Monday, July 26, 2010

Cooking and Training

Learning is like cooking short ribs.  You have to go slow and practice a few times before you get it just right.

Anyone who has ever made short ribs knows exactly what I am talking about.  When they are made right they are the tenderest morsels you will ever find - fork tender and almost falling apart in a stiff breeze.  But they only get that way if you cook them for a very long time at a relatively low temperature.  They cannot be rushed.  Turn up the temperature to go faster and you destroy the meat.  And you always have to practice a few times before you get it just the way you want it.

Learning is the same way.  Do this mental exercise:  You are given one hour to teach a total newbie a software package you know well.  How do you design your time together?

What most people do at this point is to begin to list all of the things they think they can cram into one hour.  Which is really a perfect way to accomplish the task "list all of things you can talk about regarding the software in one hour."  But that is not the task.  The perspective is completely wrong - it focuses solely on the performance of the instructor.

The right way to think about this is to list the most important three features of the software.  (Why three?  We will get there in a moment.)  Take the first important feature, design a way in which you will present it, and create an activity where the student has to use this feature in a hands-on environ.  When delivered, this will take most people about 20 minutes to accomplish from start to end (see where the three comes in:?  20 min x 3 = one hour).  Repeat for the other two key tasks.  If you want to be safe and accommodate extra for fast students add one or two more key tasks.

Do you see the difference?  The perspective is completely on the student, not what the instructor can do.

Learning is about the Learner.  Keep it that way and you will be ultimately successful.

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