I’ll confess that I may not have been at the ASTD conference every day this past week, but I do have some impressions of the event I’d like to share. I was pleasantly surprised at the large turn-out (unofficial estimates are somewhere around 8,000), which was comprised of a large contingent of international attendees and probably a good amount of people networking for a job. This was my first visit to ICE since the DotCom Era. I sensed some of the same vibrancy of those heady days when eLearning exhibits reached several stories high. Yes, the eLearning folks are getting their swagger back, especially newcomers like Citrix’s “GoToTraining Beta.” That’s right, you might start seeing trainers chain-sawing their flip charts on new TV commercials. I was a little disappointed that ASTD decision makers, whoever you are, did not put the eLearning vendors together. It would be nice next year if post-secondary education booths targeting unemployed trainers also had their own little section.
I conducted a workshop on developing interactive learning objects such as games and simulations with game designer Joe Rheaume (Games Can Teach) on Saturday. Evaluations came in positive, although the answer to the question of “what level is the material” ranged on both ends of the spectrum. The answer to that question all depends on expectations going into the workshop and on learner knowledge level. It can be a challenge for anyone giving a workshops or conducting sessions to tailor materials that would please everyone—maybe those who labeled it “basic” were expecting to be handed all the keys to the trade?
ASTD is an interesting “club” of volunteers and staff with a somewhat bureaucratic culture. There are insiders, and then there are outsiders. I made one of my conference goals to visit with prolific author Elaine Biech (Editor of the mammoth ASTD Handbook among her many titles), whom I hoped could show me the ropes. She did end up offering to help turn my workshop into a certificate program, so I would move up on the ASTD trainer pay scale from zero to $1000.00 per day. I attended her author chat, which the standing-room-only crowd enthusiastically enjoyed. One of her key messages was to keep learning and to improve your career skills by reading– two books per week in fact! Elaine is a no-nonsense trainer, consultant, author and grandmother. What else could be said about the woman who wrote: Training for Dummies. Once I sat down with her, it was easy to see that behind the super-businesswoman exterior is a very warm-hearted person with much to share. I’ll admit that I learned many consulting skills from her book: The Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond. What can I say, the bookstore and author chats were the highlight of the conference for me, maybe something to do about “learner expectation.” I’m sorry I missed Tony Bingham’s speech (not) on “Learning Gets Social,” but if I have to hear about the importance of Twitter, tweets, and twits one more time… All right already, I’m going to start to actively twittering next week! Stay tuned, “friends” or is that “followers.”