I just got back from the Training 2016 conference, sponsored by Training Magazine. Here are the top ten things I took away.
10. “Wearables” are here to stay and will probably become common training devices within a few years.
I didn’t get this idea from any of the speakers. I just noticed how many attendees (including me) were sporting some sort of wearable tech. Complete strangers were comparing their total steps or showing off the features of their pc watches. We also watched speaker John Kolm put headsets on volunteers and use their synchronized brain waves to drive a toy electric car. Get ready! The Singularity, in the form of brain-computer interfaces and augmented intelligence, is coming much sooner than most of us think. Once the technology gets a little more compact and affordable, you’ll be able to create immersive simulations, push reinforcement content or detect the cognitive load level of your participants’ brains through a direct interface.
9. PowerPoint still matters – maybe more than ever.
There were several sessions sharing tips and tricks on the venerated Microsoft Office app and that’s not counting the demos of new plug-ins or third party software designed to work with PowerPoint. It is increasingly possible to create high-quality learning experiences using the latest version of an app you probably already own. One of the best PowerPoint gurus I know is my friend Jane Bozarth. She was presenting again at this conference and delivered her usual high-quality content and performance.
8. ILT still matters – at least as much as it ever did.
Instructor-led Training (ILT) may seem to be losing ground to eLearning and virtual training, but there are still plenty of reasons to deliver face-to-face learning experiences. I noticed that the tracks designed for those just getting started in eLearning and virtual training were often the most heavily populated.
7. Trainers and Instructional designers are hungry for practical knowledge about the brain and learning.
Kevin Thorn gave a thought-provoking talk on the functions of visual cortex during learning. My friend Nanette Minor spoke to a packed house about the basics of neuroscience and adult learning. At least five participants came up to her after her great talk and told her that her session was the best they had attended at the conference. Watch for Nanette, who was a presenter at last year’s Brain Matters conference, to join the Brain Matters Academy soon.
6. There is no better way to energize your own learning practice than to spend time with friends – old and new.
Our brains are hard-wired to seek out the company of others and most of us learn better in a social setting where we can share with fellow participants. Over and over again I saw proof of this, from a chance meeting at a coffee stand to a formal workshop breakout session, social learning was everywhere.
5. Infographics and Graphic Organizers are hot subjects.
I have a recurring nightmare that probably plagues most public speakers. I imagine that I’m ready to speak but the room is empty. In the real world I was thrilled to see a full room for my two-hour workshop on graphic organizers. The write-up was intentionally geeky and loaded with references to neuroscience so that I could attract an audience who would appreciate my brain-aware design process. To my surprise, there are a whole lot more folks who share my geekiness than I previously thought.
4. Just putting the word “Neuroscience” or “Brain” in the title doesn’t mean that the topic is really based on either.
While there was plenty of content that was truly based on neuroscience, many other speakers were using that topic to retread topics derived from psychology. Now there’s nothing wrong with psychology. As presenter John Kolm said “If Jung and Freud had access to MRIs, they would have used them.” Psychology has served us well for over a century and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In fact, so far we seem to have far more useful ideas that came out of simply observing human behavior than we are finding from hooking up living brains to electrodes. But that is probably changing soon.
3. Thiagi and Bob Pike are two of the most gracious gentlemen I’ve ever met.
If you’ve been working in the learning profession for any time at all, you’ve probably heard of Dr. Sivasailam Thiagarajan (better known as Thiagi). A mix-up in the session program had his name on my room and my name on his, so I was blessed with the chance to meet him as we figured out how what happened. The man who practically invented learning games long before there was an Internet is a delightfully modest guy with twinkly eyes and a wicked sense of humor. I think you’re going to enjoy the podcast I’m doing with him soon.
Most people recognize Bob Pike through his train-the-trainer workshops and books. I was surprised to find him manning his Bob Pike Group booth on the Expo floor sporting a name tag that just said “Bob.” He not only agreed to be a guest on my podcast but also introduced me to another learning consultant because he thought “you two should know each other.” I don’t know another profession where potential competitors share information and support so freely.
2. There is no limit to what can be achieved by the imagination of a single human being.
Being based in Orlando, the home of Disney World and many other Disney attractions, the conference bristled with topics related to visual design, animation and creativity. When I think about the fact that today’s global Disney empire was spawned by the vision of one man who started with a short cartoon movie featuring what he often fondly called “a little mouse.” I’m reminded of the power we all have to do wonderful things. All we have to do is engage the imagination engine we have between our ears (mouse-shaped or otherwise.)
1. There’s never a line at the carousel and it’s still a small world after all.
I couldn’t resist spending an evening in the Magic Kingdom. While the lines for most rides and experiences were projecting 40 minute waiting time, I was delighted to be to walk right onto the carousel and pick a gaily painted horse of my choosing. And it was just as much fun as it was the last time I rode one at age 7. As I walked around the park I was struck by the diverse group of visitors from all over the globe. Everyone seemed to be having a great time despite the crowds. Maybe we were having a great time because we weren’t discussing politics, religion or pet learning theories. We were all just playing – something our brains love to do. It’s a small, small world.