Monthly Archives: October 2010

Social Media for Trainers

A review of Jane Bozarth’s new book

If trainers are to secure their futures, it’s important to evolve beyond training and be there where the learners are most comfortable. They need to find out what social media is all about; really all about – not just what they hear in the hyped up media. They need to understand the pros and cons, what they can use it for and above all, try it out for themselves. Jane Bozarth’s Social Media for Trainers is a great place to start. You may also be interested in a previous post where I reviewed an interview Cammy Bean had with Jane on her virtual book tour.

Altough the book concentrates on the most popular of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as general tools such as wikis and blogs, Jane stresses that the tips and ideas can easily be transferred to similar tools such as Yammer and Elgg to mention just two that may be allowed within organisations’ firewall.

The book demystifies these tools in laymans terms. It highlights the advantages and disadvantages of each and when and how we could use them. But what the uninitiated would really find useful is the ‘how to get started’ section. As you read through the wealth of ideas for learning activities within the formal training environment you will also discover how to help your leaners continue their learning back in the workplace with various social media tools. You will also disover a little about other media tools you may not have thought of as learning tools such as TeacherTube and SlideShare. However, as technology evolves quickly, the downside of printed material (as the author points out at the beginning of the book), information can often become out of date at the point of publication. This has happened with Google Wave (a promising collaboration tool) which has since been discontinued.

Unusually, the glossary of terms appears at the beginning of the book and is a perfect place for it to be to prepare you for the read.

The book is more than a bunch of ideas on how to use social media tools in your training. It goes beyond training and how trainers can become part of the ‘spaces in between’ the formal training events to nurture and facilitate learning back in the workplace. It will help trainers help themselves grow and ensure their viability in organisations. But even more than that, it gives trainers an opportunity to try the social media out for themselves.

So if you want to get to grips with starting and keeping the conversations going beyond the training room – read this book.

If you want some tips on how you can persuade others that having conversations is where the learning is at and social media will help them do it – read this book.

Or if you want to start your own personal social media learning journey – read this book and start your own conversation.

Revolution for the Classroom

Is it time to redesign the environment as well as the learning?

My vision of face to face learning events of the future is not a ‘classroom’ but more a social meeting area.  If we are going to embrace the change in learning that has to happen and soon, we should also rethink the environment our learners visit when attend a face to face learning event.

To me, the word classroom conjures up a memory of chairs all in a row.  Sometimes, these chairs may be locked together so we can’t move them.  Some of them have little tables attached.  Have you ever tried to sit at these strange contraptions?  For me they are certainly not comfortable and very restrictive not to mention difficult to adjust my seating or cross my legs.  Then there are those conference chairs.  I have short legs – not too short – I think I’m average height at 5 foot 3 inches but often find that the majority of conference / classroom / training event chairs leave me with legs a-dangle cutting off the circulation.  If I wear my killer heels this is slightly better but then by the end of the day I can’t walk!

The alternative to the rows upon rows of lecture-style layout  in corporate training rooms is the ‘horseshoe’ style with the premise of making the experience much more friendly allowing the trainer more opportunity to become more accessible to their learners and allow learners to see each other, thereby interacting more easily.  A lot better than the first option but the trainer often still stands at the front ‘in charge’.  With the barrier of tables it can be tricky to break down the walls of formality.  I’ve tried pulling a chair round and sitting at the front.  This feels odd but a little less formal.  I’ve tried sitting on the table but then I’m almost on top of some people and a little distant from others.  It’s also uncomfortable (short legs and no circulation again).

If I had my way, I would redisign the environment so it’s no longer like a classroom but an inviting area where learners feel at ease on a range of comfortable chairs and sofas, where the the trainer becomes a facilitator.  There will be coffee tables and any slides are viewed on a flat screen TV from a laptop.  Individuals will have a much more comfortable experience and a more informal approach to learning.  Where computer based activities are required, of course safe ergonomic considerations are needed but I feel this would also benefit from a more informal feel to it.

Considering that with more emphasis these days on blended learning, where we will be using face to face events more appropriately and collaboratively I think it’s time to adapt the environment accordingly.

The future of learning is SatNav!

I don’t always agree with everything Donald Clark has to say but then without debate we wouldn’t question our actions and it would be a boring world indeed. In his recent post (7 tactics for training in a recession) I found myself agreeing more than disagreeing with his thoughts. Of course I wouldn’t dream of paraphrasing so will leave you to read the post yourself.

Donald’s 7 tactics are:
1. Dump daft duplication
2. Last century courses
3. Courses too long
4. Tyranny of time & location
5. Crap evaluation
6. Non-scalable
7. It’s the technology stupid

What really struck a chord for me was his idea of Satnav help for learning.
He says:

“Achieve more with less to optimise limited budgets and time. The world has changed and we can be reactive and get dumped upon, or take it upon ourselves to reshape our own learning landscape. Fast access to learning needs to be available 24×7 at point of need. This is the norm in the real word and it should be the norm in learning. We need to provide Satnav help for learning journeys, not big, thick, fixed atlases. Flexible responses to your organisation’s needs, not fixed, repeated, timetabled courses. Focus on productivity and promise impact, not happy sheets and course passes. Reduce carbon footprint, reduce travel & meeting costs and above all scale – EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY.”

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for tha last two years, it has been abundantly clear that learning and development HAS to change. The way we work and live has changed. We are constantly having to do more with less; find different and creative ways of delivering (and I don’t mean training here). If we need to know something what do we do? We Google it – we ask a question from our wider networks via Twitter, we share our likes, our opinions, our expertise through blogs and harvest from RSS feed readers. When are we likely to do this? At home, on the train, the bus but rarely at work. Why? Because we’re not allowed to. Or, if we are allowed to – we haven’t got a clue how we could harness this collaborative technology. Perhaps it’s because we don’t really understand their value. It doesn’t help when the media, in order to sell stories, write misleading (and even fabricated) headlines.

After all, do we start banning cars because the idiots behind the wheel are irresponsible? No! We all have to learn to drive safely. We undertake tests to prove we are capable. We know rules and the consequences if we break them.

This analogy brings me nicely back to Donald Clark’s SatNav help for learning. Perhaps we should start thinking about how we can help learners learn and continue to learn and support them in their roles. But before we can do that, we need to learn how to drive this new technology properly ourselves. Until we know what they can do, we will never be able to understand how they can be used for learning and collaboration in the workplace. I think this is where L&D can really become indispensible.

Trainers need to be more than trainers concerned only about single events and tick-box exercises to appease the gods and become learning consultants helping others navigate their own learning journeys. Before they can help others they need to help themselves to reduce their own skills gap, open up their minds and try these tools out for themselves – take control of their own development and experiment. I realised very quickly, if I was to survive in the world of learning I would have to embrace new technology. Ok – I’ve always had more than a little interest in how technology could make my working life easier having moved from manual typewriters, to electronic then to the clunky early PCs (oops – giving my age away there!) but I would never describe myself as a techy geek. I guess this continued interest in technological progress helped and I acknowledge that there may be others who are totally disinterested. But just like it’s now almost essential to be able to drive to widen our employability, it will be essential to learn to use these tools to the same end.

There are plenty of resources available out there. Jane Bozarth’s book ‘Social Media for Trainers‘ is one great resource to start with. Keep visiting for a review as well as some extra tips for using new learning technologies. In the meantime – go on – dip your toe into that water – there are plenty of learning technology lifeguards out there to help you (me included).