What no Slack? A (brief) thought from Learning Technologies 2016

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.

4 responses to “What no Slack? A (brief) thought from Learning Technologies 2016”

  1. Thanks Myles this is fab. I am a big fan of Slack and have been since my #noemail #lessemail run of last year. I took to it quickly and I have as many Slack boards as I do inboxes and STILL it’s an easier channel to run than email.

    Chatty, updated easily, app as good as desktop (pretty much), short, useful, feels social even when it’s 1:1 on DMs, I love it. The team at Media Zoo do NOT email each other. It’s helped us move to agile ways of developing quickly and we’re building a lot quicker because of the combination of the 2 (Slack channels and sprint production). We don’t waste time in meetings JUST to catch up / report because Slack does that for the entire team.

    We use it to learn and share.

    We use it to link to our shared platforms, beta products for testing and more.

    And it’s cost us £0.00 at the moment.

    Love Slack. The app I never knew I needed and now couldn’t do without. I don’t have stressed out “too many messages” moments like I do with email, it’s a liberating platform and I think you’re right to call it a learning – friendly platform too.

    Great blog post. Loved it’s cut through the crap thinking and zoom in on something useful and simple.


    • Thanks Perry. We have had very similar experiences in the Academy digital team(s). Simple, direct and relevant communication. No one is mourning the reduction in emil…They are onto something I think. That £0.00 price point is compelling too.

      I wonder that is works well for learning entirely because that is *not* its purpose. The learning and information gathering/sharing it enables is part of the work a team needs to do. If it was “installed as a learning system”” it would flop, I suspect.

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