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My Learning Technologies 2017 Round-Up: Immersive Experiences and Stories

As always, Learning Technologies 2017 was buzzing with ideas. Having given up sugar this year, I couldn’t help noticing just how much LT seemed to be buzzing with sugar and caffeine. Ice-cream, cookies, cupcakes, biscuits and sweets… the stuff seemed to be everywhere and it was hard to resist. Sugar rush aside, there was plenty to get excited about.

It was noticeable this year just how much AR and VR (Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality) was available to demo on the stands, LEO Learning’s included of course, where we were showing some of our best VR and AR including:

  1. Hazard VR – a VR game designed to teach learners about workplace safety
  2. Handley Page VR – created for Science Museum in London to demonstrate the power of mathematics in helping aircraft to land safely
  3. £5 note AR – an AR app highlighting the security features of the new £5
  4. 360° video experience of New York, London, Brighton and Rio de Janeiro, where LEO Learning offices are based.

VR and other technology

VR certainly seems to be having its moment to shine. I’m old enough to remember putting on one of those rather larger headsets when it last had a moment back in the early nineties, and things have certainly moved on since then. I enjoyed the talk on AR and VR in the conference, where QinetiQ’s Dr Helen Dudfield talked about her research on VR, which also stretches back to the nineties. As she mentioned, pixel quality has improved and motion sickness is much reduced since those times, but she still currently sees more practical applications for AR.

In the same session, David Kelly from The eLearning Guild offered some helpful insights on planning for VR and articulating the level of immersion appropriate for different learning experiences. Both talks were packed with research links and well worth checking out online if you didn’t catch them in person.

Storytelling and memory

I also particularly enjoyed the opening keynote on day two, where comedienne Deborah Frances-White talked about the power of story for learning. This is something I’m keenly interested in and her talk on how stories help form memories was both memorable and fun.

On the topic of memory formation, Dr Julia Shaw’s talk on her work on implanting false memories was rather alarming – she explained how easy it was to do but provided tips and techniques for helping people remember more clearly and for longer. Her emphasis on the special and multi-sensory nature of rich memories, I thought tied into the importance of stories for learning and memory. Research suggests that stories are stored in a special part of the brain, which may partly explain just why they are so memorable compared to facts.

Me with colleague Peter Dobinson, Solutions Architect at LEO Learning, after presenting a seminar on getting value out of learning impact measurement

So all in all, Learning Technologies 2017 was a great couple of days. And did I manage to resist all that sugar? I am pleased to report that I did.

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