What I Love About #DevLearn

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David Kelly, Executive Director of The eLearning Guild

I look forward to DevLearn every year. It’s the conference I most look to for engaging in conversations about the future of learning and technology.

I’m often asked what it is about DevLearn that I love so much. Here’s some context around that the answer.

Some History

To truly understand why I love DevLearn, I think you need to understand the context of how I found DevLearn.

When I first joined the training department of a previous employer, I inherited the legacy of “what was”. Like many before me I was an accidental trainer, a subject matter expert that was assigned training responsibility. There were a number of resources available to me as a trainer, including professional memberships to associations, and the ability to attend a conference or two a year. I was thrilled for the opportunity to learn, and took advantage of the opportunity to develop my skills.

Time went on, and I quickly took on the leadership role for the training department. Our work evolved from classroom-only to more technology-based solutions. As I helped move the organizations I worked for forward, I started to hit a ceiling within my personal world of professional development. The articles I was reading and the conferences I attended started to have the “same old, same old” feeling. I wasn’t really aware of what I needed at the time, but I knew I needed more.

The first outlet I found was social media and my personal learning network. This enabled me to connect with people who helped me grow. These were the like-minded people who shared the passion I had for our work. It wasn’t long before this shared passion took the form of a truly life-changing recommendation:

You need to get to DevLearn.

It was a moment that speaks to the importance of context; sometimes the answer is readily available, but we are blind to it because the workflows of daily life never put the answer in front of us. Describing my discovery of DevLearn as life-changing may sound overly dramatic, but it’s also true. It’s also something that was a true statement BEFORE I joined the eLearning Guild team.

The reality is I could provide a long list of reasons that I love DevLearn – a list lengthy enough to make this post excessively long. I could talk about keynotes that consistently deliver inspiring, timely and most-importantly relevant lessons to people in our field; I could talk about the many different sessions in which peers share problems they’ve solved, innovations they’ve implemented, and technologies they are using to enhance their work; I could talk about DemoFest, and how the science fair-like exhibition stands out as an event highlight year-after-year. I could talk about all of these things, and so much more.

But I won’t go into all of that detail. Instead I’m going to focus on the core element of what makes DevLearn what it is, and the thing that all of the specific things I love about DevLearn branch off from.

A Forward-Leaning Community

When I ask the average attendee what they love about DevLearn, usually the words “people” and/or “community” come up in the first sentence of reply. Lots of conferences gather people to a single location, but few really succeed in forming a vibrant community – that feeling of fellowship with others built on common attitudes, interests, and goals – that DevLearn has. DevLearn is the primary annual gathering of the community of people who energize me and keep me focused throughout the year.

Part of the reason I connect so much with the DevLearn community is that it is the most forward-leaning community I have found in our industry. It is full of people and conversations that are exploring not only the type of work we need to do today, but the type of work we should be striving for tomorrow. The desire to explore how we can be doing more, and how technology can open new possibilities for performance and learning, is at the core of my passion, and it is very much at the core of what DevLearn is about.

Lots of conferences talk about what’s new, but DevLearn truly embodies it. There’s a sense of ‘challenge’ present in the community at the conference. Presenters and attendees all share the desire to challenge the status quo, and to explore ways that we can improve practices within our industry. DevLearn is the place I go to not only learn about what the future of learning looks like, but to join discussions that actually help shape what’s next.

This forward-leaning community is the foundation upon which DevLearn is built. It’s what has made the conference the largest event in North America focused on learning technologies, and what brings people back to the event year-after-year.

I mentioned earlier that in the early years of my career, I knew something was missing from my professional development, but didn’t know what it was. The DevLearn community, and the eLearning Guild community in general, provided that missing piece.

If this community sounds like something you need to ignite the passion you have for your work, I invite you to join the conversation this November in Las Vegas.

NOTE: This post is updated from a post originally published September 30, 2014


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