conference. (Figure 6). Notes from many of these sessions are available in the curated content (see the links at the beginning of this article).

Figure 6. The Stages were very popular Concurrent sessions. Here, Nick Floro on the Emerging Tech Stage delivers “Understanding HTML5: How It Will Improve Our Learning.”


A record number of exhibitors were in the Expo hall this year. The crowd never really thinned much, and it was clear that many who attended DevLearn were there specifically to talk to the vendors. (Figure 7) A number of product launches took place at this year’s event, and press releases published in Learning Solutions last week detail many of them.

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dev learn, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC