This massive piece of kit resides at the Eveleigh Railway Yards in inner Sydney, Australia. It’s unsurprising the sign on it implores the following of by-standers: “do not speak to operator when he is working steamhammer”. A similar sign might well be placed up at most traditional conferences, such as LearnX in Melbourne late last year. Being my first big L & D conference, I was starry-eyed and there to sponge up whatever I could. I was pretty immune to the people there selling things, but there wasn’t any escaping the fact that you were being spoken at for a whole day. So when I got to actually chat with people outside the sessions, I asked questions to learn contextually. I got some advice from Con Sotidis about backchannelling through twitter. Essentially Con said he backchannelled so that he had a personal record of what happened; it was his notebook to then reflect upon. So I thought to myself, the next conference I go to, that’s what I’m going to do too.


Earlier this week I attended the Learning Café Unconference in the hall next to the one containing that massive steamhammer. I paid my own way to be there (which kept me honest to getting value from it) and happily 4 of my colleagues joined me. It was so enjoyable because it was a conversation, lots of break-out sessions on some genuinely cutting edge topics; thought-provoking PD. I walked in feeling like my company had a lot of ground to catch up on our peers and walked out feeling like a leader. We held our ground in discussions on these emerging learning trends because we are experimenting with them right now. That was exciting, but what was better was hearing the robust discussion between deeply experienced practitioners. That – and the discussions from the likes of Michelle Ockers on twitter – is helping to define the space within which to take future risks.


I tweeted over 100 times on Wednesday, a concentrated distillation of conversation every 4 minutes. One third were contributions from the floor, showing the value of the unconference format. All the tweets are listed below, and I’ve grouped them into topics for ease of digestion. Like what I tweeted about the event itself, they are thought-starters. No conference (or un) solves your contextual problem, it helps you solve it later.  So my long-form reflections on this unconference will bob up in posts here as I further experiment with my team this year; however the 5 things that most excited me were:

  • Facilitation has a big future in L&D, and it is in learner generated content, content curation and peer to peer learning.
  • The sensibility of measuring learning effectiveness purely by business outcomes.  There is no more direct way to be relevant.
  • Our yearning to control learning has been milennially voted as facile.  Now we are free to just help people learn in ways that already feel natural to them.
  • Content curation is about the push, learner generated content is about the pull.  What a gorgeous impending balance.
  • Coding is an accessible, useful and necessary skill to get shit done yourself in an environment of no budget.


My tweets are below.  You can find more conversations by searching #letslearn & #unconfsyd2015 on twitter.  I look forward to conversing with you on what your inspirations are!



General reflections on the Learning Café Unconference Sydney 2015

From Rob Wilkins: I’ve loved that 70/20/10 hasn’t been mentioned much today. We are avoiding gimmicks.

Self-reflection on today: holistic, more thought-starters than solutions, very worthwhile. Missing: accessibility focus

From Peter Hall: I’m impressed with the increased professionalism in L&D

Self-reflection: very smart of @qbe L&D to have session here asking for ideas for their future #lms implementation

Note to self: ID where my department is at against emerging learning trends, & celebrate those


Big picture advice for L & D

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: L&D has gone from chalk and talk to death by PowerPoint, so what are we doing to really evolve?

From Michael Eichler: this is about marketing our role. We help learning, part of collective responsibility

From Rob Wilkins. Let’s not bash ourselves up. Be clear about the value we add.

From Michael Eichler: we need more reflection time to be innovative and think. Do some team PD too.

From Cathy Callaghan: the great designers focus on the customers, spending hundreds of hours with them > yes yes

From Cathy Callaghan: I want to slow down the frenetic pace of product launches, too much for learners to absorb

From Bob Spence: it is about embedding performance into work itself. Are we prepared as L&D to step into this?

From Rob Wilkins: we live in a world of diminishing astonishment. I see integration of data from business tools

From Michael Eichler: Get rid of half your content.

From Rob Wilkins: I want to see all our organisational leaders digitally literate.

From Michael Eichler: in a business learning has to have a purpose.

From Michael Eichler: understanding the business is key. Get out there to be an effective L&D professional.

From Cathy Callaghan: think about the notion of best practice carefully; experiment

From Peter Hall: think about how you can make something sustainable

From Bob Spence: formal learning is to help people learn. Informal learning is to help people perform.

From the floor: great opportunities for freelance operators now in L&D.

From the floor: Should L&D leaders be L&D people? > no. Business acumen & credibility most important

“Ideas are plentiful, putting them to work is not”. Let’s experiment, no-one dies in L&D.

From Nicola Atkinson: understanding technology is critical as an enabler for L&D, front & centre now

From Michael Eichler: I can learn anything I want, when I want. Learning is going from control to facilitating

From Michael Eichler: we don’t want to be on the bleeding edge, but be early adopters. > No, let’s bleed and lead

From Rob Wilkins: as L&D professionals, we need to be able to speak #digitalliteracy with confidence, now

From Peter Hall: we build capability to support business outcomes to drive business performance. > that’s our why

From the floor: L&D trends: career paths are accelerating and changing way fast

From the floor: L&D trends: 70/20/10 model has been flogged to death, now being challenged by the business

From the floor: how do we raise our own profession and not be considered transactional? > firstly deliver value

From the floor: L&D trends: offshoring of basic work functions means uni grads have less initial grounding

From Serena Marriott: I did not leave uni to be a L&D professional > No-one else here in the room did either

Measuring Learning Effectiveness

From the floor: for high profile programs we measure ROI around things like career tracking

From the floor: We ask the business how they measure success, then we use that metric. Makes it easy for all.

From the floor: learning leaders should be having conversations that quantify ROI, it is business language

From the floor: We indulge in hand-wringing in ROI. Why measure it? > measure return on expectation instead

From Serena Marriott: at @ericsson we have 6 standard questions of the business to ensure L&D doing the job

From Peter Hall: focus on metrics that really drive outcomes #businessacumen


Learner Generated Content

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: students are a fundamental part, they need more engagement with each other

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: a beautiful model is to get students to learn, then immediately teach peer-to-peer

From the floor: Learner generated content is critical to accessing the knowledge of experienced people

Self-reflection: Learner generated content is about respect for what people know and keeping L&D relevant simultaneously

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: #millenials are used to peer-to-peer learning, it’s how they roll

From @jeevesj learner generated content deserves an appreciative inquiry approach to get L&D on board

From @jeevesj learner generated content is about L&D facilitating with light touch. About opportunity

From Kirsty Freeman: monitoring learner generated content is a problem particularly for compliance training

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: Why is learner generated content not being used, when the tools and sharing culture exist?

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: Learner generated content is about just in time and pull, not push learning

From the floor: Learner generated content success is best measured by business outcomes. Spend less time measuring

From @jeevesj learners regulate themselves with learner generated content, let’s let them

From the floor: learner generated content sharing would struggle in a competitive culture > harness status?

Learner generated content is an opportunity to lead cultural change to be more open, start small

From @jeevesj learner generated content requires an open culture to thrive

From @jeevesj learner generated content idea: booths to record employee stories

From the floor: learner generated content idea: access vox-pops short videos and stories

From the floor: learner generated content tip: create opportunities for people to ask questions first > yep



From Dr Lachlan Blackall: Reinvention, contextualised learning… use as much tech as you need, but no more.

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: tech ties content, students & trainers together

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: We aspire to diversity in content. This is expensive, tech is a blocker.

