Learning Reflections (part one) – The Ups and Downs of DevLearn: Holly MacDonald

Before we begin: One of the things I love about being a “Learning Rebel” is the network of other Learning Rebels which has been built up through this website!


There are a lot of Rebels out there, all “Fighting the Good Fight” to bring learning innovation into the workplace.  I hear from you often through twitter, through this site and through email.  Thoughts about the state of learning today and expressing the need to share with each other more. I would agree, one of the issues in learning today is the failure to allow for sharing and reflection.  We hop from one learning event to the next, from one learning development program to another, and from one elearning storyboard to the next in line, without pause to reflect on the work we have created or have participated in. This is how silo’s are built. Rapid movement rarely allows time for sharing, feedback and reflection. That is, unless, we share as we go. Work out loud as we move. Sharing those moments as they occur.

Last year after ASTD ICE (International Conference and Expo) I had quite a few people participate in reflecting on the conference, sharing thoughts and experiences (Interested in reading those reflections?  Start here).  I’m happy to announce there are a few Rebels who are wanting to do the same for DevLearn.  That’s what learning is all about – sharing, reflecting and developing conclusions.  Sharing the “Ups and Downs”.

I hope you find these reflections useful, and please, if you want to join our Rebel ranks and share your thoughts in a post – please shout it out! Carving out time for writing is always an issue, but sharing our learning and supporting our PLN is the greatest thing we can do for each other. So stretch that brain and share! It doesn’t have to be long, it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect. Let your Rebel out. 

Holly From Holly MacDonald (Spark + Co)

Having returned from my first ever DevLearn, it seemed appropriate to capture some rambling reflections and share them. As with any large conference there are some ups and downs, and for those of you considering attending a DevLearn in the future, here are a few of my main take-aways (and pieces of advice for the future).

  1. Twitter and my PLN made it a much less intimidating affair than if I went “cold”. Heck, I even had a roommate lined up ahead of time. It also meant the entire conference was more social than it would have been without that existing network. The conversation would also meander through personal and professional topics, making it that much more interesting and fun. My PLN would also connect me to their network, so I was quickly introduced to many new people at the conference – what a BONUS!  This also happened in the expo, where community managers already knew you and greeted you like old friends. I think conference going has changed dramatically with the evolution of social media.
  2. The app/backchannel: I enjoyed commenting on sessions and sharing them as tweets, but note to the DevLearn people: I didn’t realize until afterwards that the app wasn’t adding the hashtag, which I thought it would.  Further, to tag someone in the app, you had to put a space between their first and last name, which would then tweet that info, so a bunch of non-DevLearn people were inadvertently tweeted and probably wondered what the heck was going on. The other factor was the “noise” that was generated by people who were pursuing points to get their swag prizes. So, it worked, but had a few challenge
  3. Themes: Responsive design, interactive video, gamification and xAPI. These seem like the themes or trends we’ve been dabbling in for the past few years.  What got me excited? Adapt (an open source development tool by Kineo) is looking like a good tool to get your hands on for responsive design. Check it out here: http://www.kineo.com/us/services/elearning/authoring-tools/adapt and see more about it here on this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9DGPdzBIdU&feature=youtu.be 
  4. Demofest:I was really looking forward to this portion of the conference, but boy was I overwhelmed by it! Midway through the conference, at the end of a full day, it was hard to keep the energy up. I flip flopped between looking at the coolest options (using tools that I would never use) and looking at solutions that would be within the realm of my possibilities.  I’m not sure I retained enough to learn from these. I would love to hear from veterans how they use this part of the conference. I feel like I could have done a better job preparing and circulating. So much knowledge sharing, so little time! 
  5. Conference sessions:  These were hit and miss – something that isn’t limited to DevLearn. My experience is that there’s a lot of emphasis put on the session proposal writing and little on how well they deliver on the promise. Basically if you get poor feedback, you’d probably not be welcomed back. If I’m paying to go to a conference, especially in today’s day and age, when all the sessions are recorded, shared, tweeted and covered, I’d like to know that the session delivery has been vetted. I saw lots of “presenting” and I know we can do better than that.

I do hope that someday they hold DevLearn somewhere besides Las Vegas as they have in the past. For me, it wasn’t the best “learning” environment. Too many bells and whistles for me. Although overall, it was a good experience and I’ll definitely attend another in the future. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to connect and share face to face with my PLN!


Want to join the Learning Rebel ranks? (and you know you do) Share with us your DevLearn thoughts in the comments below.


Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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