Did you know that the human stomach has gastric folds within it that allow it to stretch to contain up to 4 liters of food and fluid? This makes me think of the accordion blinds that hang in my office window.
This is one of many facts I am learning as I study anatomy – a COVID quarantine way to pass my time. Trying to learn something that is totally new and unconnected to my career path or other hobbies has been a fascinating journey. It has given me the opportunity to consider and apply the cognitive and neuroscience research from the perspective of the learner. This, in turn, has led me to create even more ideas to support the learners in my training sessions.
For example, we know from research that making connections between prior and new knowledge improves understanding and retention. Instructors often use analogies to assist learners in making these connections. While helpful, these are instructor-driven rather than learner-driven. Given that not all learners have the same background or personal interests, it has been proven more effective to have the learners create their own connections. Here’s a simple and effective way to do it:
Telling isn't that same as teaching. Participating isn't the same as learning. So pack your session with research-based ideas like this one. Want more? Contact me to discuss how we can customize some professional learning activities for your team.
Tired of hearing “we can’t” or “it’s impossible”? Sick of low expectations and negative mind sets? This winning strategy is a surefire way to make a strong point while also engaging virtual participants in a multi-modality activity.
1. Think of a word or phrase that you would like participants to remove from their discussion or attitude.
2. Direct everyone to grab a piece of scrap paper or sticky note, while you do the same.
3. Ask everyone to write the word or phrase on their scrap. Show a model in your video feed.
4. Direct all who are able to stand up. Once everyone is ready, ask them to crumple the scrap and toss it into the nearest recycling bin.
5. Facilitate as much follow-up discussion as you’d like.
I love simple ideas! If you do, too, check out my book Caffeinated Training Design or contact me at 720-934-1508 to design an idea-packed session for you and your colleagues. Here is a sample of feedback from my latest ATD session:
Learners of all ages like having control over their experiences. While it isn't always possible to give over complete control, we can build in choices that honor their preferences.
One approach is to offer two or more video clips on the same topic. Here's an example of how I did this in a recent virtual session on presentation skills. I found two different clips that addressed the design of instructional slides, lasting approximately the same amount of time. While the clips took very different approaches, the essential message was similar. Then I created a slide with QR codes so that my virtual participants could choose to scan either one.
After enough time passed, I asked participants to summarize their learning in the chat using 5 words or less. I encouraged everyone to look for patterns and we had some open discussion about their thoughts.
You can accomplish the same thing by providing two different links for learners to click but I like the variety of using QR codes and mobile phones. The change of pace helps to keep engagement high.
I'd love to share more ideas with your work team. Contact me to discuss a custom-designed option!
"People who shine from within don't need the spotlight."
This popular saying may apply to many circumstances but falls short in the virtual meeting world. When we have more than six people in a virtual meeting, it can be difficult to identify who is talking so that we can pay attention to their message. Our eyes get distracted by the cat walking across someone's desk, or the person who is clearly checking their phone messages while 'listening.'
Instead of losing everyone's attention and allowing engagement to drop, use the Spotlight tool in your virtual platform. Zoom, Google Meets and Microsoft Teams all have a version (and others probably do, too.) Spotlight will hold a person's video feed in the forefront so that everyone can easily see them while they speak, maximizing the strength of their message with clearer facial expressions and hand gestures.
Here's how easy it is to do in Zoom:
Zoom allows you to Spotlight up to 9 speakers at once. This is very helpful for panel presentations at a large conference.
Little things like this can make a big impact - especially when you combine several of them! For more tips - big and small - contact me to work with your trainers and facilitators.
With all the talk and writing about the Left and the Right over the last few months, the terms were kind of stuck in my head. Lately, I've been trying to be very intentional about turning anything negative into a positive, so I decided to do something with Left and Right that would flip the feeling. Here's how you can do it, too!
