As many thousands of us are, I am pondering what I made of Learning Technologies 2016. Aside from the fact that it was great to meet some excellent people and have some great conversations, I was struck by two things: size and familiarity. The exhibition was bigger yet again than the previous year. The stands seemed grander and the sheen was brighter. It was also, perhaps, quite familiar. There was a lot of formal learning on show – management systems, a bewildering array of formats to populate them and tools to empower their users with social, analytics and engagement (that was the word of the show for me). 70:20:10 was everywhere too, and somehow, integrated in those systems.
I thought I could discern a difference in the pitch of these offers from learning in the work place and learning in the work. The mechanisms and tools outlined above are for the workplace. They are for me as a working learner (if there is a difference from any other kind of learner). Perhaps for learning in work time if mobile. They are learning tools and are at a distance from the activity of work. It may well be that my scanning of the show was too superficial and I missed the offers that help me to learn with my work. In my work tools.
One of the most interesting discussions, in a corridor of course, I was part of was around the idea of creating learning content for distribution. So, rather then herding learners to a portal (boy, I dislike that word) or perhaps, in addition to that, we should produce content for placement and pulling into work tools. This is closer to the way news publishers are approaching social tools, writing stories for the ecosystem of social finding and consuming as well as for the news destination. News consumers spend more time in social products than anywhere else and anticipate finding relevant stories there. So, publishers are targeting those spaces with appropriate content.
The communication and collaboration tool Slack looks like it could develop in this direction, if it hasn’t already. I think it is a really interesting indication of how things may start to change for team members. It is a simple tool, with elegant UI and built around messaging (everyone’s favourite communication mode). It also supports sharing of content and material simply and quickly – images, video, audio etc. – and naturally offers the ability to comment and discuss. Users can easily invite each other to groups and channels and to private or invitation only IM chat groups. It is an obvious place to inject learning comments and content amongst the content of the work at hand. This gives it a huge relevance advantage. It’s inherently social too as we are all becoming.
It is not a silver bullet but…it’s free to use, unless you want the analytics and integration power of the commercial product. Free to try anyway. Worth a try too.