Keynote 2: Talithia Williams

Talithia Williams, a statistician known for her popular TED talk Own Your Body’s Data, served us an amazing keynote on Wednesday evening, pulling in lots of audience energy and laughs and challenging us to consider how big data can be our friend, not foe.

In one video she showed us, we heard an interesting framing of our present world: the largest car company in the world — Uber — owns no cars. The largest hotel company in the world — Airbnb — owns no hotels. Williams’ challenge to us: we should consider this trend as a positive direction for other industries, including (and especially) healthcare. Our health information is guarded much more closely than our gmail accounts, but most of us feel much more strongly about keeping emails private than our health data. Why keep it under lock and key when this anonymized data —including patients’ socioeconomic and environmental contexts— could help enormously in patient treatment and diagnosis?

Williams also spoke to us about characteristics of the Data Revolution. These are: (1) data becomes digitally generated — no need for humans to manage spreadsheets when machines can do it better; (2) data is passively produced — no need to run active tests when data can flow in from other more invisible sources, like wearable tech; (3) data is automatically collected; (4) data that is temporally and geographically trackable; and (5) data continuously analyzed. The model company that has mastered these trends? Amazon, of course.

Examples of data-driven health sensing devices already part of our day-to-day life

With this data revolution in our immediate present and influencing our future, Williams left us with some great food for thought for the L&D industry in particular. The future of eLearning should combat learner isolation by providing learning choices, learner ownership of their curriculum, and emotional connection to content and platform to decrease attrition and increase motivation. Learning should be able to occur in diverse times and spaces. It should be personalized, adaptive to each learner, and allow learners to practice content—not just be assessed. And finally, people who create learning solutions should strive for different modalities of communicating the same learning — whether through device flexibility, different programs, or different learning techniques.

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