Tuesday, September 16, 2014

POTCert Week 2: Teaching and Learning Online

Going through the material for this week I had the chance to reflect not only on what I usually do in my training and teaching but also why I do it. Two main thoughts persisted.

1- While whatever I do is always guided by Learning Objectives agreed with internal or external clients, I always have one more underlying goal, almost always unwritten, and sometimes never even explicitly agreed, that is for the learners to develop an interest in, and hopefully a passion for continuing to learn beyond any course and have a glimpse of how that can extend to all aspects of their lives.

2-  consequently, when I am choosing learning activities I think effective and relevant, but I also think experiential, lively, fun, thought provoking, connected  among other things. I include a variety that depends on many different factors, I usually end up mixing and matching and combining different types of activities.

Ok so now I think 

when it comes to tools in a f2f (face to face) situation, I have a personal preference for using games and videos (especially humorous training videos) followed by discussions and or reflection. However I know from experience that what I think is the most fun can be the most confusing, frustrating and even boring to some of my trainees. So I learned to be flexible and unattached to the plan, if it's not working at all, I change it to something that can lead to better results (even objectives can be reworked). I realized that the more tools that I know how to use the more flexible I can be. I discovered that being playful and willing to experiment with the tools provides me with many more options and therefore yet more flexibility. 

Yesterday, I watched a plumber working on a pipe in my building. He brought a colleague to help him and both of them initially took out a couple of tools to use. I watched them as they discovered that those tools not only were not working for them in this particular situation but could even have been dangerous. They talked about it and reached out for a different tool then they improvised and used something from the environment around them. I watched them as they changed their mind about what really needed to be done and re-agreeing the goal from simply"fixing that part of the pipe" to adding "maintain the integrity of the rest of the links and not to cause damage to any parts in the process".

Most of my courses are a work in progress. I am always getting feedback from trainees, and colleagues not only about whether results were achieved or not but about the journey there. I am always learning from what seems to work as well as the parts that don't work as expected with a particular group or prove to be annoying to them or to me

Going Online
In front of a walk through tutorial inside a 3D virtual world
It's an environment that I've enjoyed and found exciting since I logged in for the first time in 1997, but that still feels alien and even scary to many. Full of new, expanding, fast changing tools and resources that offer new opportunities and possibilities to do things not possible without the internet, and with them come the need to learn how to use them well and sometimes the frustration of discovering that they too have their limitations. 

A Classroom space near the sea inside a 3D virtual world
A simple example in a language session I can show a short video to a group of people from around the world and literally sit with them in a virtual world to discuss it. One simple limitation is that there is no way to start or stop the video at the exact same time for all of them as they have to do the starting and stopping of their copy of the video that they see. Another example, if we are practicing a language using songs, each participant could record themselves, upload the recording and we play it back or they can sing live but it's almost impossible to have the whole group sing as a chorus due to the delay caused by different internet speeds and I guess the distance. Like in the physical face to face environment, I will have to research the available tools, try them and check the features they offer, learn how to use them and be comfortable with them, mix and match them with other tools to create an effective and fun learning experience. I am still at the beginning and learning.

A friend of mine,  who's one of the best corporate trainers that I've ever watched in action and had the pleasure of working with, once told me that he liked his trainees to like him. I was very surprised and thought it was brave of him to make such a confession. I'd never thought about it that way. I usually feel nervous at the beginning of the course until I feel the trainees starting to relax. Later when I thought about it I realized that apart from the natural human need to feel accepted, I know that if they're comfortable with me and with their colleagues, they'll more readily participate and engage in the learning process. It's definitely easier face to face and online in a synchronous interaction with a small group, but I know it's possible with a big number even asynchronously, it's enough to consider many of the popular self published bloggers and YouTubers who have huge following. They usually create material that is interesting and useful and they they interact with their audience with, what I think is, a genuine friendly manner and interest in helping.

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