Both Jim and I are lifelong learners. One of the things that originally attracted us to each other was our hunger for learning; our curiosity for just about everything – but especially technology. Now we are Geeks Who Teach – and we welcomed this learning opportunity to “sharpen the saw.”
Who is Elliott Masie?
That’s a big question, and if you want to read all about him, here is his bio. But here, I’ll just tell you how I know him. Elliott used to run a conference called “Computer Training and Support Conference.” This was back in the early 90’s and that was my industry. I owned a company called Computer Savvy which was a stick and brick business with 11 classrooms and over 100 computers. We had a full schedule of classes on business computer applications as well as network systems certification courses. I was even president of the International Computer Training Ass’n during some of those years.
Elliott asked me to be a member of his faculty and I spoke at a couple of his conferences. I don’t even remember what I taught … probably something to do with Microsoft Access since that was a specialty of mine back then. I loved his conferences! He knows how to deliver volumes of information in an entertaining and inspiring way, and, most of all he knows how to make people feel special for being a part of the teaching/learning profession. Elliott Masie is my guru. We even visited his ‘Masie Center’ while traveling thru Saratoga Springs, NY. Here’s the Blog post about that visit in 2008.
What is a Learning Conference?
I was thrilled when it worked out this year that we could attend his current conference called, simply “Learning.” This conference has been going for quite a few years, so he identifies each conference by the year. I can’t imagine that any other Learning conference could possibly live up to what we experienced at Learning 2013!
- Technology is becoming integral to learning everything! A fitbit on your wrist helps you learn about your health. A video on your smartphone teaches a hotel maintenance worker how to caulk the bathtubs. A website generically called a MOOC (Massive, Open, Online Courses) makes university level education accessible to everyone for free! See Open University, Coursera, Kahn Academy
- Learning should be Personalized: No more big classrooms where one size fits all, now it’s “one size fits one.” Each learner has different needs and with online resources and mobile learning techniques, they should get exactly what they need.
- Learning is getting shorter, referred to as ‘Learning Compression.’ No more week-long training programs, now a company provides a series of 20 minute videos, along with social media groups for new hires to get acclimated. But, these shorter learning sessions need to happen more often. Continuous learning, Lifelong Learning, Learning needs to become part of our DNA!
We were probably the only 2-person company represented. Most people were there from the likes of NBC Universal, Ericsson North America, General Dynamics Corporation, and Coca-Cola. Did you know that there is now a corporate title CLO? For Chief Learning Officer? How to teach people what they need to know for advancement in the workplace is a big business! We teach individual travelers what they need to know to enhance their travels with technology – but many of the same principles apply and we were like sponges soaking it all up.
Over 1,600 people were registered for this conference. There were 177 breakout sessions over the 4 days for 20-50 people to learn details like, for me, how to embed a video into an eBook. Or how to use smartphones to ‘gamify’ a class – we’ll use this one! Or understanding 3D printers. Or how to present learning over webinars.
But the best parts were the General Sessions. You see, Elliott is very well-connected! He was on a learning advisory committee in the Clinton administration, he produces Broadway plays, and he owns horses that race at Saratoga Springs … and that’s just for starters. So he can get keynote speakers like Hillary Clinton, George Takei, and Jane Pauley.
And, he must be one of the best interviewers on the planet. With Elliott spending a half hour with each of these people we felt like we had been sitting in their living room just getting to know them.
You might ask, “What do Hillary Clinton, George Takei and Jane Pauley have to do with Learning"?” Well, you’d be amazed – we were.
- Jane Pauley talked about Baby Boomers. She said she felt like “an ambassador from the 20th century.” She loves learning but cautioned that we need to slow down a bit for her, she has an “etch-a-sketch brain.” She was really funny! She is now doing a series for the Today Show called “Life Reimagined” about how older Americans are learning to completely change their lives and do what they want. We RVers know all about that!
- Hillary Clinton promoted a Clinton Foundation project called, “Too small to fail” about how important it is for children to get attention before the age of 5. That is when the brain forms the majority of its functionality and, if it’s not healthy and interacting with people, conversation, and reading, it won’t develop fully. Of course, Hillary Clinton is also a stellar example of lifelong learning herself. She described Americans as learners, always exploring, always changing. We need to focus on learning and get even better at it as the changes in our world speed up.
- George Takei was all about the power of storytelling for learning. We know him as a co-star on the original Star Trek series and, more recently the gay man/social activist with an incredibly popular Facebook page - over 5 million fans! But, I didn’t know that he grew up in the American concentration camps that imprisoned Japanese-Americans during World War II. To teach people about this dark chapter in our history he is using story and music. He stars in a Broadway musical called “Allegiance” which I really hope we get to see someday. Guess who is the producer? Elliott Masie.
The conference started out with fun as Jim volunteered to go thru the training program for a race car pit crew! Innovation in learning was another theme! Here’s a short video of one tire change.
Another speaker I particularly liked was Nigel Paine. He spoke of brain science and how we know so much more nowadays about how we learn.
- Stressed brains can’t learn
- Brains need multiple type of media to learn
- Brains like to work together – social
- Brains need time to reflect and Process
- Healthier, fitter brains work better
Someone asked if the brain exercises so popular on the web today are valuable. He answered that brain exercises make you good at doing brain exercises, but not much else.
A Masie Conference is a Production
Remember me telling you that one of Elliott Masie’s hats is a Broadway producer? Well, this conference is one of the beneficiaries! On stage in this photo are Telly Leung, Marcus Paul James, Eden Espinosa, and Adam Pascal. What voices! Wow. These are well-known Broadway stars from Rent, Glee, and Wicked, among others.
Oh, and I don’t think I even mentioned that the location was the Coronado Springs hotel at Disney World in Orlando. His conferences have always been on Disney properties. I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job. Mickey is a gracious and accommodating host.
Thanks Elliott! It was a Blast, and I came away inspired and motivated to try all sorts of new things to help our Geeks on Tour members learn!