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Thursday, February 28, 2008

First Thoughts After ASTD Sessions

I’m on the flight back from ASTD TechKnowledge and thought I should try to capture some initial thoughts from the conference and sessions while it was still fresh and before life clouds my memory…

I did two sessions and face time at the conference. I also had some really good lunch conversations. I found that one-on-one and small group is a fantastic way to have meaningful discussions. It’s too bad that there aren’t ways to do more of this at a conference.Are there models for this that people have seen work at different kinds of conferences?

I need to go back and look at Better Conferences, Be an Insanely Great Professional Conference Attendee to see if there were suggestions.

I read the evaluations from both sessions before I left. I always appreciate written comments thanks to the people who spent the time to write something. By in large I got very favorable evaluations on the first session and a mixed bag on the second.

The first session was an Introduction to eLearning 2.0. The slides were similar to eLearning 2.0 Presentation - ISPI Los Angeles.

I felt this session when pretty well. The audience had diverse experiences, backgrounds which always makes it challenging. Generally people were familiar with what a Wiki was, but few had ever edited a Wiki page or seen it done. At least I showed that in my session.

About 15 out of 130 were bloggers – likely on personal topics – one was politics. Only 2 people said they read my blog. Yikes.

Almost no one was familiar with social bookmarking.

How much ground can you really cover in an hour? I tried to go all the way from the overall landscape to individual tools back to the new landscape that is eLearning 2.0. That was a big challenge.

I’m going to do a similar presentation in June at ASTD ICE in San Diego. I’m going to try to work on improving the flow a bit. Otherwise, I’m not sure what I’ll change.

The Second Session was intended to be a discussion session that was eLearning 2.0 - Applications and Implications - a follow-up to the first session. I used suggestions from Conference Breakout Sessions to help me design this session.

As I said, the second session was not rated as high. I’m going to write a follow-up post around the discussion in the session and some other more detailed thoughts. But some high level thoughts... Oh, and I just saw that Kevin Jones posted his thoughts around the session: TK08 - Tony Karrer and Implementation of Social Learning.

Challenges / Mistakes

  1. Needed a better session description. It was not clear that this was a discussion, Q&A with relatively little presentation.
  2. I was planning for 30 and instead had more than 100 – not even sure how many more. I have not been successful getting into small group discussions at large conferences.
  3. Room was way too big and hard to hear some contributions. And with that size, people were not able to get their questions asked and answered. I’m sure it was probably somewhat frustrating. However, some people said upfront that they wanted to be lurkers, so maybe it was okay for them.
  4. I needed to seed the audience with more people who had hands on experience. We had about 7-10 people with real experience of different kinds.
  5. People did not offer up as many examples of where they’d like to use Blogs, Wikis, Social Bookmarking as I anticipated. I thought they would be just rolling out. Especially with the survey to prompt some ideas. It would have made the session a lot more energetic. Again, seeding would have worked much better. Once I started asking for examples, that worked well. Of course, it was hard to hear.

Things that went okay / well

  1. I’m really glad I didn’t do small group discussions Conference Breakout Sessions - thanks everyone for steering me away from that. It would not have been good.
  2. Good examples from the audiences. Intuit – Wiki for customers to discuss tax issues. Worried about quality. In the end, updates happen in about 5 minutes if someone posts something wrong. Good adoption.
  3. People were able to voice challenges that they faced and I feel we had good discussion / sharing around these challenges. Kevin said he was frustrated that he couldn't jump in and dismiss some of these more quickly. I think I should have attacked it that way instead of getting the list all at once.

Overall, I might try to do this again, but I’m going to have to figure out how to overcome some of this. Clearly 75 minutes is not enough to discuss eLearning 2.0, but having a discussion of eLearning 2.0 for the next 75 minutes is not quite right either. More guidance and structure would have probably been better. Hmmm … okay, I’ve got some ideas. That makes me feel a bit better.


Daisy said...

I did two sessions and face time at the conference. I also had some really good lunch conversations. I found that one-on-one and small group is a fantastic way to have meaningful discussions. It’s too bad that there aren’t ways to do more of this at a conference.Are there models for this that people have seen work at different kinds of conferences?
In the Open Space Technology(Harrison Owen) you will find good ideas begining by this question:
" Was it possible to combine the level of sinergy and excitmente present in good coffe break with the substantive activity and results characteristic of a good meeting?"
We have used this technology and I think that it is very similar to the basic procedures in the web 2.0.

