Creative Facilitation Using Photos

I had the pleasure of sitting in on Christine Martell’s engaging session at the Brandon-Hall conference last week. While I’ve done facilitation for years, this is one of the most unique approaches I’ve seen in a long time. The topics for sessions can be almost anything and for conferences, she often uses the conference theme as the topic. So for this one, the question to be addressed was “What is Innovation in Learning?”, which was the theme of the conference.

The first exercise was for each individual to answer the question. They had to create their response by selecting images from a pile of specially designed stock photos in order to tell their story.

Once completing their story, they analyzed their approach and shared their stories with the other people at their table. Then, each table had to create a shared story on the same topic. The outcomes were amazingly diverse in approach and visually rich, yet the learning outcomes were incredibly consistent.

Do you have people that need to brainstorm answers to challenging problems? Do they need to get aligned on strategic initiatives? Then this is a great approach. It takes advantage of creativity and design without the hurdles that are often in place for some of the population with sketching or other creative endeavors.

Many more details are available on this session, her blog, and her company. We’re also excited to have her as a member of the VizThink community and one of our facilitators at our upcoming conference in San Francisco. Register today to attend great sessions like this.

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The Death of the Classroom

I just got done giving 3 presentations at the Brandon-Hall Conference. While each of them were different, there were a couple consistent themes. First, I said that the top two most effective (and possibly the only effective) technologies for learning were simulation and performance support. Recent capabilities finally allow us to create powerful simulations and performance support tools that eliminate the need for transfer and provide the information where, when, and how I need it. Second, I stated that as this caught on the traditional classroom should die a slow and painful death.

To me this seemed quite obvious and there seemed to be at least a few heads nodding. Turns out, this may have been one of the most controversial things I’ve said in a long time. I didn’t realize how much personal ownership people felt in the role of the traditional classroom in learning. Certainly, it was meant to be sensational to get people thinking, but it was also intended to propose alternative approaches for learning specifically simulation and performance support.

First a few clarifications…First, when I refer to the “traditional classroom”, I’m talking about stand-and-deliver lectures and presentations. These are no longer effective, and I would argue that they were never effective. Lectures are too far away from the actions and behavior we want to create to ever be effective. Lectures are so far away, we spend time talking about things like session frequency, length, and repetition all of which are approaches to reduce transfer. Simulations and Performance Support both dramatically reduce or completely eliminate the need for transfer.

Second, yes, it’s true, as several astute people pointed out, simulations can be run very effectively in the classroom. So, this is not about the death of the classroom per se as it is the death of the lecture. The rooms will still be needed. The teacher is still essential. What changes is the approach from lecture to experience and the role of the teacher in helping that happen.

Third, when I refer to Performance Support, I’m talking about any on-the-job tool or person that provides knowledge, learning and development that helps the work get done. This could be a job aid, a search engine, a mentor, a coach, a good product design (read Don Norman’s book), a help system, peer-to-peer, or just about anything else that helps a person do their job while they are doing their job.

Notice the consistency between simulation and performance support…the learner is actually doing something. More importantly, they are learning by doing what it is they need to do. I would (maybe just as controversially) posit that if it can’t be taught through simulation or performance support, then it doesn’t need to be learned. Except for academia itself, the only real need for learning is to change actions and behavior. (Note: I don’t want to downplay the importance of learning for learning’s sake, just that in business, our goal for learning is to help people do something and that should be our focus).

Having said all that, there’s one exception, or maybe, better, one addition that I need to add to my rant. The value of getting together, face-to-face, live, in person can never be replaced. No technologies have been able to substitute for that…no chat, e-mail, podcast, blog, video conference, or other communication technology (not even the new “presence” technologies) can ever replace the value of being to face-to-face with friends, family, and colleagues. Many thanks to my friends, colleagues, and other attendees for pointing this out. May we all experience learning through great conversations!

So, maybe it’s not so much about the death of the classroom itself, but the death of the lecture. The technology is finally here to make that happen. Now the question is how do we use the technology for the benefit of people.
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Serious Games Presentation

We’re just minutes away from my presentation on Serious Games: Present and Future. The presentation has been posted as a PDF here. It’s about 2 Meg even with compressed images. Thanks to all of the people who provided examples and pictures for this presentation.

Innovations Outside of Learning

I’m blogging live from the Brandon-Hall’s Innovations in Learning Conference in Santa Clara, CA. I was honored to give the opening address to the pre-conference for over 130 people. My topic was Innovations Outside of Learning: How External Forces Are Changing Our World. In the presentation, I covered the Top 9 non-learning innovations that were impacting learning.

You can check out a PDF of the presentation here. A video version might be available at some point. I’d love to hear your thoughts to see if you agree or what technologies you would add/remove.

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