Reflections on #DevLearn: David Kelly

This blog post kicks off the Reflections on #DevLearn series, where we welcome members of the eLearning Guild Community to share there thoughts on the conference, including what they learned and what they took away from the event.

It’s my pleasure to kick off this series by sharing some of my own reflections on the conference.

2015-10-07_11-56-12Wow. What a week.

I’m writing this post a few days after DevLearn, and I’m still on quite a high from the event. The feedback we’ve been receiving from attendees has been outstanding, and it’s already got me looking forward to DevLearn 2016. But before I get ahead of myself, I wanted to take a few minutes to share some of my reflections on the event, including some of what I learned and found most meaningful during the event. There’s so much I could write about, but I’m going to select just a few in the interest of brevity.

Energy Personified

Many of the attendees I spoke to commented on the energy at the event. This is something that I appreciated as well. DevLearn is the most forward-leaning conference in our industry. As such, attendees of the conference are naturally those passionate about moving our practices forward via technology. There’s a natural energy that emerges when you put a few thousand people with a natural curiosity and passion for learning together. You could feel that energy at DevLearn, and it felt great.

2015-10-07_11-58-26David Pogue’s Opening

I loved David Pogue’s opening keynote. His exploration of the changing world of technology put DevLearn into an important context; If you want to understand how technology is changing the way people learn, you watch how technology is changing the way people live. I also appreciated the energy and humor he brought to his message. The was a lot of anticipation building up to DevLearn this year. Pogue’s keynote served as an excellent fuse to allow that anticipation to be set free and form the energy around which DevLearn took place.

Adam Savage Nailing It

2015-10-07_12-01-01I’m not going to lie. When I booked Adam Savage as a keynote, I had high expectations. He’s been hosting Mythbusters for years, so I expected a fairly polished speaker. His interest in science and the arts formed the foundation of a message that I thought would resonate well with the DevLearn audience. So yeah… my expectations were pretty damn high.

And he exceeded them.

His keynote address hit on all the marks I was hoping it would, providing some great lessons that we can all learn from. I also loved the way he told stories, building strong narratives that kept those in attendance engaged. His responses to the interview questions were thoughtful and insightful, and even though it was unscripted and informal, he managed to deliver one of the strongest closing messages I have seen from a keynote speaker: Be comfortable in your own skin, and recognize the value in failure.

Having the privilege of interviewing him on stage is something I will never forget.

Conversations that Shape What’s Next

When I speak to regular attendees of DevLearn, one of the common reasons they tell me they come back every year is because DevLearn showcases the cutting edge use of technology being used to enhance learning and training. It’s the place to go to participate in conversations that help shape how we leverage technology in our work.

Those conversations were ever-present at this year’s conference. It’s what helps fuel the energy I spoke of earlier. And speaking of energy and shaping what’s next…


DemoFest. I Love DemoFest

We had our biggest DemoFest yet at DevLearn this year. Over 90 members of the eLearning Guild community brought their projects to Las Vegas to showcase them with their peers. These examples of technology being used to enhance learning were powerful. And the conversations that took place between attendees and the designers and developers of these projects personified everything that the eLearning Guild is about: Members sharing with members.

Connie Yowell and Badges Unlocked

We had a new focus at DevLearn this year called Badges Unlocked. The intent of this focus was to showcase digital credentials, not so much on what badges are in today’s world, but what they have the potential to be. We featured Connie Yowell as a keynote to add weight to this discussion, and invited a number of experts in the field to lead sessions exploring the topic.

One attendee probably said it best in a conversation we had on Friday:

I loved the badges sessions I attended. They really helped me see the potential in badges and look at them differently.

Ukuleles, Memes, and More

2015-10-07_12-06-37There were a lot of new and unique programming elements at DevLearn this year. Two of my favorite sessions were the Ukulele Learning sessions that explored the relationships between music and learning, hands-on with Ukuleles brought to the room, and the Meme-ing Learning Innovation session with four speakers sharing their vision of learning innovation in short, Pecha Kucha-like sessions in which the only slide visuals allowed were memes.

We’re always exploring new types of session ideas to include in our conferences, and these were highlight sessions for many that attended. Shameless plug: Have an idea for something new to try at a conference? Let’s chat. I’d love to hear about it.

Natalie Panek’s Inspiring Closing

2015-10-07_12-07-42When we were looking for a closing keynote speaker for DevLearn, I wanted to find someone whose message could inspire people to take what they learned at DevLearn and put it into action. Moreso, I wanted someone that could share a message of lifelong learning that reminded people to keep the curiosity present at DevLearn with them year-round.

Natalie’s story hit on just that. Her journey is one of consistently pushing the boundaries of her comfort zone, and to help others do the same. This is very much in line with the mission of DevLearn, which is to explore the bleeding edge of learning and technology, and form a conversation through which we can make sense of it and decide the direction to take in the future.

Together We Are Better

As I said at the start of this post, it was truly a great conference. I sit here at my desk few days later, still energized and inspired, looking forward to continuing the conversations and explorations that were ignited at the conference.

Throughout the conference, I was reminded of what makes DevLearn, and the eLearning Guild, so powerful. Community.

It’s the people that make the eLearning Guild community so powerful. There’s a fellowship in the community, one built on shared interests, goals, and passion. As many have said before me, the eLearning Guild community is “where my people are”, and DevLearn continues to be a tent pole around which our community gathers to help push the industry forward each year.

I thank all that attended DevLearn (or participated in the online backchannel from afar) for participating in this year’s conversations. It was a conference I will never forget.

Interested in sharing your reflections on this year’s DevLearn? Contact David Kelly for details!


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