It’s about doing not ‘newing’: The 2015 Learning & Technology Conference

I have just spent two days listening to the good and the great talk at this year’s Learning & Technology conference in London. My overarching conclusion is that the emphasis has shifted to what we ‘do’ to apply the learning innovations recently created, rather than creating ‘new’ approaches and technologies.

Additionally, three specific themes stood out:

  • It’s all about me – the rise of micro events and personal learning
  • Make it real and make it engaging with gamification and serious simulations
  • Practical ideas from neuroscience

Less about the new and more about the implementation of technology

In previous years the hype and talk was about new technologies or approaches to learning and the impact they will have on how we learn. This year there was much greater emphasis on how businesses were beginning to apply some of these technologies. Gamification, mobile learning, virtual simulations, use of video now seem to be being applied with greater confidence than just 12 months ago. It felt more like a coming of age and gathering momentum of adoption, which I personally find very exciting. I particularly liked how Telefonica used mobile to provide the backbone of their induction materials to new joiners, 84% of whom used it several times a week. Interestingly they also said that 30% sleep with their phones and 27% take it into the bathroom.

Me – The self – Personal Learning

Less push and more pull. Blended learning whilst not new is gathering currency and seems to be becoming a series of micro events which comprise the learner journey, often wrapped around a more in-depth, probably face to face, learning interaction. The rise of the millennials in the workplace is one driver, as they are more used to instant access and limitless choice. PwC had a refreshing perspective on the 70/20/10 framework, in which they stated they start with the 70 (experiential, on the job learning), then the 20 (coaching, social learning) and only then address the 10 (formal learning).

Make it real and make it engaging

Gamification and serious simulations are starting to gain mass use. McDonald’s has embraced it whole heartedly. When installing a new till system across its entire network of outlets in one go, their team needed to be confident all their customer service staff would be adequately trained. They turned the till training into a game, rewarding points not just for accuracy, but for speed and how you responded to customers. The game has been played 260,000 times, often repeatedly, and employees spontaneously created their own leader boards via Facebook. However, not all gaming has to be digital. McDonald’s has recently introduced a multiplayer board game as part of their new joiner induction programme. They play for 30 minutes learning about McDonald’s from the game but also from each other. Learnovate is researching the use of immersive simulations to help teenagers improve their complex skills. It is a fairly clunky, low fidelity system but these tech savvy, digital natives have proven to be highly engaged because the situations are real, challenging and make them think.

Science meets subjectivity

Neuroscience is a hot topic, and how our brain works or learns is receiving similar attention. Dr Christian Jarrett, is a cognitive neuroscientist by training and author of the Brain Watch blog for Wired.com. Whilst clearly relishing the focus that neuroscience is receiving he is equally concerned by how it is being over-hyped or misused to validate or support populist views. Two myths about the brain that he was keen to debunk and which the vast majority of UK teachers believe are true were:

  1. Right brained people are more creative , left brained people are more analytical
  2. People learn better when taught via their preferred style (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic etc.

And a couple of practical tips that many may intuitively believe and now neuroscience endorses are

  1. If you tell the learner they will need to teach the skill (even if they never actually do) they will process the learning better.
  2. Physically drawing (visualising) out a concept/idea or framework aids memory recall

Professor Winston best summed things up for me and if you want a simple checklist, this will serve you well. I think we tend to focus on the first four and forget the last two in the workplace.

  • Experience is the food of brain development
  • ALL senses contribute to learning
  • Memory (recall) is best when reinforced
  • Practice is the mode of learning
  • Play, fun, exploring is important
  • Socialisation is vital 

For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s capabilities, please get in touch or contact me directly @Bruce_Levi_BL. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on Learning.

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