Next Tuesday I’m off to Berlin for Online Educa Berlin , a get-together for technologists and strategists in Europe. It’s the first time I’m attending, so I’m really curious about what I’m going to find. I must admit – I’ve never been a great networker at events like this – even though the event is pitched as ‘enabling participants to develop multinational and cross-industry contacts & partnerships, as well as to enhance their knowledge, expertise, and abilities’. It’s a character trait that I have learnt to live with. I am very comfortable delivering workshops with large groups – or doing the odd presentations to demanding audiences. And equally so in one-to-one meetings, including those where there are some tough negotiations to get through. But put me in a Conference corridor surrounded by people with mobiles and name tags and juggling coffees and my first instinct is to find a corner and watch from a distance rather than into the ‘cold-call’ hand shakes and networking. I really have to work hard to get over this.
But – I’ve always been interested into Technology Supported Learning and this time I know what I’m looking for – technologies that can be customised, rebranded and launched as proprietary products. So I’m looking forward to next week. As I wake up into my mid-forties and official middle-age (!), the desire to learn new stuff has accelerated, instead of going into some sort of decline. There’s a lot of talk about your hunger for life and success diminishing as you race past your twenties and thirties. With us, the exact opposite has happened. We juggle raising a young child with having to think out of the box every day. And increasingly, our knowledge comes from our networks of connected people, some of them on different sides of the world, and the usual eclectic mix of blogs and wikis. I still get a kick out of reading something like 37 Signals’ Getting Real. I still love the fact that despite the cynical age we live in, there is still so much knowledge-sharing going on. The old adage about information is power is still true – and yet, we live in this exciting time when we have it all at our finger-tips.
The only inevitability about middle-age is that you end up working with younger people. Somehow, somewhere along the line, you became the peer group. Which is scary. But always energising. As long as you keep obsessed with learning – wherever it comes from: your Economist, your neighbour, or the blog of some geek in Illinois – there is just too much to do to worry about losing your edge.
If the Berlin trip pans out the right way, I’ll post some material after that.