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: we want content context sensitive, agile & effective BUT more with less & evolving tech > the wedge

From the floor: L&D trends: internal technology lagging behind what schools, unis and people have/use


Content Curation

Self-reflection: #contentcuration requires a learner lens, its about being an interpreter, not a SME

Self-reflection: #contentcuration is about minimalism and showing a value pathway

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: curation is about push not pull

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: content curation is about putting context of ideal outcome around content

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: well curated content should be a launching pad for further self-learning

From the floor: tension between individual v organisational needs in content curation

From the floor: good content is sometimes about what needs to happen differently

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: the trainer becomes the guide with #contentcuration. This is pedagogically good

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: #contentcuration is about arranging best of breed content & putting into pathways

From @jeevesj L&D: let’s truly facilitate and truly curate

From the floor: we need to understand how to say to the business here’s how #contentcuration can help you

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: businesses/people generally don’t mind their content being shared when comes to crunch

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: there is some amazing content out there. Once it is public domain we can use it

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: L&D often creates lots of content, but the world has more content than we can consume

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: in academia I curate my own digital textbooks

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: tincan / experience API is a good way to measure effectiveness of #contentcuration

From Dr Lachlan Blackall: reference museum curators to share the story of #contentcuration in your business

From the floor: the experts are in the business. #contentcuration is about accessing that


Social Learning

From @koshaughnessy: inspiring when people learn from people through twitter

From @koshaughnessy: things that go wrong in #soclearn: managing the appropriate boundary line

From the floor: we are a health district. Young users are sharing in online groups, old wise heads still not

From the floor: at austrade before an employee goes O/S, they join a community where they can then share learning

From the floor: I’ve heard of a company whose intranet was just online groups, worked to advocate change #socbiz

From the floor: participating in the conversations on social media is the ideal. Use blog readers to save time.

From @koshaughnessy: linkedin is a great learning tool. Start with sitting back and watching.

From @koshaughnessy: common sense, being present, no such thing as delete. Top 3 tips for using social.

From @koshaughnessy: where i work, we dont have a prescriptive social media policy, it’s a behavioural expectation

From @koshaughnessy: things that go wrong in #soclearn: how do we instil ability to know where the line is

From @koshaughnessy: #soclearn is about how to direct whilst being self-directed

From @koshaughnessy: is being a social media manager crucial to productivity? Yes but more about risk

From @koshaughnessy: curate within your own network on social media, use lists



From @lagrecaj If you want to learn how to code, go to http://lynda.com  and use sublime text

From @lagrecaj open-source means the code is open to anyone

From @lagrecaj a API file can turn into a .csv file. > I’m joining the dots now

From @lagrecaj I don’t use icons or images anymore, just use HTML.

From @lagrecaj PHP is good to use to call data from somewhere; HTML good for static data

From @lagrecaj : PHP stands for Hypertext Processor #acronymfail > A bit like saying ‘ATM machine’

Coding with @lagrecaj “Can you see what this will now look like? > yes. VAK language works

From @lagrecaj I love to draw something on a whiteboard before I code. > old-school, visual. I understand now.

Learning how to code in 40 minutes with @lagrecaj > Divs are the most important tags, yo


From the floor: We are looking at a #LMS from IMC. It includes gamification, such as completion meters

From the floor: A LMS is not a vehicle for changing learning culture, it is a record-keeping system.

From the floor: when a new LMS got put in where I work, we did the shiny toys first to help the change embed

From Peter Hall: a new LMS is an opportunity to change mindset, enhance knowledge transfer

From the floor: monthly thematic focus can attract people to the #LMS > good idea for wider self-learning adoption

L & D Humour

From Cathy Callaghan: ‘google is as bad as a blind date’, my best best metaphor of the day

From the floor: we renamed compliance training to mandatory training > classic L&D joke

From Rob Wilkins: if we took L&D out of HR, what would they have left? > Cheeky!

Random things to explore further

From Cathy Callaghan: there is some great stuff about what the business thinks about L&D on corporate executive board

From Cathy Callaghan: UTS are trying to grow graduates who are ‘boundary riders’ for innovation

From the floor: Contingent labour is becoming bigger. How can we match L&D solutions?

From the floor: Have a look at Mozilla Backpack. About collecting badges > a more valuable learning history?

From the floor: consider talent development reporting principles http://tdrp.org  instead of ROI

From Peter Hall: we need to understand how complexity science relates to L&D

From the floor: correlation causation at the heart of measuring learning effectiveness on business outcomes

From the floor: attend @hjarche ‘s personal knowledge management course to build a #pln

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