What I Love about #DevLearn: Tracy Parish on Counting the Sleeps til DevLearn

To help celebrate the 10th Annual DevLearn Conference and Expo, we’ve invited members of the Guild community to share what they love about DevLearn, and why they return to the conference year after year.

Today we welcome Tracy Parish, Education Technology Specialist at Southlake Regional Health Centre, as she reminisces about past DevLearn conferences and what makes the event so special.

Wow, I can’t believe we’re 3 months out from attending DevLearn 2014.  Not only that, this year marks DevLearn’s 10th birthday.  That’s quite an accomplishment, but not surprising if you’ve attended any of the prior events.

parish-rimmerI’ll be heading there again this year and am thrilled to be presenting a full-day Pre-conference Certificate program with Trina Rimmer of Creative Rimmer Group.  Our program “Designing and Adapting eLearning Projects to Real-world Constraints”  explores various tools and techniques for getting the most out of your design process, working smarter instead of harder, and getting the job done despite the project constraints. We take a look at practical tips, tricks, pointers, and work-arounds for designing eLearning with whatever resources we have available and improving learning experiences no matter what barriers we might face.  My favorite part of the day is the interactive series of scenarios that have been designed to simulate real-world challenges, giving the participants an opportunity to apply the techniques learned throughout the day into practice.

DevLearn for me has held some amazing and intriguing learning opportunities that I just don’t get an opportunity to experience in any other forum.  This is the main reason I return year after year.  One of the most memorable for me must have been what was affectionately known the “hamster ball” in the expo hall (2012).

This was a large 8 to 10 foot metal cage ball that looked like something from Mad Max.  You climbed inside, placed a visor over your eyes and held a bar that circled you.  As you stepped you placed your feet onto the cage ball and it would move to give you the feeling that you were actually walking.  To enhance this further the visor was reflecting a scene that now also had you traveling in the same direction as you were “walking.”  As you turned your head, the image in the visor moved to reflect where you were looking.  It was an incredible immersive simulation and I was glad I got a chance to try it out.

robotAnother fantastic learning experience for me was the Hands-on Robotics Learning Lab at DevLearn 2013. This experience was provided by Enable Education.  My post regarding the experience can be found in my archives. Those lucky enough to make their way into this area were presented with some online learning  scenarios to practice and then a full-out hands-on experience to see if you could design your own mini-robot.  Not only was playing with robots made out of Lego extremely fun, but the whole learning experience, when you took a step back to see how it was presented and laid out, was a bit eye-opening itself.  A full storyboard could be envisioned sitting on this stage in each of its components.

The DevLearn keynotes are always memorable. My favorite keynote (2012) thus far has been Jon Landau, the producer of Avatar.  I thought it was amazing that the Guild was able to have him come and speak.  However, during his talk “Braving a New World: Innovation in Avatar and What Lies Ahead” I was even more amazed at the lessons learned that he shared while talking about his various production experiences and how he was able to tie these into our world of eLearning and learning professionals.  His talk was truly one that allowed the audience to see beyond the possibilities to what can be achieve with a little imagination and ingenuity.


Image from WCET Frontiers

A presentation that has resonated with me since I sat in to hear it has been Ellen Wagner‘s “Seven Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me BEFORE I Decided to Make the World a Better Place for eLearning” (2013).  Ellen posed a question out on social media and gathered several responses.  It was interesting to see how she had compiled all of these and then shared them back with us.  Adding in her own experience to each point and expanding on these created a very dynamic learning experience for me. Even though I found the content intriguing, there was something more about the way she presented that made me feel completely at ease and open to learning.  Several people stay around afterward to talk, and it was sitting in on these chats that made you want to go off somewhere and just learn as much as you could from Ellen.  I’m envious of her past students.

With all her work with learning analytics, this is a lady for whom I need to buy a few glasses of Sangria and some tapas, and learn a great deal more from.

That leads me to one of the best parts of DevLearn.  Besides all the innovation, forward thinking, hands-on demonstrations, keynote speakers, and hundreds of presentations, there are the attendees and participants.  Let me clarify: the many hundreds and thousands of attendees.  Networking with your fellow participants is what truly makes this conference something to treasure.  I’ve met so many people that I once only knew virtually and now are close peers that I can reach out to for support and guidance with my own design and development challenges.  And there are the few that I would go beyond that to now consider close friends.

The online social networking aspect leading up to the conference is one that connects like-minded professionals together through chatting about the conference and the sessions they are looking to participate in. During the conference the online social and in-person networking continues to link the participants together to learn, explore, and ideate all kinds of plans to, as Ellen Wagner said, “Make the World a Better Place for eLearning.”  It also creates a large networked backchannel where participants at DevLearn and those that can’t be there in person can share hundreds of resources with one another through Twitter, blogs, and other channels using #DevLearn.  This collective network of sharing and learning begins well before DevLearn and continues well after, and I believe that the Guild helps to foster and grow this group of professionals in both a personal and a professional level.

devlearnI, for one, can’t wait for this year’s event, as it promises to be very exciting–and it’s only once that you get to attend the 10th birthday.  I look forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones, learning from every encounter, and having my mind explode with new ideas that I won’t be able to wait to try.

And oh yeah, being able to see Neil deGrasse Tyson present in person is going to be something to brag about as well. :)

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