Reflections from Berlin…

Brandenburg Gate at night I was not sure what to expect from online educa. It has been a long time since I had the indulgence of attending a conference with no more responsibility than one presentation. This meant I could soak up the days, attend to the sessions and reflect far more than I normally have the space for. So, on board the return flight, I can write of my main takeaways. The first is the scarcity of business presentations and business people at the conference. It was billed as a conference for corporate, education and public sector but the business angle was thin on the ground. What this did allow me to do though, was to attend far more of the education focused sessions. This gave me some insight into take-up in that sector. Some extraordinary examples, like the virtual electronics lab, available 24 hours a day and always accessible multiple times if wanted. The adoption of cloud computing in schools, an ideal solution providing the school has an eye open for the pitfalls, not least of which is the fact that the kids will almost certainly know more than the teachers to start with. My second takeaway was my love-hate relationship I seem to be growing into with the learning gurus. There is this critical mass (critical being the right word) of gurus jumping into the camp of totally informal learning and rubbishing the formal. If I worked in an organisational role responsible for learning I think I would either feel confused or incensed. Of course, informal learning is the great uncounted factor for many in the past. Unrecognised, unsupported and factored out of L&D strategic thinking. But that has been changing for years. Think Etienne Wenger in the 70s and Peer Drucker, a couple of the truly great thinkers on the reality of learning and systems. It is truly excellent that this has gone full pelt with the recent advent of technology in this space that works, is affordable and socially adopted. The reality of organisational life needs both full-on intelligent acceptance of formal (Aka structured) and informal tucked into a supportive, open, challenging culture. Thats hardly new news though. I did think for one moment that one particular guru last week almost accepted that he was wedded to in-crowd learning groups and accepted that there are other just as necessary norms even within the same organisation. Then he spoilt it all by condeming all elearning as totally irrelevant! It was very heartening to see the scenarios created at the conference embracing different types of learning – totally recommend looking at http://learningscenarios.org The trouble I guess, with being a guru, is that you have to back your own brand of wisdom. After all, gurus are vendors too and unpicking your particular take undermines your very own brand. My final takeaway was a surprising one, that an online conference can fail so poorly with adequate technical application at the conference itself. The build up was pretty good, lots of newsletters, albeit as emails, with latest updates and so on. Great myonline facility to pull together your own agenda beforehand. But then came the conference itself. No established #code to enable a consistent twitter dialogue, no interactive technology feedback mechanisms in the sessions, not even a healthy working wifi! Come on Online Educa, you did such a great build up, don’t forget what online means on the day!