Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thoughts on Dinner

Last night, I had the privilege to join some of the luminaries in our field for dinner.
- Mark Oehlert
- Brent Schlenker
- Tony Karrer
- Jay Cross
- Alica Sanchez
- Mark Sylvester(IntroNetworks)
- David Metcalf

Among others…..

I realized that I go to a conference for different reasons than the rest of the folks around the table.

They go to a conference to network. Meet folks they have had online conversations with, contact folks who are experts in areas where they may need help. They decide on which conference to go to based on who will be there and do preliminary research on people they intend to meet for talking points.

I go to a conference to collect information. Oh yeah….and I meet people too…..

This difference in approach may be a result of my lack of participation in the greater professional world of eLearning (at least, up until recently). It’s also a reflection of the small number of conferences I attend. This past year was busy – I went to 3!

The eLearning Guild conference is different because, for the first time, my main purpose is to meet people that I have read and corresponded with in the Web 2.0 world (Tony K, B.J.) and touch base with other fellow bloggers I have run into before (Mark O., Brent S.). Oh yeah, and perform (minimal) face time with some vendors who participated in an RFP with us for game development.

The session list, in many ways, is secondary to my purposes here. (Don’t worry boss – as you can tell, I’m still attending stuff!)

I wonder if my change in purpose is a result of going to more of these conferences, blogging (and having folks reading it), and seeing familiar faces.

Witnessing the “networking” part of Work Literacy in action.

One member of the table is doing research and asked the others whether they knew some experts. 3 people grabbed their phones.

I have Singapore on the phone – wanna talk to her?
I know contacts in Uganda and Turkey – you want their information?

The in-person networking has its parallel in LinkedIn and Facebook. The food is not as good.

Before dinner, I talked to Mark O. about how he manages all of the technology he works with. (Paraphrasing – Mark was a LOT more eloquent).

It’s like a fish in water. The fish didn’t create the water. It’s just the environment it works in. I was so frustrated before all of these tools came out. They solve a problem. Just like the water does for the fish.

What he leaves out….he’s aware enough to realize there is a problem long before the rest of us. Case in point: we went to graduate school in History / Anthropology about the same time (early to mid 90s). I didn’t see an issue with the way we worked then. He did. That’s why he is an “Alpha Geek” and I am a “Gamma Geek.”

I admitted to Tony K. during the reception that I felt a bit intimidated by these fantastic people that I’m meeting. The speakers at this conference are the big wigs in the field. Clark Quinn, Will Thalheimer, Jay Cross…. Plus, Mark O and Tony K have been kind enough to let me tag along on some of his conversations. More luminaries… Avron Barr, LETSI/SCORM guru; Ellen Wexler, former muck at Adobe…..

Wendy, we need a voice like yours in these conferences. Look at the list.

They are experts!

Yeah – but you have a unique perspective that is refreshing.

I’m guessing what Tony K meant was that they talk, I do. I’m not a high level muck somewhere or a consultant or an evangelist of anything. Just a (now occasionally) harried, low-level Instructional Technologist / Trainer who diaries about her experience in the trenches.

Tony’s right. Maybe I do need to get out more…..


Anonymous said...

Way back when I first started my blog, I linked to you from a post about synchronous and asynchronous learning. I linked to "The Downes" too. I remember being very disappointed that I didn't get any responses from that. I wasn't surprised about Stephen not commenting, as I knew at that point that he was a bigger name. I figured no comment from you meant you were just too big of a name in the field to pay attention to lil' ol' me.

Now, of course, I am less naive and figure you never got a trackback from my post (and I didn't know enough to come here to comment and let you know about it). But I do very distinctly recall at the time thinking you were out of my league.

To some extent, blogging and social networking and the rest of these tools do make the playing field more even, and they give us access to people at the top. But the reverse is also true; our blogs give the people at the top access to us. Tony has access to your unique perspective all year round, not just at the conferences, because he can read what you're thinking about and working on here. People who are theorizing can have easy access to people in the trenches, and the theorists and the practitioners can learn from each other. I know that's idealized and optimistic, but there is some hope of that happening. Don't think that your thoughts don't matter because you're "just a (now occasionally) harried, low-level Instructional Technologist / Trainer." Tony and Brent and Jay and everyone wouldn't be here in the blogosphere interacting if they didn't see that value; they'd just be presenting at conferences, not engaging people with these tools.

Wendy said...

Nope - me not commenting was more a result of trackbacks and my inability to figure out how to see what other people are blogging about at the time. And fundamental shyness. (Thats why I hide in the corner at conferences.)

Anonymous said...

I am really enjoying your coverage of DL08 from up here in North Norway. Thanks!

Ref. you experience with experts in the field. Here is a good one for you: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few." - Shunryu Suzuki


Cammy Bean said...

Christy's comment is interesting. I had that same experience when I first started blogging: I assumed that if someone was blogging it was because they were some kind of bigwig and a bit out of my league. I had stars in my eyes when I went to the eLearning Guild Event in Boston two years ago -- I was meeting the eLearning celebrities.

Of course, some of the voices are bigger and more innovative and more famous -- but I've learned that we're all just people. The value us folks in the trenches bring is often the reality of the industry -- what's really happening vs. what people want to happen or what people think will happen.

Anyway, you're both Rock Stars in my blog.

Mark Sylvester said...

Wendy, great meeting you and talking with you at 'the dinner' - I didn't know I was a muck... I am putting it on my card.

I too was thrilled to be at that table, as a muck, we don't get to talk to each other often, though we all 'follow' each other. So, having face-time to learn and explore the deeper issues actually is a big part of my 'informal learning' strategy.

I must also say that I am not sure I am in the 'muck' category for the eLearning market (yet). I felt like I was at the 'big kids' table that night - getting to have conversations with people that I also admire (from following them, and reading their various publications).

You also said that we 'talk' and you 'do' - that's partially true, from my POV it is my doing that informs my talking and being extremely closely connected to my 'doers' (clients), I learn so much about what really works, and not what I think works....

Thanks for your articulate and thoughtful recap.


Wendy said...

Mark - you are right in pointing out that I am not being entirely fair with my comment "you talk I do." Way oversimplified. It may have been more fair to talk about a "control" factor with your work. Control over which clients you work with and the types of learning you and your team produces. Control over the amount of time you have to plan. Control over the design. Much of my job still consists of "you will do x job in y amount of time." And those variables are generally controlled by others. In your position, you have much more control. I'll have to think about this more.

And Mark - when you get your blog set up - let me know so I can visit!!!!

Wendy said...

Trond - this is what I LOVE about the bloggosphere - the international nature of it.

Glad you find the notes useful.

jay said...

Hey, we're all just people. There are no experts.

Glad to have met you at dinner and talked with you throughout DevLearn.