Getting a Taste of TECH in NOLA

Artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential role in L&D dominated many conversations at TechLearn 2023 in New Orleans.


Innovations in Training Test Kitchen “executive chefs” Hector Valle and Phylise Banner are ready to mix it up.

Betty Dannewitz and Jeff Weaver provide best podcasting practices.

Anders Gronstedt gets hands (and headset) on with VR.

Tamara Kocharova offers tips for soft skills training in virtual environments.

In keeping with New Orleans’ culinary reputation, Training’s fall TechLearn 2023 Conference offered a varied menu of training tech for attendees to both sample and dig into. Nearly 500 Learning and Development (L&D) professionals devoured content in 35-plus Innovations in Training Test Kitchen demos and five IIT Labs, 56 breakout sessions, eight hands-on clinics, two keynotes, four pre-conference certificate programs, and co-located event GamiCon NOLA. The conference was sponsored by Bridge, IIL, Inkling, and Scriptorium.

Led by “executive chefs” (and learning experience designers) Phylise Banner and Hector Valle, the Innovations in Training Test Kitchen gave attendees the opportunity to explore the latest learning technologies and design techniques, and create recipes inspired by these new “ingredients.” Attendees Melissa Kustra and Kate Berger submitted winning recipes (on engaging learners in Webinars and accessibility, respectively), earning them registrations to TechLearn 2024 in Austin, TX.

The learning, networking, and sharing of challenges and best practices continued through activities such as the Dine Around Mixer Event, special New Orleans experiences (ghost tour, craft cocktail tour, and river boat jazz/dinner cruise), and the closing reception with music from NOLA native (and former tech trainer) Renard Boissiere.

“Attending this event reaffirmed I’m not alone in facing professional challenges,” one attendee said. “The ability to have insightful conversations with others in my industry highlighted the universal nature of our shared issues.”

Attendees don festive facewear in NOLA.

Marcus Brown marries music, art, and tech with his Electro-Sonic Painting with AR.

Keynoter Dr. Vivienne Ming has studied the interface of humanity with AI tech for years.

Behind the scenes—and on the screen—with virtual training master John Chen.

Attendees listen to “spook-tacular” tales outside Jackson Square during the ghost tour.

TechLearn sparks a smile—or three!


Not surprisingly, artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential role in L&D dominated many of those conversations. Keynoter Dr. Vivienne Ming, theoretical neuroscientist, inventor, author, entrepreneur, and founder of Socos Labs, has studied the interface of humanity with AI technology for decades. “AI is one of the most powerful tools on the planet,” she admitted. “But it is just that—a tool. AI knows everything but understands nothing. You can’t throw an AI tool at a struggling learner and expect it to magically turn them into the person they want to be or you hope they can be. These tools are just mirrors— they give back what you put into them. So you need to think about what your learners can bring to these AI tools.”

Keynoter Ann Yoachim, director, Tulane School of Architecture’s Small Center for Collaborative Design, took a similar approach to learning design. She reminded attendees that “each of us should be empowered to shape the places we live, work, and play.” She encouraged attendees to “get users/learners involved throughout the co-creation process—whether for training, learning, or anything else—not just at the beginning and end.”

All in all, the conference provided lots of food for thought. As one attendee noted, “This was my first time at TechLearn and I came away with an arsenal of ideas and tools I can use to strengthen my career.”


By Monica Cornetti, President, Sententia, Inc.

In the vibrant realm of gamified adult learning, few accolades are as coveted as the GamiCon Throwdown Awards. These prestigiousTraining magazine honors recognize those at the pinnacle of designing gamified experiences that not only engage but also transform the learning landscape.

At this year’s event, held September 19, we celebrated luminaries who not only embraced but mastered the art and science of gamification, with each winner demonstrating the effectiveness of Sententia, Inc.’s proven model for gamified and game-based learning in adult education.

The People’s Choice Awards were swept away by:

  • Mallori Steele and Corshonedia Hodge of Microsoft and Growductive Consulting, respectively, for “Strategic Communication for Customer Success.” This upskilling program navigates the intricate dance of customer interaction in tech environments, emphasizing holistic communication tailored for diverse audiences.
  • Artrell Williams of Sumitomo Rubber, USA, who triumphed with “Taiyazukuri,” a card game that intricately weaves the tire manufacturing narrative, echoing Sumitomo Rubber’s mission and vision and aiding employees in streamlining processes.

Further applause rang out for the GamiCon Throwdown Awards:

  • Jordan Dyson of Buckingham Wealth Partners andScott Provence of Scott Provence Consulting touched hearts with “Walk With Me.” Harnessing the potential of AI-driven dialogue gaming, this offering sharpened organizational and relational competencies, demonstrating the transformative power of AI in nurturing empathy and leadership.
  • Pradeep U.N. of The Stories and Wisdom Company presented “STORIES,” an experiential game that shifted team dynamics within federal government confines. With its storytelling prowess, this game reshaped productivity landscapes, urging stakeholders to dream bigger.
  • Susan A. Skinner, JD, MBA, from Western Governors University introduced the thrilling “Don’t Crash the Economy!” Inviting students into the high-stakes world of macroeconomic decisions, it showcased the pulse-quickening excitement possible in online learning.
  • In addition to a People’s Choice Award, Mallori Steele and Corshonedia Hodge’s “Strategic Communication for Customer Success” earned a GamiCon Throwdown award for the Best Use of Narrative in Gamification.

These winners have not only crafted compelling game-based learning experiences but also set the gold standard for future endeavors in this domain. Their achievements underscore the unparalleled potential of gamification when applied with creativity, dedication, and a profound understanding of learner needs.

Congratulations to all the victors! Here’s to another year of innovative learning, gamified excellence, and transformative educational experiences!

GamiCon participants have their game faces on!

Excellence in Web-Based/eLearning Gamification Strategic Communication for Customer Success Corshonedia Hodge and Mallori Steele (from left)

Excellence in No- Tech/Low-Tech Gamification Taiyazukuri, A Tire Manufacturing Card Game Artrell Williams, CPTM


Best Use of Surprise and Delight in Gamification AND Best Use of Gamification Theory Walk with Me: An Empathy Skill-Building Game Scott Provence and Jordan Dyson

Overall Outstanding Usage of Gamification for Learning STORIES: Foster Cohesive and Motivated Teams Pradeep U.N.

Best Use of Narrative in Gamification (TIE) Don’t Crash the Economy Susan Skinner, JD, MBA(middle) Strategic Communication for Customer Success Mallori Steele and Corshonedia Hodge

To read more about the GamiCon Throwdown awards, visit:

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.