Saturday, October 30, 2010

Can You Hear Me Now?

"Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast"
                             -  William Congreve, in The mourning bride, 1697

It's a common phrase, and almost always misquoted.  But I'm not writing about accuracy here, but meaning.  One of the most interesting parts of my position is the ability to audit classes, to view my materials being presented.  I was observing an activity the other day and something was odd about the room.  it took me a few minutes to figure it out, because ti was not something that was there.

It was something that was not.  The room was quiet. 

Most people would consider that a normal classroom, but that struck me as wrong.  Years ago I was teaching a class with Martin Bryant.  Martin has exceptional instructor skills, and the only bad part about Martin in the classroom is that most people will not get to experience him teaching.  I discovered Martin always played music in the classroom during activities. 

I originally thought that might be a distraction, but was surprised to see the contrary.  It had a relaxing effect in some of the people, and real perk up for some more.  And that makes sense if you think about it.  Rooms that are quiet remind us of a library, places to be serious, or even situations that are not pleasant.  But rooms with music evoke mental images of places that are fun.

So I make a point to instruct all of my people, play something fun in the background during breaks and activities.  it will set the right tone for learning.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Getting Through

"This time, it's personal."
                              - Russel Brand, et al

Have you ever finished what you thought was a really great class or day, and one of your customers blindsides you with a question you answered in the first hour.  You want to smack the microphone and say, "Is this thing on?"

Sometimes you just don't get through.  The first instinct of any professional instructor is to think to themselves that this guy is just a few cards short of a deck.  He's on of the dim ones.  He's not the fastest bunny in the forest.  It must be their fault - they simply did not pay attention.

Validating this usually involves some sort of question to the group, carefully worded not to call out the poor guy who answered the question as challenged.  This is where the trainer's worst nightmare begins to unfold (cue the ominous music).  As you pan the room for signs of insight and newly gained intelligence, you get blank stares.  After the longest minute of your life the temperature in the room goes up 15 degrees as you realize you didn't get across to anyone.  No one.  Nada.  Zip.

No one in the room "got it."

You probably presented some information in an abstract method.  Another term for abstract method?  The "who cares" method.

Adults really only learn when they can apply information or skills to their own experiences or can clearly see an advantage in their own lives.  It's like watching Bear Gryllis on Man vs. Wild carve out some bugs from a rotting tree and proclaim the crunchy goodness of protein.  It's interesting, but you really can never see yourself needed that bit of knowledge so in one side of the brain it goes and out the other.

In order for your training programs to be effective they have to force the students to leverage what they learn in some task they need to do.  This comes in the form of discussions, exercises, and other activities where the student can use the information.

Remember the 10 minute rule - if you are talking for more than 10 minutes without an activity you have lost the class.