ADL iFest 2012, sponsored by NTSA, took place from 31 July to 2 August in Orlando, Florida. Over 200 learning, education, and training professionals from DoD, government, industry, and academia attended the conference. Ten learning technology-related exhibitors also participated.
Mr. Frank DiGiovanni, Director, Training Readiness and Strategy, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Readiness), gave Tuesday morning’s keynote address, “Strategic Overview of Training and Education in DoD.” He focused on the needs of an Adaptive Force, noting the Army and Marine Corps learning models that are designed to train for adaptivity. He also discussed efforts of several departments/agencies to migrate software acquisitions to an Open Source Software approach in order to develop learning/training more effectively.
Dr. Kristy Murray, Director of the ADL Initiative, followed with an overview of ADL’s current research projects that relate to its vision for a Personal Assistant for Learning (PAL). ADL staff elaborated on these projects in later sessions.
Tuesday’s agenda highlighted progress that has been made with Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS), a key component for realizing the PAL vision. Mr. DiGiovanni introduced a panel of leading ITS experts from both the commercial sector (Dr. Doug Lenat, Cycorp) and academia (Dr. Alan Lesgold, Univ. of Pittsburgh; Dr. Art Graesser, Univ. of Memphis; and Dr. Vincent Aleven, Carnegie Mellon Univ.) who talked about effective tutoring systems, state of the art technologies, and cultural issues associated with non-human tutors. Dr. Dexter Fletcher from the Institute for Defense Analyses spoke about the DARPA Digital Tutor.
On Wednesday, ADL’s Technical Team, led by Jonathan Poltrack, presented a demonstration of the new Training & Learning Architecture (TLA) that will incorporate and improve the global SCORM standard. The first project under the TLA umbrella is the Experience API, a new way to track learners’ progress using popular social web technologies. This capability was demonstrated with a QR code game in which the attendees playing the game were tracked and their results displayed on a leader board in the exhibit area. ADL technical team members went into more detail about the Experience API and its relation to SCORM in breakout sessions; they were available to answer questions throughout the event.
Wednesday morning focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Mr. DiGiovanni moderated the keynote panel consisting of Ms. Marilee Fitzgerald, Director of the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA); Dr. Randall Shumaker, Director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation and Training; and Mr. Steve Midgley, a Senior Advisor for the U.S. Department of Education. Each shared approaches to enhancing STEM education in the U.S.
In a special ceremony, certificates were awarded to winners of the ADL STEM App Challenge. The challenge was designed to create mobile Apps to help students in DoDEA overcome common misconceptions about STEM concepts. A team from Ohio State University won the student award for an app about the relationship between velocity and acceleration. MicroEmpowering.org won the Commercial Award for an app that guided students through a series of experiments related to STEM topics.
Wednesday afternoon’s plenary focus moved to search & retrieval, e.g., sharing content for purposes of reuse and repurposing. Dr. Lisa Petrides discussed “Creating a Commons for Learning.” ADL’s Dr. Tom Archibald facilitated a panel that broached various topics related to sharing content. The panel included Dr. Damon Regan (ADL), Mr. Virgil Hart (Navy’s NETC), and Mr. Ken Crim (The Army’s Distributed Learning Program). Dr. Archibald also outlined Dr. David Twitchell’s successful programs with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Thursday started with a keynote by Mr. Dustin Clingman. Mr. Clingman is CEO of ZeeGee Games, and is also the Chair of the International Game Developers Association. He shared insights on what makes a game engaging – useful information for learning developers. ADL staff members later presented on designing non-technical games for learning and reported on a recent study on the effect game design has on cognitive adaptability.
Thursday’s plenary sessions ended with Mr. Rich DiNinni sharing information about the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, and then Dr. Paula Durlach, the Deputy Director of the ADL Initiative, spoke about adaptation in instructional technologies.
During breakout sessions, ADL staff and invited speakers brought attendees up to date on mobile learning, virtual environments, repositories and registries, other ADL research and development areas that focus on harnessing the newest training technologies to meet the needs of the next generation learners.
iFest 2012 was a huge success. Speakers seemed to be right on target for the audience, and the attendees stayed engaged from the opening remarks until the last breakout sessions. The TLA Experience API generated a lot of interest as did the topics addressing emerging technologies. Continue following us on Twitter (@ADL_Initiative) and watch this site for more news about iFest 2012 and new research opportunities.