Friday, June 04, 2010

Innovations in e-Learning

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I was invited to speak at the Innovations in eLearning conference last Thursday. This event is put on by a partnership between George Mason University and the Defense Acquisition University.  Both organizations are top notch.  Who actually even knows that there even IS a University in the department of defense devoted to teaching the military how to buy stuff? I certainly didn't...until a few years ago. Both organizations take eLearning very seriously and so it's always a pleasure to hang out with all of the very smart people I'm happy to call my eLearning colleagues ... and friends... and as Aaron Silvers calls us, his "near-peers".

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Aaron Silvers - @mrch0mp3rs
Unfortunately, Aaron was in the last session block of the day and since I had to catch my flight I was not there.  However, I had an early preview of some of his ideas which totally blew my mind.  And then, I followed the Twitter stream in the cab on my iPad and it was obvious that he was melting brains. I was bummed to not be there to catch it all.  Thankfully, Aaron will be hosting the Mobile Future Zone at mLearnCon in 2 weeks.


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Dr. Alan Kay
I was able to attend the 2 keynotes on Wednesday:  Dr. Alan Kay, John Romero.  Alan is one of the smartest people on the planet.  I loved his talk but need to review his slides as I could not commit it all to memory.  Actually the technology used to give the presentation was what I remember the most:  etoys (part of Squeakland.org). Download win/Mac/Linux - It's an amazing app that does not distinguish between an edit mode and a display mode as say, PowerPoint does...or just about every other media creation tool I know.
The programming, or logic, is available to the user at all times.  Alan drew 2 circles on the screen, one smaller than the other and called it a bug. He opened a popup that, basically by completing a sentence, gave the "bug" instructions to follow.  He closed the popup and the bug followed its instructions until it had gone off the screen. It was very cool, and took all of about 30 secs.

I remember playing with Squeak a few years ago and loved the simplistic nature of the tool.  I often wonder why these are not brought into the corporate training world.  Instead we insist on complications of ActionScript, or C++, or any of the others.  If the reasoning is that perhaps Squeak and etoy are not polished enough then why doesn't someone buff 'em up a little and get 'em ready for prime time...or at least create a tool that is as easy to use.


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John Romero
John Romero is a legend in the world of gaming design/creation. You can simply Google his name to see his the many years of innovation he has pioneered in gaming.  I'm certain some of the more traditional learning designers wonder why some of us find kindred spirits in the likes of game designers.  The simple answer is that because game developers are able to do what learning developers have not been able to do: utilize technology to engage, involve, and immerse a learner.  Make no mistake, ALL games are about learning.  Actually they are about rules, but as Raph Koster would say, "the learning is the drug."  Rumor has it that John Romero's next project will be an attempt to bring our worlds (learning design and game design) together into a commercial quality game.  I hope the rumors are true.

I spent the rest of my time networking with peers and working on my own presentation. I had the pleasure of meeting Brenda Brathwaite (her blog).  She is also a brilliant, passionate, game designer.  Check out her wikipedia entry if you want to learn more. I was traveling during the first day of workshops.  But I was following the tweet stream of attendees (like Aaron Silvers) and they raved about it.  So, I'm inviting her to DevLearn2010 to do a game design workshop for e-Learning designers.  I'm making it my mission to do everything I can to bring our two industries closer together.

I'll save my review of my own session for another blog post.  Everyone was nice and said they enjoyed it, but I just can't shake the feeling that I was preaching to the choir.  I suppose, if nothing else, the Journey bit always gets a good laugh ;-)

See you in San Diego at mLearnCon!    

mLearnCon - Mobile Learning Conference and Expo- June 15-17 - San Diego, CA
DevLearn 2010 Conference and Expo - November 3-5 - San Francisco, CA
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