I was recently asked to speak at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois for a mobile learning conference hosted by Float Mobile Learning and Bradley University. It was an honor to have Chad Udell contact me to speak. I had met Chad and John Feser several years ago at the Adobe Learning Summit in San Jose. I was instantly impressed with their knowledge and passion for learning and technology. Since San Jose, I have connected with the Float team at several conferences and have always enjoyed sharing conversations with them. At Devlearn 09 I had an opportunity to sit down with Jim Ferolo of Float and interview him on video and he showed me a demo of some of the impressive stuff they had been working on for the Ipad.
I was impressed by yet another innovative idea from the Float team when Chad explained the details of the upcoming conference in Peoria to me. It was a micro conference for local business in partnership with Bradley University. What a great community partnership idea!
Now on to the conference. Peoria is a short 30 minute flight from Chicago O’Hare…that is once you get a flight in the air but that is another story. Flying into Peoria, I was taken back by the beautiful green rolling farmland surrounding the small city. Chad was kind enough to pick me up at the airport in the Float “limo” and we drove straight to the speaker dinner hosted by Float at Two25 in the Mark Twain Hotel. Great food and ambience at Two25. Float was really taking care of us. They even had prepared gift bags for each of the speakers, nice touch.
The Symposium took place on Friday and again the Float “limo” service picked me up bright and early and drove me to Bradley. I have to admit I was a bit worn out from the full day of adventurous travel the day before, not to mention the time difference. The thing is once we entered the conference there was such a great energy that I forgot all about being tired… so off with my first conference tweet #float2011.
As the other speakers and I settled into the green room, various Float staff filed through introducing themselves and we all started getting to know each other. One of the biggest values I get from speaking at conferences is the conversations I am privileged to have with the other speakers and attendees. These amazingly brilliant authors, industry veterans, and thought leaders are so much fun to talk to. As a consummate student I have learned from every one of them. Back to the green room, in walks Adam Bockler the newest member of the Float staff and introduces himself revealing it was his first official day with Float. “ I am here to interview you for the twitter stream and our blog”, he says. I think it was my first twinterview…cool. We tried to answer his questions but it kept turning into an open conversation between the speakers. I believe he got what he needed and then some. Again these conversations are one of the things that I enjoy about conferences.
Now onto the Keynote. Jim Ferolo, Chair of the Department of Interactive Media at Bradley University and part of the Float core team, kicked off the conference with his usual enthusiastic and inspiring style. The President of Bradley University, Joanne K. Glasser, also gave a brief warm welcome and gave us a bit of introduction to what Bradley is all about. Bradley sounds like a fantastic school that gives their students a rich learning experience. Chad kicked off the event with a great keynote presentation titled “Your Faster Horse Moment”. I have heard Chad speak at several conferences and he has a way of talking tech and keeping even the non-techie engaged. Chads presentation really set the tone for the conference as he broke down the mobile landscape and elevated the attendees to the right place for the rest of the speakers.
The next session I attended was on Multi Screen Design presented by Josh Campbell of Magic + Might, formerly Design Manager at Motorola. Josh did a fantastic job of explaining some of the different interfaces for various devices. I thought his choice of showing the Twitter apps working on specific platforms was a great way to illustrate the way each handled multi-screen display. Josh is a practitioner; it was obvious by his content and examples. One of the take-a-ways from Josh’s presentation was that you need to consider the platform you are building for to create the best user experience. After the conference I had the opportunity to sit and talk mobile with Josh for a few hours. It was really a great conversation. Josh’s knowledge of the mobile space is very impressive and I really enjoyed our conversation.
Adobe evangelist Kevin Hoyt was here to help us get our inner geek on and showcase how the new Adobe Creative suite 5.5 was built for mobile development. He really knew his stuff and gave us some fantastic live demos of how quickly you can build a mobile app in Dreamweaver 5.5. I have been waiting for the tools for mobile development to come together. It looks to me like Adobe is doing it again with this version CS 5.5. I am an Adobe product user so this session has motivated me to get the latest version and get to work. He demoed a fun little app that is available on his blog that showed how multiple users can interact on the same screen. My imagination kicked in with all the ways I could implement this concept for learning in a collaborative setting. After his session we talked about him doing a presentation for the Adobe learning user group that I co-lead with Mark Chrisman and Heath Jacobs in Seattle. Mark Chrisman is the founder of the group and asked Heath and I to help him out so we could offer more to the group. Kevin sounded excited to put something together for us.
Next it was off to hear Gary Woodill, Owner of i5 Research and author of the book The Mobile Learning Edge, one of two important books on mobile learning that are out there right now. The other was written by my friend, Clark Quinn, titled Designing mLearning. I could not imagine taking on writing a book on Mobile and keeping it relevant and current in such rapidly changing space as mobile. I just spent four years working for a major wireless company and things change by the minute. Did you realize that the iPad has only been around since April 3, 2010. Gary was speaking on the future of Mobile Learning. He really illustrated some great points about where we are now and where we are going. I think he was spot on by pointing out that one company’s future may be where another is now. Not all companies are in the same place at the same time as far as technology goes. There is nothing wrong with that it is just the way it is. In my opinion this is natural and sometimes should not be bucked. For example there are many touch points in an organization and it is not always easy to take everyone along with you. It should be a strategy in every learning department to develop partnerships with other parts of your organization and get everyone on the same page.
Ok I am up. My session was on organizations and Mobile. I gave some simple ways to start to pilot mobile learning and build trust within an organization. I feel there is still a perception out there that in order to dive into mobile learning you must invest a ton of money and start building a mobile accessible website or build apps for everything. But, that isn’t necessarily true. I also definitely think you need to streamline your content for mobile and maybe consider carefully what you deliver via mobile. In my presentation I point out that there are many types of mobile learning such as podcast, training videos, text message based, etc. Some companies should even consider leveraging user generated content. Mobile also provides access to the more learning 2.0 strategies such as communities or social media. I believe that a good mobile learning strategy will not look the same in every organization. Each company will need to explore, pilot and discover what works best for them.
Hoober was up. Steven Hoober is an interface designer with a degree in Art. He is also in the final editing stages of a book to be published by O’Reilly Publishing titled Designing Mobile Interfaces. According to Steve, his book will be the one with the Love Bird on the cover. He says he did not pick it and he has no idea why…sure Steven. Ok respectively Steven is one of the more geeky designers I have spoken with and I consider myself a geeky designer. Steven has spent the last several years studying patterns. By that I mean the ways users interact with devices, how things are laid out such as menu placement or how you gesture each different mobile platform. I have never seen anyone break things down to this level of detail. I can’t wait to study his book. Steve has a good grasp on the way an interface should be designed to match the device it will be delivered on, an important aspect of mobile. At one point during his presentation Steve pulled out a box and plopped it on the podium. The box was overflowing with old devices…antiques I tell you, well this is wireless so perhaps not that old. This validated Steve’s status as a device geek he would have just ousted someone as mayor of “Geeksville” if he was checking in on Foursquare. I am looking forward to following Steve’s blog and learning more about what his studies have shown.
Because some of the sessions where concurrent I did not get to attend any of the sessions from Float crew, however Float recorded all the sessions so I will have to check them out on their web site. I will past a link when they are available.
I really enjoyed this conference and I am hoping they have me be a part of their next one.