ASTD International Conference and Exposition: Informal Learning Reflections

4 06 2009

The ASTD International Conference and Exposition (ICE) was held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington DC from May 31 to June 3.  Despite the perturbations of the global economy, around 8,000 international learning and development, human resource and organizational development professionals determined it was important to  attend this high energy, engaging and thought-provoking conference.  I was privileged to volunteer at the conference as a session monitor for a day then attend  sessions on another day as as participant.

On Monday, June 1, Tony Bingham (President and CEO of ASTD) gave the opening keynote presentation and his theme was “Learning Get’s Social”.  If anyone was in any double that informal learning and social networking leveraging web 2.0 technologies is now pervasive around the world (and growing exponentially), then Tony provided compelling evidence to the contrary from top learning executives of three global corporations, a number of authors, and school children who have grown-up as :”digital natives”.  Social networking is not just for the Net Generation (or Millenials) as described by Don Tapscott. Nonetheless, organizations and corporations that wish to survive and prosper in the era dominated by online collaboration, content creation and informal learning must fully understand the needs of the Net Generation who are dominating the workforce of the present and future.  The network is critical to all generations for creating connections.  In turn, connected individuals are engaged and become committed to staying where their needs are met, thereby increasing retention, especially during turbulent economic times.

Web 2.0 technologies enable connections and faciltate social and informal learning.  However, according to Tony, the number one impediment to implementing web 2.0 technologies is lack of understanding.  This situatuion cannot continue and it’s time to change the paradigm and learn from recent history where “Yes we can” became the call to action for citizens all over the USA.  Just reflect for a moment on the situation where the power of the network, social connections, and the use of web 2.0 technologies were instrumental in launching the career of a senator from Illinois as he gained national (and international) recognition, connected digitally and viscerally with citizens, and became the President of the United States.

The viability of the global economy is based on the strenghts of social and economic connections that truly transcend borders.   Collaboration, cooperation and tolerance of divergent viewpooints benefits everyone and these ideals can be successfully leveraged and nurtured through the use of informal learning and web 2.0 technologies.  The phoneminal world-wide growth of technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace prove that just-in-time, just-enough informal learning and connecting on multiple devices (including cell phones in remote regions of the world) will definitely make the wold a better place.

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