We had a spectacular time at the ASAE Great Ideas Conference facilitating the Next Generation Learning track in Orlando this past week. It was a treat to escape to the Orlando sunshine, but even more, fostering a conversation in the association professional development community about the leading edge of learning. Here’s a recap.
NGL Faculty pictured above: Tracy King, Kathi Edwards, Aaron Woloweic, Kristi Sanders, Will Thalheimer; not pictured: Jeff Hurt, Kiki L’Italien
The Scene. ASAE’s Professional Development Section Council, a volunteer committee comprised of education professionals from diverse perspectives in the association industry, identifies topics addressing challenges and trends in delivering continuing education for the workforces we represent. ASAE is now hosing a Next Generation Learning track at both the Great Ideas Conference and its Tech Conference — where the focus brings attention to the intersection of education and technology. As the incoming PD Section Council chair, I had the privilege of leading the workgroup developing the 2015 track at Great Ideas. What I love about this group is we are both a think tank and a laboratory — and we tried a few innovative new approaches that stimulated brains not only on the subject matter, but the learning design (I’ll share more on that in a minute).
Cast of Characters. Once we identified the topics we wanted to address in the track, we recruited faculty to work with us. This year, instead of just recruiting speakers, we assembled an subject expert team and we discussed not only how they would design and deliver their sessions, but the arc of the track. We had great voice and electronic discussions before the conference that challenged us all in our session prep mindful of what each of us were planning to accomplish.
Synopsis. Over three days we hosted seven sessions in the Next Gen Learning track kicking it off with a foundational course about the implications of learning science on session design and concluding with a capstone session where we pulled thematic threads together and crowdsourced insights. Our other sessions addressed learner engagement, EdTech partnerships, elevating conversation in adult learning, the impact of the learning environment, and effectively evaluating education programs.
But the track wasn’t just about the content – it was about the context. Each session was skillfully designed to offer different learning experiences. Here’s a sampling of what we offered:
- Content weaving. At the beginning and end of each session, the content weaver tugged at the themes for that session and wove them into the themes of the track. Our content weaver monitored (and participated in!) the Twitter stream and pulled attendee questions and insights from the social media conversation into the sessions. The weaving was intended to ask challenging questions, call out insights and encourage walk-and-talks — all elevating reflection around the experience.
- Session design. Sessions incorporated media, demonstration, interaction, action planning, learning centers, Q&A, and job aids. It’s typical in such settings when faced with only 60 minutes for faculty to pack in as much content as possible and release the firehose on the attendees. We made deliberate choices about what content was necessary to meet the learning objectives and applied full learning cycles — including reflection opportunities — to demonstrate the different ways this *can* be accomplished in an hour.
- Reflection tool. Reflection is often skipped in continuing education because it takes time and we assume adult learners will take care of that on their own — but skipping it jeopardizes lasting learning. This year we incorporated reflection into each session mindful to demonstrate the variety of forms this can take: individual reflection, table talks, walk-and-talks, in-session reflection tools, and post-session reflection tools. The Next Gen Learning faculty collaborated on creating a post-session reflection tool asking the key questions required to kick start behavior change. We offered this as a resource with each session as well as a model attendees can modify and apply at their conferences.
- Experiential learning. While each session was designed as an experience, a few sessions offered attendees the opportunity to debrief on those experiences. Two examples: Kathi Edward’s session Using the Power of Conversation to Enhance Learning demonstrated Judith Glaser’s three levels of conversation (from her book Conversational Intelligence). Jeff Hurt’s session on Learning Environment Innovations plugged attendees into four non-traditional event sets where they discussed how the environment they were in fostered specific types of learning.
Insights. Curating conference sessions from the topics to the faculty to the session design to crafting the arc of the overall experience requires a new level of commitment from meeting staff and faculty — but worth it. My thanks to ASAE staff who offered us the opportunity to innovate and to the NGL faculty who executed our shared vision expertly. Our end game was to facilitate a Next Gen Learning journey that would spark learning innovation. Looking forward to the continued conversation.
What’s Next. Next Generation Learning will continue throughout the year with a series of virtual learning sessions hosted by ASAE, Association Now Plus articles and a conference track at the December ASAE Tech Conference.