ATD TechKnowledge 2016

I was able to attend ATD TechKnowledge January 13 to 15, 2016.  I really enjoy the intersection of technology and learning so this is a fun conference for me to attend.  I attended some really great sessions and I’ve come back with a lot of ideas for things I want to work on.

Day 1

David Rose – Keynote

Enchanted Objects: Innovation, Design, and the Future of Technology is the book that David Rose wrote about “the internet of things.” How everyday objects are connected to the internet/cloud to make life easier. I like technology and gadgets so I thought this presentation was really interesting.

There are four human needs that the internet of things/enchanted objects will fill:

  • Omniscience – the desire to know everything
  • Telepathy – to connect with other people
  • Safety – keep safe from threats
  • Immortality – desire to be healthy and vital

I was interested in GlowCaps that Mr. Rose spoke about. The GlowCap attaches to a prescription bottle and a light flashes on the cap to indicate that the medication inside should be taken. The pilot group saw 95% adherence of patients taking their prescriptions.

He talked about smart technology becoming “glanceable.” The GlowCaps are a good example of that. Smartwatches, the Ambient Orb – we want information at just a quick glance. Will this mean something for Instructional Designers?  Our audiences’ attention spans keep getting shorter and shorter. Does it mean that we will need to adjust our content to match? I’m not sure. I don’t know if David Rose had much to do with learning and development but he reminded us all that our world is constantly changing and we must continue to innovate even in L&D.

Building Interactive eBooks in Adobe InDesign – Sarah Gilbert

I have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription and I’m always looking for new ways to use it. I honestly didn’t know that InDesign had this functionality. In a former position, I have a group of learners who would benefit for just in time training via eBook pushed to their iPads. The eBooks are stored in the iBooks app on the iPad. The only obstacle I can see is sending out updates and alerting learners. I’ll need to do more digging. I didn’t think to ask in the session. I am excited to build out a few examples for my portfolio.

A few benefits of eBooks:

  • No printing
  • Searchable
  • Interactive – images, video, audio, text
  • html based (can be made into .pdf but they lose the interactivity)


Micrograms with Storyline 2 – Stephanie Daul

It’s fun to push the boundaries of Storyline 2. In this session Ms. Daul demonstrated how to build out a game using the quizzing function in Storyline 2. This is what I like about TechKnowledge, the chance to actually get my hands in there and build something in 90 minutes. I would argue that the end product is not actually a game but I have a new respect for the Articulate free-form quizzing function.

Identifying Strategic Smartwatch Integration Points for eLearning Applications – Todd Marks (mindgrub)

I love new technology and I really wanted to hear about how other companies were leveraging Smartwatches. I’m not sure how this will catch on. I don’t see companies buying smartwatches for employees and having IT Departments support it.  The screens are kind of small for sending a lot of information to. Maybe very tiny pieces of information like a reminder? Another challenge Mr. Marks mentioned is that as eLearning developers we need to get rid of next and previous buttons in eLearning to make it work on the smartwatch. I don’t know if smartwatches will ever be the right medium for eLearning delivery.

There are a few things being done today via Smartwatch in learning but not eLearning. They can be used as audience response devices, control a PPT deck, deliver just in time information via app like ViaPlace and realtime data collection from participants.

Exploring Learning Through Comics – Bianca Woods

I have a copy of ComicLife on my computer that’s just been sitting there since grad school and I wanted to find some inspiration to start using it again. I’m not really a comic book fan and I never have been but I find myself reading The Oatmeal and Introvert Doodles. The Oatmeal is NSFW but the grammar comics are funny and helpful. Ms. Woods mentioned that the Japanese use comics into adulthood.  Comics are becoming more accepted in the business world - Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a comic book now and Daniel Pink has a comic book – The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. Mainstream culture is becoming more accepting of comics.  Comics are great for step-by-step tutorial and are extremely flexible. I was thinking about making a comic and turning it into an eBook.

