Month: June 2014

Flip the Learning

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My mind is full! The last 2 days I attended a conference on the flipped classroom. www.techsmith.com/education-flipped-classroom.html It’s a great practice that has already proven to be effective in all levels of education; however, flipping a classroom isn’t as easy as flipping a switch! It takes time and a lot of preparation. Let me paint a picture of what ‘flipping’ might look like in the course of living and learning.

We love traveling (you probably figured that out already!). One of the things I’ve learned about the individuals we travel with is that we all prepare for a trip differently. Let me give you an example. A few years ago we took a trip to Europe that brought us to such amazing

Vernazza's Harbour
Vernazza’s Harbour

places as Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome, Santorini, and Barcelona. Together we decided where we wanted to go for a holiday, and the general mode of travel (flights, trains, hikes, cruise ship…).

Once the dates were decided, some of us took a back seat and simply dreamed of what we would experience. However, two of the guys dedicated hours of research time looking at and planning where we would visit, must see attractions, restaurants, and even the best places to buy certain local products. When we arrived at the destinations, Dennis and Dennis (we named them D ‘n D Travel) were prepped and ready to learn the secrets of the historical wonders we visited. They knew the history, the stories behind the cultural landmarks, and were able to deepen their discoveries by adding their prior knowledge to the in-person experience.

The rest of us still had a fantastic vacation, at times weary from sensory overload, but I feel fairly confident in saying that the two who spent time gaining a base knowledge before going, walked away with even greater appreciation of our experience. Their learning was ‘flipped’…rather than waiting for the travel experience to learn about the culture and attractions, they watched Rick Steeves www.ricksteves.com, did Internet research, talked to others who had visited Europe previously, and even created our personal travel itinerary! They laid the foundation for experiential learning to build on, and helped the rest of us appreciate elements that we may have overlooked.

Back to training and development. My formal teaching context is in post secondary, but I am also involved with training and development in business; this happens in boardrooms, or even in coffee shops! Does this idea of ‘flipped’ apply in those non-traditional settings? I would say so. At the start of the conference participants were reminded to ask a very important question: What should students be doing inside the classroom, and what should they be doing outside the classroom?

With our employees and teams, what T & D can take place on their own through reading, webinars, or on-line courses, and what skills need the face-to-face interaction with a facilitator or trainer? We need to think about the hardest thing (skill, ability…) that will be required of them, and make sure face-to-face time is dedicated to help facilitate that learning. If the learning calls for face-to-face interaction, what learning activity can they do ahead of time so that they come prepared for full engagement?

Let me offer a simple example. You have a team that is experiencing conflict, but is at a loss for how to effectively resolve it. How can ‘flipped’ learning be applied?

  • You invite everyone to a short team building session aimed addressing conflict resolution.
  • One week prior, you send a link describing a conflict resolution process that you have found to be effective, or a YouTube video that demonstrates that process.
  • You ask that everyone take time to look at these resources before coming to the team building session.
  • In the face-to-face time have participants summarize what they read/watched, and then put the process into role-play action, providing examples of conflict areas experienced in the industry.
  • Make the training time long enough for participants to become comfortable with the process, but short enough to make good use of their valuable time.
  • Don’t forget follow-up…close the loop by soliciting feedback on the effectiveness of the whole training experience.
Early Critical Thinking Training
Early Critical Thinking Training

So what has happened here? Your team members learned the ‘theory’ outside of the ‘classroom’, allowing the face-to-face experience to focus on the application of the learning; you ‘flipped’ the training.

Whether you are a teacher or a person tasked with leading a team, training and development is a key element in the growth of your people. Let me challenge you to try something that may be a little bit outside of the box…flip the learning experience!

ps In the previous blog I promised more about self-directed T & D…next time…I just had to blog about this conference when it was fresh on my mind! Oh yes, this was part of my own self-directed learning 🙂 

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The two most important days of your life…

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I saw a basketball camp poster a couple of weeks ago that really got my attention…so much so that I went back yesterday and took a picture of it!

photo poster
http://www.NBCCamps.com

Can you read the caption?

 “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

Think about the impact of this statement; your parent’s life was changed the day you loudly announced your arrival into their world, and your own life was (hopefully) changed the day you found out why your presence in this world has such incredible value!

