In March, M&M attended a couple of edtech conferences on the West coast. The first was NCCE 2014, hosted by the Northwest Consortium for Computers in Education in Seattle, WA (~2,000 attendees). The second was CUE, hosted by California’s Computer Using Educators in Palm Springs, CA (~5,300 attendees). The primary audience for both events is educators working in K–12 public school educational settings, from classrooms to administration.
Our focus on adult learning put us in a take-from-this-what-we can mode, and it was very interesting talking with the exhibitor/vendors at both conferences. A huge issue for public education in the US is the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and adapting curriculum to meet these standards in a formal, measurable way. As a result many sessions were specifically presented and titled with this in mind, kind of a drag for those of us who could care less. What was very powerful, however, was a distinct shift toward accountability and ensuring that products, pedagogy, and innovations had a concrete purpose — the destination had become important, not just the ride.
This, friends, is an exciting trend. There are so many low-cost and free strategies and services available in the K–12 education realm that would benefit adult learners and those designing systems to support them. A revived focus on outcomes positions these products perfectly to be bogarted for association and training use. They now have accountability structures built into them, and many of them can be customized. Pricing also remains very, very (almost obscenely) friendly, and puts some of the big dog LMS’ a bit to shame. Woof-woof, you know who you are.
Two of the best things we saw/heard that have applications for adult learning:
Badges for learning achievement: whether you equate these with gamification or scouting, electronic badging has huge potential for informal learning. Also referred to as micro-credentialling, badges are earned for reaching specific milestones and can be created/issued by any entity. Mozilla’s OpenBadges platform allows users to create badges and distribute them to learners — and because the badge graphics contain special meta-data (doesn’t that sound smart?!), they can be verified for authenticity. Imagine adding them to your Linked In profile and digital CV. While not every badge issuer has the same credibility as Stanford or MIT, within industries and specific training programs, badges can be a fun source of gathering and displaying credentials, giving credence to learning achievements of all shapes and sizes AND inspiring friendly competition. Read this thought-provoking article from Pixelfountain’s game-based learning blog for more about the role of gamification in life-long learning. It’s kind of exciting 🙂
Built-in annotations for print and video media: We all have them: archives upon archives upon archives of digital content that we started collecting as soon as it was cheap and easy to do so. We recorded endless numbers of conference sessions and digitally-archived every journal article, publication, white paper, and proposal abstract we received. And we now have servers filled with this stuff, waiting to be tagged, curated, bundled, and otherwise REPURPOSED. Doesn’t that sound positive? REPURPOSED!
New advances in annotation software from providers like Curriculet (for PDFs and other printed-word media) and Zaption (for video) let content developers embed questions, comments, exams, supporting media, collaboration tools, and more into existing content. Teachers are using these tools to enhance the usability of multimedia in support of project-based learning (PBL). And in the adult context, they can be used to extend the usefulness of critical media in training materials, credentialing support, CEUs, course development, content monetization strategies, etc.. This is the cool and exciting part. Imagine being able to take a still-relevant conference session and layer a mask of questions before and after key points. Test for comprehension. Ensure that viewers really are viewing by limiting advancement through the video/book/white paper unless specific criteria have been met. And guess what? There are awesome analytics associated with all of these tools. How many members meeting description X bailed out before completing? What is the average education level of the members who watched session Y?
It’s almost overwhelming.
To summarize, M&M loved attending both of these events. Our co-attendees were engaged, excited, and focused on learning. Talking with people from different backgrounds and different concerns was enlightening and motivating. We saw old friends and made some new ones, we got caught up on innovations in the field and were able to easily survey many tech providers all at once. NCCE sessions were focused on the application of technology to progressive teaching pedagogy and learning science. CUE sessions were very tech-y and focused on specific how-tos using specific pieces of software and hardware. Both were incredibly complementary events to attend. For all of the online opportunities and webinars that are available, it felt somehow important to be meeting face to face again with our cohorts and asking real people real questions in real time. We even saw the Khan Academy‘s Sal Khan and got to hear his story first-hand.
In a way it was like the best of all learning opportunities. Diverse, with the ability to use all of the analog and digital tools at hand to gain meaning, understanding, and perspective. Now that we are back in our metaphorical cave, digesting and implementing the things we learned in the field, the natural ebb and flow of the learning lifestyle washes over us, refreshing attitudes, determination, and commitment.
QUESTION: Do you still like conferencing and meeting face-to-face? How has the availability of online learning changed what f2f means to you? How often do you attend conferences and learning events?