I was honored to be part of the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions in Orlando.

I always enjoy getting together with my friends and colleagues, but there’s a much more serious reason to attend a professional conference. We are hard-wired to learn with and from others; it’s one of the survival behaviors we developed as a species. Learning is always intensely personal, so no two attendees will come away with the same insights. Here’s my very personal Top Takeaways from Learning Solutions.

I’m finally getting comfortable with a live back channel.

When I was just starting my career as a stand-up trainer, I spent way too much energy trying to control the classroom. For example, it used to drive me crazy when my learners looked at cell phones during class. In fact, I often confiscated them and didn’t return them until class was over. Today I caught myself encouraging everyone to post away throughout my sessions, using our backchannel #lscon. I even posted during sessions myself.

The term “neuroscience” is being applied to far too many concepts, systems and tools that have nothing to do with how the brain works.

I’m concerned about people who seem to think that the emergence of neuroscience somehow invalidates the work of other scientists who crafted strong, usable models of human learning and behavior long before we could watch the brain at work. The work of Kirkpatrick, Dewey, Ebbinghaus, and many others are just as relevant today. Neuroscience doesn’t replace everything we thought we knew as learning professionals. It validates most of it and clarifies a few things that we couldn’t understand fully with our limited understanding of the learning process. That’s why it saddens me to see so many of my colleagues tacking on the word “neuroscience” to the same things they’ve been doing for years so they can market it as something new. I like to think that this is just a temporary artifact of this disruptive period in our profession, but it’s a concerning trend that bears watching.

We might actually witness the discovery of extraterrestrial life in our lifetimes.

The conference kicked off with Bill Nye, the Science Guy. In a funny, pointed and informative romp he managed to explain how we’re going to search for life on Mars by looking for methane, a tell-tale sign of the chemical processes unique to living creatures (at least on Earth.) Even if all we discover are microbes, this discovery could actually “change our world.” It was inspiring to see a consummate educator sharing his passion with us.

The LMS is dead – long live the Ecosystem.

This year Learning Solutions was co-located with the Learning and Performance Ecosystem event, giving us two conferences for one price. Today’s technology allows us to make learning more social, more agile and more engaging. Badging, user-created content, video, and gamification – if you can imagine it, you can find a vendor who can give you the platform to bring it to your learners. And yet, we all complain about our current Learning Management Systems. We say they’re too rigid, too limited, too linear, too (fill in your own complaint here.) Back when I was a corporate trainer, I got so frustrated with my employer’s LMS that cobbled together my own with SharePoint and PowerPoint. Today we have so many more options, if we can just convince our IT department to turn them on. Some of the most exciting technology is open source or free, so I think the future ecosystem will be very different than what we have today.

This is the most exciting time to be a learning professional

I can’t even imagine the changes we are going to see in the next 10 years, but I know I’ll be there to be a part of it. And at some point we’ll sit back and shake our heads and wonder how we got through all the disruption, information overload and change. But we’ll do it. Because that’s what we do – we learn, we evolve, and we help each other through it.

See you on the other side.