Day 2

Kate Matsudaira: The Conundrum of Technical Leadership – Keynote

I was excited to hear Kate Matsudaria speak. I looked her up before I went to Las Vegas. She has an amazing list of accomplishments and titles and business ventures that she started. I always root for a woman in business especially technology and finance.

Her talk started out well. Find out what you’re good at in your job and find out how to make that rare and valuable. Fair enough. Find your niche. Then she said something that is the exact opposite of everything I’ve done in my career since 2007; “Following your passion is for suckers.” I love being an Instructional Designer. I couldn’t imagine not having passion for my job.

The career advice Ms. Matsudaria gave was pretty generic and for newer professionals. This wasn’t what I came to a conference about technology and learning to hear about. There are plenty of posts about what she had to say as it pretty much blew up the backchannel.

Style Up: Make Over Your Slides and eLearning with these Visual Style Inspirations – Connie Malamed

I’m not a fan of using the same templates for everything I produce. I enjoy creating the look and feel for a training program. Sometimes, I get a little stuck for inspiration. I surf websites and look at portfolios on AIGA, Behance, or Dribble. I have more ideas now – movies, magazine covers and product packaging. I think it’s so important to match your style with the mood of the content.  The session also covered 8 styles of design that can be applied to eLearning.  I have so many ideas that I want to use to build content in now. I’m excited and just need to find content!

Creating HTML5 Animations with Adobe Edge Animate – Thomas Toth

I should probably start off by disclosing that Thomas is a friend and my mentor. I actually learned Flash when I interned for him while I worked on my master’s degree. I don’t know anyone who works harder to keep on top of new technology to engage learners. Thomas rocks.

Anyway, Thomas has been telling me about Adobe Edge Animate for years as he’s mourned the slow and painful death of Flash. Adobe is coming out with Adobe Animate that will replace Flash and Adobe Edge Animate. I recently purchased an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription but I haven’t gotten to Edge Animate yet. I was surprised at how easy it was to build animations in it. I have a project in mind to create an interaction with this software.

Release Your Inner Angry Bird: Engaging Minigames in eLearning – Zsolt Olah

I was really impressed by the demo that played while we were waiting for class to begin. Zsolt created some really fun and interesting games for Comcast and they were playing in the background. We used Construct 2 to start building a game of fighter pilots shooting spiders.  I enjoyed using the software and getting creative. However, I don’t see where this example would apply to many learning situations. Gamification is a hard sell in Corporate America. I wanted an example that maybe I could sell to my stakeholders for inclusion in an eLearning module. I’ll download the free version of Construct 2 and play with it to see if there’s something that I could use someday.

Story Time: Integrating Narrative to Make eLearning Relevant – Diane Senffner

I love weaving a story into eLearning. The facilitator had a great example of diabetes education for latinos that she converted into a telenovela – the result was a 20% increase in health literacy for this population. The learners identified with the characters in the story and adult learners must find the relevance in the content for it to stick. Adults in many cases can recite a story verbatim weeks after hearing it.

Great resources for stories are: 1. your own experiences 2. stories from colleagues 3. harvest stories from SMEs. Great questions to ask to get people to tell stories include “Tell me about a time when…” “Tell me when this was used…”  Use real events and real challenges as basis for the stories. When selling storytelling to stakeholders it may be best to refer to a story as a “narrative.”

Best practices:

  • Quirky characters are the most interesting and it makes them human
  • Use realistic situations that seem natural and not forced
  • There is a potential for character arc – learners would want to follow the character’s story
  • Focus on key phrases and use performance support tools for details
  • Be brief – avoid business speak
  • Limit text to 120 works per page – avoid the big wall o’ text

My favorite quote of all of TechKnowledge - “eReading is not eLearning.”