V Yonkers said...

It seems that you had the same problem I have the first class of any semester: not knowing who your audience is. I wonder if it is possible to ask the conference organizers to ask some basic demographic information as part of registration so you would at least know what the conference attendees profiles are (i.e. academics, technicians, Web 2.0 experience, administrators, programmers). I remember one conference I went to where presenters identified the level they would be speaking at (i.e. Novice, Intermediate, Expert). As a presenter, you decided the level.

Just a quick question (then back to correcting), how do you bring your discussion down to a more basic level when you are used to conversing about the topics at a more advanced level? For example, demonstrating the basics of how a wiki works is very different than some of the more advanced questions you discuss on this blog. I have difficulty moving from undergraduate to graduate students, always having to remind myself that my undergraduate students don't have the experience to move into more indepth discussions of issues such as the impact of Web 2.O on the organization, because they don't even understand how an organization works (lack of experience).

Tony Karrer said...

ysiad - I have looked at Open Space and unconferences as potential models. There's a lot I like about them. And, I believe that there could be good combinations of those techniques with more formal conferences. And good point that this is similar to UGC of Web 2.0!

Tony Karrer said...

Virginia - great point, as usual. I actually had a pretty good idea of the general conference demographics - I've done several of the same conference. However, my initial submission (smaller, more advanced) turned into something else along the way. My fault for not sticking to my guns and being really explicit in the description (and working more closely with the organizer). FYI - at the start of the session I told everyone that the session was advanced and that if they didn't know what Wikis, Blogs, Social Bookmarking was - they might want to leave. That actually didn't make them happy - should have been in the description. Stick to your guns, Tony!

As for bringing things down to basics - that's not much of a problem, but it's frustrating not to get to more advanced stuff. Showing someone who has never seen a Wiki edited - how that works, discussing things like moderation, passwords, etc. No problems. It's actually quite fun to see the light bulb turn on. That said, in academia - I had a harder time teaching freshman/sophomores than juniors/seniors/grads. They lacked the basic experience. They had not been vetted. A host of ancillary issues that I didn't want to deal with. And - having a good discussion with frosh/soph was harder - the issues weren't as meaty. So, I understand your issue there. As I'm thinking about it, showing the editing of a Wiki is really basic and you don't expect as broad and meaningful a discussion. More similar beginner questions. I think it's expectation of what is going to happen and what you want as an instructor. Beginners the fun is the light bulb. Advanced the fun is meaty discussions.

Not sure if this helps.

Anonymous said...

Tony, though I missed your first session, I quite enjoyed the second. Yes, there were a few flaws as you pointed out, but overall I thought it was a valuable discussion.

You'd think as adult professionals we'd have moved beyond the "sit on the back row at all costs" mentality. It seems silly to have a large room with people scattered throughout, where empty seats are legion, yet with those at the back still complaining that they can't hear. Shameless. It's like freshman year 101 studies again. Bah.

Personally, I sat up front where I could hear you and participate in the discussion. What can I say - I'm a revolutionary. :)

I enjoyed meeting you as well.

Tony Karrer said...

Chris - thanks for coming and for the comment. I had forgot about the issue of seating. I did consider asking everyone to move to the front, but I always hate that as a participant. I'm going to post a question around that.

Kevin Jones said...

Again, I thought your session was great. A lot of questions were asked and you did a wonderful job of answering them. But I agree, there was just not enough time.

Your comment of "People did not offer up as many examples of where they’d like to use Blogs, Wikis, Social Bookmarking as I anticipated." I think that is because they don't know exactly how and where to in a corporate sense.

I was not able to go to your first session where there was more of an explanation, but in the past I have seen others give examples using Wikipedia, Flickr, blogging platforms, social bookmarking platforms that are great for personal use, but there is little translation into how to use them in their organization, let alone how to get adoption. There is a whole strategy behind that which can be overwhelming when trying to get corporate acceptance, adoption and usage.