Tag Archives: technology

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite-sized chunk at a time!

Recently I listened to the last CD of the audio book ‘The Elephant to Hollywood’, the latest autobiography from Michael Caine. It was a requested Christmas present and I decided on the audio book rather than the hard copy or Kindle version for a number of reasons.

  • Pink elephantI have hundreds of books and just rarely get the chance to read for pleasure these days (something I have to change);
  • I spend a lot of time in the car or in hotels and at the end of a day’s training my eyes are too tired to read;
  • Michael Caine was reading his own book which was the selling point to me as it would certainly bring it to life;
  • I had previously bought his last audio book (then on tape back in 1993 and enjoyed that one too);

It was something that I listened too in snippets each trip I made a long or short trip. However long the trip, it sped by listening to his distinct tones. I laughed out loud and cried in places. I love driving anyway but looked forward to my longer trips so I could hear more.  Although at time it was clear that he was reading it because at times there was a little less fluidity to the narration, on the whole it was pretty much like listening  to the stories as if being recounted from memory with the help of notes.

When the last CD came to an end I could have listened to it all over again and probably will because as often happens even when listening to the radio, I zone out at times and don’t actually listen to every word.   Maybe some extract of the story sparked a memory or it took me back to one of the films. So the next minute or so the voice just became background noise.

Some weeks after finishing the audio book, I wouldn’t be able to recite it back to you or even give you details of what was said in a particular chapter.  However, certain things will trigger memories of parts of the book and they became clear in my mind again.

Then I began to reflect on my experience and thought how closely it linked to listening to podcasts for learning and what we could use them for.

Firstly, if you are planning on a monologue, I think it’s essential for it to be more along the lines of story-telling.  For example, someone could share a little anecdote about how celebrating a colleague’s birthday in the staff room complete with birthday cake and candles literally sparked a full blown fire evacuation, two fire engines and lots of fire crew.  Yes, folks it did actually happen – I was there – and no it wasn’t me!  Not only would it be an amusing story to tell but something to use as a learning discussion point.

Keep them short.  Even though the audio book took a while to get through it was divided up into CDs and then chapters on each CD.

Separate into topics.  If the podcasts are, say, 20 minutes in total, divide it up into easily digestible chunks.  Not only will it make it easier for the listener to navigate and revisit but it’s quicker to download and manage smaller audio files than larger ones.

Try and go for a more conversational style piece such as an interview or a simple discussion between two or more people.  We tune out to a single voice much more quickly which is why I think I might have ‘zoned’ out at times even though I found Michael Caine’s story-telling fascinating.  Think about why we like listening to the radio.  Afterall, it’s been popular for decades.

Why not go for more of a reporter style podcast.  For example with some creative writing and some keen amateur dramatics people involved you could report on an ‘incident’  where the reporter might have been one of the first at the scene.  Yet another good starting point for a learning discussion.  Here’s an interesting example.  Can you guess what incident the reporter is covering?

A simple briefing:  podcasts could even be used purely to introduce the programme or provide some background behind an initiative.

Really, if you just think about how radio is used, your podcasting world is your oyster and very easy to include in your solutions.  There’s plenty of audio recording software out there.  Try Audacity which is free.  You’ll need to also download Lame with it if you want to convert into MP3 files and it has a really good selection editing tools.

There is a little more to it of course but I’ll explore those at a later date.

 

 

J.R.Hartley who?

I just had to write a little blog post about the new advert for Yellow Pages. Or, rather, Yell.com. Some of the old adverts have seen somewhat of a resurgence lately and wonder whether it’s a little like those comfort foods that have also made a comeback in these days of recession. I hear Arctic roll is back in vogue (yeah I know – beats me too, although I did rather like it as a nipper).

The advert took me back to a grandad-like, kind looking old gent, patiently trudging around all the bookshops looking for ‘fly-fishing’ by J.R. Hartley. (bear with me on this…. ). After a fruitless day, the kind old gentleman returns, forlorn, to his home where his daughter comforts him with kind words, a cup of tea and the Yellow Pages. There they let their fingers do the walking (don’t you just love good advertising?) and finally hit home. The kind old gentleman places and order and they ask for his name “oh yes, my name…. it’s J…. R….. Hartley”

Yes all that from my little grey cells. The power of a really good advertising message – remembered often long after the product has gone.

This evening I saw the ‘remake’. I’ve found it on YouTube for you (no I’m not getting paid by Yell.com) and it made me smile. Where’s this going? Well, it was the soundbite line that struck a chord…”what we do hasn’t changed – just the way we do it”.

