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Learning Technologies 2013: my recap

This post was written by Imogen Casebourne and first appeared on the Epic blog on 1st February 2013.

Learning Recap 13It’s been an action-packed and exciting couple of days, full of interesting ideas and inspiring talks, but a few things really stood out for me in 2013.

It’s notable that this year everyone is talking about mobile and multi-device learning, and we’re also starting to see more case studies showing how this has been successfully implemented. Epic’s decision three years ago to invest in building our multi-device authoring tool, GoMo
, was definitely the right one! I think over the next few years people will actually stop talking about mobile quite so much, as the ability to employ responsive design to offer multi-device learning becomes a given, rather than a subject for debate. We’ll most likely see more on-the-job performance support being offered as well.

Another key theme was the need to transform learning and the need for transformational leadership in order to do it. This is partly as a response to the ongoing global economic challenges and partly a result of the disruptive impact of moving from analogue to digital – Gerd Leonhard and Stephen Heppell both pointed out that this move brought down the cost of accessing content in the arenas of music, film and books. It now seems set to have the same impact in formal education.

Meanwhile, in forward-thinking organisations in the corporate world, training and development is aligning more closely with HR and courses are being tied more closely tied to competencies, performance metrics and business drivers. This makes measuring training impact more straightforward, as training goals are closely tied to measurable business metrics. It’s also raising the effectiveness of training initiatives.

On the subject of measurement, there was plenty of buzz around Big Data and Learning Analytics. Tin Can holds out the promise of measuring far more then we could find out from SCORM and of offering better and more responsive training as a result. It’s something we are engaging with at Epic, and are building into GoMo Learning.

Perhaps some of the most inspiring talks were about the potential of learning technologies to open up learning opportunities to those who haven’t had them before, as costs come down and reach increases.

In Tuesday’s keynote, Nicholas Negroponte talked about a recent pilot in Africa that set out to see whether children could learn to read with the aid of technology alone. Children were each given a device with no accompanying instructions. Within two hours they had figured out how to switch them on, and very soon they were singing nursery rhymes. Several weeks later they had hacked Android!

He also talked of an unforeseen consequence of some parallel initiatives in Peru – children given laptops started teaching their parents and grandparents how to read…

Negroponte stressed that he didn’t want to play down the vital contribution of teachers. However, in some parts of the world, learners just don’t have access to teachers or educational environments and technology can help fill the gap.

In a separate session, Stephen Heppell talked about his work helping children design their own learning spaces. He asked whether anyone had ever been asked by a child to take a hard chair upstairs so they can read a book? If the answer to that question is no, then why do we fill classrooms with hard chairs? Never mind banishing the next button, perhaps it’s time to consider banishing the chair from our learning environments.

All in all, it certainly feels like an exciting and inspiring time to be working in learning technologies and I think we can all look forward to increased fast-paced change in 2013.


Image courtesy of Kate Graham