Forward-thinking Practices for Leading Talent Development into the Future

Matt Mueller – Hilton

Radhika Paul – Northwestern Mutual

Jade Kazmierski – Northwestern Mutual

I really liked this session. The presenters are members of the ATD Forum. Matt Mueller spoke about professional development at Hilton. Hilton employees are given 8 hours of professional development time and two weeks a year L&D at Hilton runs two weeks spotlighting professional development. Employees are encouraged to participate and even to schedule time on their calendars to work on their development plans during the weeks. I was interested to learn how they made this program a success since in a former position we ran a similar week and although we had good attendance I wanted to find ways to make it better.

In the second part of session, Ms. Paul and Ms. Kazmierski spoke about their knowledge management system built on Sharepoint. I worked with a similar system and really enjoyed learning about their best practices.

Day 3

The third and final day.  It’s usually bittersweet. I love learning about Instructional Design and learning but by Friday morning I had a lot of things to work on and was ready to go home. I have projects that will keep me busy for a while now that I’m back.

Simple Steps to Create Stunning Interactions in Adobe Captivate – Pooja Jaisinghn from Adobe

I don’t have access to Adobe Captivate 9 but I’ve looked at a few videos and saw a demo a few months ago. I wanted to get my hands on it and use it. I think Adobe has lost some ground to Articulate and Captivate 9 could be their way to pull users back. Captivate 9 looks like it’s going to be much easier to use than previous versions.

Creative Commons and Copyright: Free Stuff to Spice Up Your Training – Michelle Lentz

This was a really interesting session. I’m always looking for resources for free images. It was a great refresher on how to give credit when you use images from Creative Commons.

Brian Wong: Evolution of Mobile – Keynote

I’m always amazed when people me that they learned to code at 10 or 11. Brian Wong was coding at 10. Started a web design company because he broke his leg playing ice hockey. Graduated from college at 18. Talk about smart and motivated.

I think the one thing I’m going to take away from this session is how important it is to reward users. The example Wong cited was mobile gaming. When you earn an achievement the gameplay is interrupted by an ad thus interrupting the dopamine/euphoria/good feeling the player has. Capture those feelings and create goodwill.

Random quotes from his talk:

Everyone is using mobile technology now – age and demographics don’t matter. A great question to from the audience, “Is it your assumption that if you aren’t going mobile you aren’t going to last?” Wong’s answer was simply “yes.” Coding is a language that needs to be learned like English, French, etc. On mobile you shouldn’t have to figure out the experience, it should be easy to understand.

Overall Observations 

Gamification seems to still be a big trend. I really enjoy it but I have trouble building it into training. I also feel like it can be a tough sell to management sometimes. However, look at how many hours people spend playing FarmVille or Candy Crush Saga for basically no more than an intrinsic reward. The power of dopamine is strong.

Content curation.  I’ve seen this come up in a lot of publications. It’s interesting that our roles of Instructional Designers might switch from building content to arranging it so that learners can find it just when they need it. I’ve done a little bit of this. Building a CBT with links to pages that I built out in the KMS so learners could reference the materials later. I don’t know if the Instructional Designer role will ever go away – someone still needs to build out all of that content that needs to be curated.

Speaking of building content and content curation, maybe it’s not enough that as Instructional Designers/eLearning Developers that we know the basic tools. I’m not sure a basic knowledge of PowerPoint and Word are adequate anymore. I don’t know if Captivate and Storyline are enough either. There were two sessions that I didn’t get to attend but I’m looking forward to the recordings about having the right skill set for the future and I think that involves HTML5, CSS, and Javascript.

Mobile.  We are just glued to our devices anymore. I think it’s a great way to deliver training and just in time knowledge. However, I think there are lots of issues to work out. I don’t see Corporate America purchasing a mobile device for every employee and I don’t know if employees will be willing to BYOD. I guess we will need to wait and see.

And that’s it. What I attended and learned at ATDTK 2016. I have plenty of ideas to work on to make me a better Instructional Designer/eLearning Developer. That’s what excites me about conferences is learning new things and getting inspired.

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