For those of you who might know me know I’m a little like a policeman or a doctor in that I’m always ‘on-duty’. That is, I see connections with learning and new technology for learning almost everywhere. This short little advert just made me think how what we do or need to do for effective learning actually doesn’t change. We still need to collaborate, observe, read, listen, apply, reflect and analyse but now we just have different, up-dated, quicker, more efficient tools to do them with.

Ok, ok… here’s the original just for you old nostalgic sentimental readers out there.

Content v Technology

Since the Learning Technologies Conference and Exhibition, there have been some great blog posts pondering on the results and looking to the future. I was also interested in the short Voxpops interviews (Voxpop1, Voxpop2) with a selected few from the event. The question posed to interviewees was “What changes would YOU like to see in L&D for 2011?” I was going to do a short review of what people said in their interviews but instead thought I’d just capture the main points in the Wordle you can see above.

It’s interesting that the advice for L&D is to focus on the learning, the learners, the business goals, performance based.  Surely that shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone and it’s a shame that we needed reminding.  There was a lot of references to the learning being effective.  Quality certainly should be at the heart of developing our staff.  In order to produce quality learning we need to make sure the learning is relevant, learner-centred, bite-sized with plenty of practical application and which can be assessed in a more realistic method that handing out quiz questions no matter how you dress them up.  It’s our responsibility to help people learn to do their jobs well which has a direct effect on the bottom line.  We shouldn’t be teaching them how to pass tests – where’s the learning in that?  Give them work-based projects instead.  Help them feel they are contributing.

At the same time as calling for more effective learning, there was also a call for it to be more efficient and to make use of more online learning.  The danger of taking our effective courses online is we may leave out what makes it effective in the first place.  That’s all the learner-centred stuff.  The conversations, the group work, the feedback, the questioning, the collaboration.  Where will that all go?  So they become efficient but now their ineffective.  Efficient without efficacy actually leads to more inefficiency.  Without good quality learning, people won’t learn well (or at all in some cases).  So what happens?  They make more mistakes in their work and/or have to retrain.  If they retrain using the same ineffective materials as before, what’s going to happen?  Yep – a never ending circle.

What’s encouraging is the recognition that training – the formal stuff – is only  a small part of the development of individuals in the workforce but it’s what happens after they’ve had the formal training that really embeds the learning.  We’ve heard a lot about formal training accounting for only 20% of our knowledge on the job. The rest being attributed to informal learning.  However, there’s a little more to it than that as Clive Shepherd points out in his ‘The New Learning Architect’ but performance support will be the cement that makes the learning stick after the formal events have long past.

What I also found interesting from the Voxpops (considering we were at a the Learning technologies) conference was the low key references to using technology for learning.  Oh yes, there was a whole floor at least dedicated to technology but when speaking to the L&D people not the vendors, there was little emphasis on using new media or more technology in their solutions.  James Clay’s post ‘Focus on the technology or not’ puts it brilliantly.  He says:

… it is vital that practitioners are aware of the potential and availability of technology. When they know what is available and importantly what it is capable of then they can apply technological solutions to their learning problems.

L&D should more than capable of designing an effective solution that meets adult learners’ needs but a more efficient delivery means the more likely it has to include new technologies thus creating a huge skills gap. It’s no longer about content versus technology but about content AND technology. In this media filled world where people are always connected and will find it very difficult to avoid using technology to communicate, work, rest and play we can no longer separate the two. We need to think of the technology as the enabler. L&D really need to become more tech savvy and keep up to date with research. They need to try things out and exercise their creation and innovation muscle. Think about using technology not normally considered a learning tool for a learning activity (see Milo). I know we shouldn’t try and shoe-horn a particular piece of technology into a learning solution just for the sake of it but if people are already using the technology in their working or personal time, isn’t it about time we can help them continue to use them for learning.

To quote again to James’ post:

you have to start from somewhere and by explaining the potential that learning technologies offer, you are starting from a good place that will open minds to future potential and possibilities

Overall, the message I got from listening to the VoxPops was that following a logical blended approach to designing learning solutions in organisations is definitely the way L&D can become more than just the ‘training department’.  L&D can become the cement that holds the organisation together by becoming more cultivators of learning.  Helping learners learn for themselves and providing more performance support.  By increasing their knowledge, understanding and skills in using new media tools for more efficient delivery of learning, L&D will ensure their longevity in the organisation by becoming an integral part of the bricks and mortar.  Organisations will pay a high price if they don’t invest more in their L&D professionals.