ATD 2018 Day One: After the Lord Mayor’s Show

A picture of the San Diego skyline where ATD was held this year

Barack Obama is a pretty tough act to follow, but there was plenty more to engage our interest on day one at ATD.

To their credit this year, the organizers have deviated from the usual schedule of back to back, dawn to dusk workshops and presentations, to allow delegates time to explore the exhibition hall. In fact, on Monday there were no sessions scheduled from 9:30 to 12.

The result was that the exhibitor hall and the Unicorn stand were very busy, with queues of potential clients for the Unicorn LMS and the minds-i learning reinforcement app.

ATD is not just about digital learning, so the range and scope of exhibition stands is very wide, from Universities to Lego bricks, but there were plenty of tools and services relevant to e-learning that caught our attention.

Instead there are plenty of established, proven players – Adobe, Articulate, eLearning Bros, LEO, Lenovo, Unicorn and a lot of small first-timers. “Microlearning”, learning reinforcement and learning support are strong overlapping themes, with plenty of content libraries. Prositions particularly caught the eye with an impressive library of content including the “Dummies” series and an attractive mobile app. You might like to look up “Rehearsal” too. A simple, smart, video-based tool for spaced practice.

Perhaps illustrating the gap between the hype and the real world, there was little evidence of VR, AR or AI products.

The aptly named Mike Song gave an entertaining session on presentation skills with musical accompaniment. He suggested that the reason public speaking makes most of us so nervous is the absence of direct feedback. Normal conversation is 2 way, we get a response, verbal, body language, facial expression. We lose that direct connection when speaking to an audience. Anyone who has led a webinar will be familiar with the extreme version of this disorienting effect where you have no visual cues as to whether your audience are listening, bored, doing their emails or even if they are still there.

Mike’s simple tips on how to overcome this barrier, involved actively engaging the audience from the start, creating a two way flow and he gave us several simple tips for doing this effectively, including using “riffs” – repetitive emotional hooks, and the power of “call and response”, illustrated by us all singing along to Sweet Caroline.

In the afternoon, I plumped for the session on learning games with renowned serious games guru Sharon Boller and even won her and Karl Kapp’s book “Play to Learn” through the dubious achievement of having more games on my phone (31) than anyone else in the room was prepared to admit. Sharon focused on four key aspects of game design – UX, UI, ID (instructional design) and GD (games design). She was very good on the difference between UX and UI and the importance of both. Here are two of her slides (above). For more I recommend the book.

We rounded off the day by going to the ball game at the Padres stadium next door. They got thumped but the hot dogs were good.

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