Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When Siva makes faces in the TWU war-room...

Using Mindmaps in classrooms

One of my favorite whiteboarding techniques in training happens to be the mindmap. I use them often and sometimes even indiscriminately. What I usually do, is get two whiteboards together and mindmap across the breadth of both boards. I do often get limited by the number of colours I have at my disposal - whiteboard markers seem to come in just 4 colours (red, blue, green, black), and my own artistic ability, though the sheer radiant nature of the maps more than makes up for it.

What I like about mindmapping in classroom situations is that it helps you retain the context of the current discussion and represents very clearly the chain of thought that the group followed through the session. They not only give you flexibility to adapt your session to the ongoing discussion in class, they also allow you to alter and add points in a flexible manner. The act of drawing up the mindmap itself is greatly enjoyable both for the audience and you as speaker (or so I think from my experience). As a side effect, it provides an instant takeaway for the group -- they can just click a picture and voila, you have session notes!

I think mindmaps are a really useful tool to have in your training inventory and I definitely recommend Tony Buzan's "The Mind Map Book" if you'd like to learn more about this wonderful technique.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sparky's Learning Log

My dog Sparky can now:
  • Spin
  • Rollover
  • Catch
  • Play dead
  • High 5
  • Shake
  • Bow
  • Crawl (GI Joe)
  • Put his feet up (not beg)
  • Jump when asked

More useful stuff he can do:
  • Sit
  • Go Down
  • Come when called
  • Stay
  • Heel
  • Wait at the door/ road/ gate

Here are a few things he's working on:
  • Lick
  • Kiss
  • Touch
  • Tracking
  • Scooby Doo
  • Beg
  • Wave
  • Fetch (he does this often - but is temperamental with it)

These are a few things I might teach him later:
  • Limp
  • Walk on two legs
  • Stand on my back

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Using Videos in Training

My experiences with training have put me into interactions with various people, who I've either worked with or have expressed an opinion to me. I sometimes agree and I mostly have an opinion of my own. As always, I have an opinion -- this time about the use of videos in training. Videos, I believe are a great tool to when used smartly. This said, I often see videos being used as time-fillers or as a substitute for linear, non-interactive lecture. As it turns out, a video being a linear format in itself is not really any different from a non-interactive lecture.

There are a few things I like to take care of, when running a video in class:

  • do I have a set of key learnings that you expect to get out of the video?
  • do students have something to observe, and watch out for when watching the video?
  • do you have a debrief planned to wrap up learnings from the video?

I also find it useful to think if a video is really necessary. Could that be replaced by a low tech activity? Or by a facilitated discussion or an interactive lecture? Given my experience of training in environments with no electricity, I tend to err on the side of being low tech. It gives the trainer the flexibility to run the session regardless of the environment in which he's conducting the session. More importantly it reduces the setup requirements for your training and allows you to conveniently forget your laptop and your projector!

Entertainment in Training

Many times i hear observers measuring the success of a training session by the entertainment it provides and really, how entertained they felt. What this often results in, is a session that gets tweaked to provide fun as against great value. To me an activity in a training program must be informational and provide some value to the attendees. A fun activity that doesnt provide enough value is what I call "fun for the sake of fun".

I also like to measure the success of a session based on the following:

  • did the objectives get achieved - fully, partially or not at all?
  • did the students seem engaged?
  • did the session allow for stimulation every 10 minutes or so? (if not, think of redesign to fix this)
  • were there long periods of non-interactive lecture? (if yes, think of redesign to fix this)

Its unfair to evaluate sessions as an outsider without associating yourself with the position of the students. For all you care, a session by design may be intended to be "not entertaining". So for an outsider, the session may seem to be "boring", while it can be extremely engaging for the attendees. To dissociate yourself from the trainees' position and to deem the class as "boring" may sometimes be a tad unfair. To avoid this fundamental attribution error, await feedback from the students to understand if your assumption was indeed true.
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