I won't go into too much detail about TechKnowledge. Jay Cross has covered his three days there and what he came away with on his blog. Check that out if you're interested in more nitty-gritty. (And thanks for the mention, Jay. It was nice to put the face to the name with you and others.)
But I wanted to give you all a big-picture view from where I sit. This is how I would characterize what I learned: I think there's a big push to get back to basics and a big push forward into uncharted territory, both happening simultaneously.
Let me explain. I heard a lot about ROI, making the business case for e-learning, demonstrating the value of training to business execs. The speakers I heard were in agreement: We're past the point of technology for technology's sake. Each whiz-bang gadget must prove its worth in dollars and cents or other tangible impact on the business--just as training departments must these days.
In the expo, I didn't see any great innovation. I saw suppliers being cautious--making improvements on product ideas that have existed for a while. Nothing stood out to me and made me say "Wow!" The booth that drew the most traffic offered a live broadcast/recording of a Web seminar. The main innovation I saw there was the ability to change the backgrounds behind the instructor. You could look like you were in Egypt, or a forest, for example.
At the same time as this return to basics, there is a small but noticeable push to the future. It's a cautious push, one that's wiser than in the earlier heady days of technology. But mobile learning, simulations, collaborative learning, electronic performance support, and other technologies we've been hearing about for a while are slowly improving in quality and increasing in use. They're finally coming into their own.
In the meantime, we're looking ahead to see what's coming down the pike next. I propose to you that what's next will have a lot to do with social software and workflow tools. (See previous blog entry.)
Ellen Wagner from Macromedia summed up the dichotomy of standing on solid ground while looking ahead to the future in a panel discussion on The Future of Learning. We need to conduct a balancing act, she said. That means being ready for the "next big thing" without forgetting what needs to be done today.