What, how and why learning is changing

03 Feb 2015 |Written by Kevin Maye

Blowing my own mind in two days

Learning Technologies is the biggest annual conference in Europe that focuses on how technology is changing learning. As Product Development Manager for Good Things Foundation I’ve attended the exhibition for the last three years and have come away with a few ideas each time. However it was obvious that there was far more to be mined from the Learning Technologies conference, so this year we saved up the pennies to send me to the full shebang.

My mission for the two days was to get some good ideas, not only for the best technologies to build the next version of Learn My Way, but also for how we can make the learning materials on Learn My Way as effective as possible.

The technology companies roll out all their best sales people at these events, so it’s easy to feel like a child in a sweet shop; everything looks so good it’s hard to choose. However, like a child in a sweet shop, I did actually have a favourite.

Presented by Chris Littlewood, the ‘Chief Scientist’ from Filtered, this talk was all about using algorithms like those that power Google and Amazon to present just the learning people want and need. Apart from having the coolest job title (to a closet geek like me), Chris Littlewood has now firmly put algorithms on my wish list!

There were lots of speakers talking about how the internet provides instant access to information, so the future for humans is to focus on things technology can’t do: being creative, using judgement and intuition.

In November Good Things Foundation talked a lot about 'leaving no one behind'. For me, the speakers at Learning Technologies reinforced the need to address that challenge; anyone who can't use technology to access and assess that information will be seriously disadvantaged... even if they’re incredibly creative.

The keynote speaker on the second day was Professor Robert Winston who you might have seen on TV exploring human behaviour in Child of our Time and other shows. Prof Winston spoke about the power of the human mind for learning, including how Olympic athletes perfect skills by visualisation.

Visualisation - using the power of your imagination to picture yourself completing an action successfully - is well recognised as a technique for elite performers in many fields to improve their performance. But if we’re teaching people skills that they’ve never experienced before, visualisation falls down if they have no context to build the mental picture on.

That was a light bulb moment for me - not that visualisation wasn’t useful, but that as a technique it doesn’t fit every situation.
Going through the rest of the conference, that thought came back to me again and again - which situations can this technique, or tool, or theory work for?

So while stories, algorithms, social and game elements are all being considered as part of the next version of Learn My Way, the main thing that was mentioned at Learning Technologies that we absolutely definitely will be doing is talking to learners.

After all, that’s the only way we can understand people’s needs and build the right tools to help.

Get in touch with me at kevin@tinderfoundation.org if you’ve got any thoughts about this, or any ideas for the new version of Learn My Way - I always like hearing from anyone interested in learning technologies!