Recap of the DevLearn Conference

In October, I had the opportunity to attend the DevLearn conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. For those of you who are not familiar with DevLearn, the event is sponsored by the eLearning Guild and showcases tools, technologies, ideas, strategies, and best practices for eLearning. There were approximately 3,200 attendees who were in various eLearning roles such as Instructional Technologists, Instructional Designers, Training Coordinators, Project Managers, and Developers. Attendees came as far as Australia and Dubai representing organizations such as Amazon, Boeing, Comcast, eLearning Brothers, and PG&E to name a few.My personal agenda for attending this conference was to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the Learning industry and to learn about the latest technologies, so that I could prepare myself for what’s coming. This conference fit perfectly for my goal because the theme for 2017 was “The Future Is Here,” and the sessions looked ahead to anticipate and plan for the future of eLearning.


The keynote sessions explored the various ways technology is transforming how we live, work, and play. The speakers focused on stories that highlighted the power of technology and how we can harness it to explore our creativity, engage learners, and impact the future.

Amy Webb – Sci-Fi Meets Reality: The Future, Today
Futurist, Founder of the Future Today Institute, and Author Amy Webb kicked off the conference with a great keynote session telling us that we all have the ability to think like futurists. She explained that futurists identify seemingly random ideas as they converge toward the mainstream, make observations, and review data points to make predictions about current trends.
sketch notes for Amy Webb session

Sketch notes from Amy Webb’s session

Webb focused on the current technology trend of A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) and explained that although A.I. may seem to be in the realm of science fiction, it is already part of our everyday lives. We are already using personal assistants such as Siri, we receive coupons through purchase prediction applications, and engage with video games that learn our behavior. Webb said rather than worrying about the cliché that A.I. will take over the world, she thinks we should worry more about A.I. that too accurately mimics humanity.  Webb’s greatest concern is that humans create A.I., so it reflects back our own beliefs, values, and biases. She referred to the controversial Microsoft chatbot named Tay, which was released in 2016 and interacted with twitter users. Tay had to be shut down within 16 hours of being launched after posting offensive tweets on Twitter.

Webb told us the great part about trying to predict the future is that it hasn’t been written yet and we as educators in technology have the power to shape it. Webb encouraged educators to work with technologists to help instill the proper values in A.I., which will ultimately have a great impact on the future.

Watch a short video of Amy Webb discussing this topic.

Glen Keane – Embracing Technology Based Creativity
The second Keynote session featured animator Glen Keane, a 38-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation, he created and animated such legendary characters as the Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, the Beast, and Tarzan. Keane’s uplifting address started by reminiscing about his childhood and his design process for creating the Beast character. It was a magical experience to watch him sketch the Beast while he described how he developed the character.

He also shared stories about changes in his career path and how he has learned to embrace new tools, from digital environments to 3D animation to today’s virtual reality, which enables him to step into his drawings and wander freely through his imagination. The session concluded with Keane’s demonstration of an augmented reality drawing tool, Tilt Brush, which he used to create a 3-D drawing on the screens as the audience watched.
Watch a video of Glen Keane as he discusses the future of storytelling and demos how he uses Tilt Brush.

LeVar Burton- Technology and Storytelling: Making a Difference in the Digital Age

A star struck audience greeted LeVar Burton as he took the Levar Burtonstage, Burton is an actor, producer, and storyteller. He is probably best known for his roles as Kunta Kinte in the award-winning miniseries Roots and Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek franchise, as well as being the host and executive producer of the long-running PBS children’s series Reading Rainbow. Burton shared stories about his mother and the influence she had on his life and career. He also shared his thoughts on education, literacy, and technology. Although Burton thinks, “reading is the single most important activity in which we can engage for learning,” he is also aware that technology  provides children with a level of engagement that we should harness and carefully curate the information that we make available.

Sessions and Expo Hall

It was a very busy and exciting two and a half days and I had hundreds of sessions to choose from that looked to the future of eLearning and offered tips, tricks, and examples of how to create engaging, effective eLearning.

session images

Me playing the ukulele, session creating engaging videos and battle cards

All the sessions I attended were informative and engaging, I listed some of the interesting sessions I attended below:

  • Breaking Up with Your LMS
  • Engaging Learners with Video
  • Design Thinking for Problem Solving-Using Learning Battle Cards
  • The Now and the Next of Learning Technology
  • Ukulele Learning: Exploring the Relationship Between Music and Learning
  • Visual Literacy: Bringing Your Videos to the Next Level
  • Virtual and Augmented RealitiesExpo Hall Image
Aside from the sessions, there was an enormous Expo hall that featured 145 vendors exhibiting authoring tools, audio narration, branding and customization, and turnkey eLearning solutions. There was also a VR Learning Lab, where you could play games, watch virtual reality films, and try out VR apps.
Demo Fest

Demo FestOn the second evening of the conference I attended DemoFest, which was a collective showcase of eLearning examples from conference participants. I visited various tables, which featured presenters who shared their creative eLearning projects. They discussed the tools that they used for their projects, their processes, and shared the solutions for their challenges.

Closing Keynote

Jane McGonigal, Game Designer and Author delivered the final keynote for the conference on “How to Think Like a Futurist,” she described how future thinking practices work and how thinking about the future improves your brain’s ability to invent, innovate, and adapt to change. For an in-depth review of McGonigal’s talk, see “How to Think Like a Futurist: DevLearn 2017 Closing Keynote.

A Great Conference
I found the whole conference experience amazing, there was so much good content that there were several times that I wished I could have been in more than one place at a time. I met other professionals in edtech and even bumped into a fellow SF State Alumni. It was a great conference and I hope to get the opportunity to go again.
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About Lisa Leiva

Lisa is a Learning Technologies Specialist, with over 15 years of experience working with Faculty at UCSF. She earned a B.A. in Graphic Communications and a Masters in Instructional Technologies, both from San Francisco State University. Lisa enjoys providing faculty with creative ideas on how to integrate technology into the classroom to create rich learning experiences for students. In her spare time, you may find Lisa with her family having a picnic at a neighborhood park in San Francisco. Specialties: Instructional design, presentation design and delivery, teaching with the CLE, graphic design, Adobe Creative Suite, Articulate Studio, and Storyline.

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