I always seem to keep coming back to ‘why?’ Such a simple word, but the mysteries it uncovers are endless.

So, once again, what does this have to do with training and development? Everything! In fact, answering your ‘why’, leads to a greater sense of autonomy, and that leads to intentionality in training and development.

I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with a conversation I had with my son around the area of autonomy. Our eldest grand daughter is 10, and she is demonstrating a beautiful aptitude for art; in fact she can get lost in her creations. When a piece is completed she shows it off with great pride and satisfaction. Faith’s life is inevitably going to be in the world of arts, so how can we help with her development and success? By helping her develop autonomy. At this young age she can already describe what she would like to do (granted, this will be fine-tuned over time), so why not work backwards from that end goal? WhatFaith blog pic patterns of behavior, what activities, what mentors, what books, what travel…can Faith be exposed to that will grow and develop this innate talent that is emerging? What questions can we ask her to help her make decisions that will bring her closer to her goals? Can she already be taught that the decisions she makes at various stages of her life regarding activities, studies, healthy living, friendships, values, and so on, will give her a greater sense of mastery and control over what she can achieve? I believe so.

You see, as individuals, self directed training and development is something that each of us needs to take responsibility for, and then act upon. This same process can be applied in the workplace, and in the classroom…more about that in the next blog.

However, for now, you probably don’t remember much about that first ‘most important day’, but perhaps you can reflect on the second most important day of your life…why you were born. What is it that you can do to take responsibility to develop that amazing creation that is you into the person you were put on earth to be?

Hmmm, lots to probe and ponder around that!

‘Watch and Wonder’ or ‘Experience and Engage’?

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In his book Talk Like Ted, Carmine Gallo quotes from Ben Sanders.

“People don’t want to just watch and wonder. They want “to experience, to engage, to endeavor…that’s where the real meat of life is to be found.”

So, are you a ‘watch and wonder’ or an ‘experience and engage’ person? I am totally an experience and engage type…just ask my traveling friends!

This became very evident when we were traveling in Italy. So many things to see, appreciate, explore…and touch! Let’s just say that it was a smart thing for the guardians and curators in the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academia of Fine Arts in Florence) to have a fence around the breath-taking statue of David! I also learned very quickly that touching wax statues in Dublin, frescoes in Pompeii, and Florence, are greatly frowned on…actually forbidden. It’s amazing how body language, tone of voice and volume help an Irish-Canadian, totally English speaking person understand what ‘non toccare‘ means.      http://www.artoffresco.com/03-History/03.7-pompeii/03.7-history-pompeii.htm

So what does this have to do with training and development? More than you may realize.

Think about your employees or students, would you describe them as being watch and wonder, or experience and engage folks? How does that impact the way they learn…how should it then influence the tools and techniques you use for training and developing?

Let’s apply this to a lesson most of us have experienced at some point in our life…learning to ride a bike. Many options are available: read a manual, watch a YouTube video, and listen to someone explain, watch someone demonstrate, or get on a bike and figure it out. Your style of learning could be any one of these, or a combination of techniques. What about other topics like conflict resolution or learning to use a new piece of technology? All the options exist, but already you can identify which would be most effective for you.

Think about a skill that you know your employees or students need to acquire…got something in mind? Great, now take a few minutes and consider all the ways that skill could be taught. Next, think about your audience, how do they learn best? You will probably need to think of a combination of learning activities in order to address everyone, but the results will be well worth the effort.

So what about the way I was ‘encouraged’ to learn that frescoes were not to be touched? I did learn the lesson, but I was publicly reprimanded and embarrassed. Did I already know that I shouldn’t touch? Probably to some degree, but did I fully understand why? Not really.

OK, so hugging Pierce Brosnon's waxed statue may have bent the rules a little!
OK, so hugging Pierce Brosnon’s waxed statue may have bent the rules a little!

I admit that I am a tactile learner, and I also have to admit that I selectively adhere to rules…when they don’t make sense to me! Would my actions have been different if I had received appropriate information before hand? Absolutely! Is this a teaching style engaged in the classroom or workplace? Sadly I have seen and experienced the technique in both places…with devastating effects.

Let me encourage you to become an ‘experience and engage’ facilitator of learning. Next time you have the opportunity to provide a learning experience, think through the how and why, then let the creative juices start to flow!