You know it’s a great conversation with Sal Khan when you forget to ask for a picture together. (with Elliot Masie)
Learning 2015 – Top 5 Takeaways
I was very fortunate to be able to attend Learning 2015 this year. For those to don’t know, it’s a 3 day conference of Learning Professionals in Orlando. It’s generally around Halloween, and is hosted by Elliot Masie. I hadn’t been able to get down there since 2009, but the gap in attendance provided some interesting perspective on what has changed (and what hasn’t) in the past 6 years. There is a lot to discuss, so I’ll be writing multiple posts, but in this first of the series let’s focus on the top 5 things that I took away from the conference.
Neuroscience and it’s role in Learning.This was one of the most exciting things about this conference, and I wasn’t the only one who was jazzed to see it. All of the Neuroscience related sessions were overflowing with folks being turned away. PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scanners and fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technologies allow us to map the efforts of the brain in real-time and provide a window into the processes of learning, both in children and adults. It has let us measure the impact of emotional engagement on learning and helped define why storytelling is so effective as a learning tool. It has help quantify the importance of reflection, particularly in adults, when learning new material. Also the importance of challenge, and the need to work through material rather than having it spoon fed to you. I’ll be writing more on the importance of neuroscience in future posts. It’s an incredibly fascinating field, and I’m quite lucky to have a couple of clients who are working on cutting edge research.
Evidence Based ResearchOr more accurately, the Scientific Method. A welcome consequence of the influx of new Neuroscience findings (together with data derived from metric and multi-study meta analysis) is a growing awareness of the importance of drawing conclusions from evidence based research. This is critical in the face of so many myths around Learning that are taken as fact, simply because they have been repeated so often. Chestnuts such as “You can’t teach an old dog a new trick” become comically outdated when presented with new research clearly demonstrating the brain’s plasticity and it’s innate ability to adapt and grow based on the challenges it faces. Other new studies are showing that as the population ages, the role of life long learning will become even more important as a way of creating new neural pathways in the aging brain and improving function throughout your life course.
Maestro Roger NierenbergThis will be tough to describe, and I’ll need to give some context as to why this was so unbelievably awesome. If you’ve ever attended a Learning 20XX conference, you will come to know a couple of things about it’s host, Elliot Masie; such as his love of song and dance numbers. So much so, that he has begun to produce Broadway plays. (I’ve worked on Broadway musicals in the past, so I’ve got a pretty good understanding of what that really entails, and I don’t recall it being as glamorous as he has portrayed it. 🙂 ) But suffice it to say that no Learning 20XX conference is complete without a couple of singers singing and dancers dancing. The response I hear from others in the audience is varied, not because he doesn’t have really talented people up there; on the contrary, the folks that grace the Learning stage are really very good. Rather, the issue is that the entertainers occasionally get more stage time then the Keynote speakers. Other audience members loovvve it, taking pictures or recording videos. That being said, when Elliot introduced the Maestro accompanied by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, I was a bit skeptical. We had just finished one singing number, and now this… The conductor took the stage and the Orchestra filed in, seated among members of the audience. I tried to keep an open mind… The Maestro made it clear that nothing that would be occurring was staged. That he and the orchestra had only just met and rehearsed a single piece of music. He then began to move through a series of exercises that vividly demonstrated:
- The importance of Leadership in supporting, and giving context to the eam.
- The uncertainty and confusion that can occur in the team when that leadership is absent or unclear
- The importance of delegation to broaden the experience of your team.
- That as a leader, it’s your role to help the team get it right.
At the end, the audience was invited to get out of their seat (from behind the musicians) and experience the orchestra from anywhere is the hall. It was incredibly moving to see and hear the performance from the vantage point of the conductor. Really an amazing way to demonstrate the impact a leadership style has. It’s hard to get a real sense of the event, so to get a deeper understanding of the session, have a look at his TEDtalk.