During your next virtual training, ask everyone to put their video feed on, stand up and center themselves in the view. Then share one or more statements, directing them to step to the left if they agree or to the right if they disagree. You might make statements specific to your content or more generic ones, such as:
My participants shared that they liked watching their colleagues move from their center position, and even predicted which way they might move! As a presenter, their movement gave me some real-time formative assessment data. Not to mention that movement increase alertness and memory. And the best part - no prep or cost!
I am now scheduling for live online training sessions for 2021. Contact me to explore a customized program for you and your colleagues. Here's some feedback from recent participants in one of my sessions.
The chat feature in platforms like Zoom has become a very popular way to engage participants in responding to questions. Especially helpful with large audiences, it allows everyone to respond without having to spend time waiting for individuals to unmute, ramble on, and then be reminded to mute themselves again. However, these chat responses often reflect lower level thinking and don’t lead to deep learning.
One chat protocol that I have used successfully looks like this (always posted on a slide for clarity):
Always remember to allow some silent think time after sharing the question and before the chat begins. I call this a Purposeful Pause. Depending on the question, I might ask for a 10 to 60 second Purposeful Pause.
When it appears that everyone has answered, except for the select group, I then ask participants in the select group to unmute and share a response to one of the chat comments. If needed, I might call on someone by saying “Trin, would you like to share or pass?” (I find that the initial chat comments are often more thoughtful when those people know that others will be carefully reviewing their comments and selecting one to respond to publicly.)
After the select group has responded, consider taking it a step further by asking anyone in the group to react to the verbal comments. Now we see dialogue among participants that may go a bit deeper. Depending on the conversation, I might wrap up the activity by asking everyone to spend 30 – 60 seconds doing some silent written reflection.
I will share more chat protocols in the future. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments below!
I currently live in the Eastern time zone but am used to traveling across time zones quite regularly. Technology automatically updates my phone and other devices, so there has never been any confusion or missed starts. Now that I am working from home so often with businesses in other time zones, things can get fuzzy. Is it 9:45 or 10:45? Are we returning from lunch at 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00? How much time do I have left in the session?
If you are feeling fuzzy too, here are three simple tips for zooming across time zones.
1. Obtain a small digital clock (travel size works well) and place it on your desk. Set the time zone for wherever the company is located. If all participants are in that time zone, use it as your main clock, and avoid looking at your watch or devices.
2. If participants are attending from a variety of time zones, use phrases such as “we will return from lunch at the top of the hour” or “let’s come back from break at quarter after” rather than mentioning a specific hour.
3. Use a timer app on your computer and share this screen at breaks, showing the time counting down until everyone should return. For Mac users, try an app called TimerByTen. Some platforms include an embedded timer tool, and there are several free online timers.
I was grateful to get Tip #1 from Frank, a colleague with a gift for practical solutions. If you have a practical solution for facilitation and training in the virtual world, please share!
I have two openings left for sessions on Caffeinated Virtual Training Design between now and the new year. Contact me today to discuss how to boost your virtual engagement and keep participants wide awake and learning!
Each new virtual training motivates me to create new ideas, and last week was no different. I facilitated a four-day online session with 145 participants, so I had to have sufficient variety to keep the engagement high throughout. (BTW, it was fantastic!)
Whenever possible, I try to transform an activity I would use in-person to something I can do in the virtual world. Mad Dash is an example of this. During an in-person training, I might hang envelopes on the walls all around the room. Teams will choose a “runner” so that when I say “go” they make a Mad Dash to grab an envelope. Inside the envelopes are a variety of questions or tasks that the team answers or completes. Sometimes I might put a gift certificate, money or a door prize in one of the envelopes.
I'd love to help upskill your training facilitators in virtual engagement strategies. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to discuss ways we can collaborate.
Whether it is the first time meeting someone, with all of the weight of first impressions, or a regular check in with teammates, connection is important. Virtual meetings make it hard to feel as connected as if we were in person. This is even more true when the meeting facilitator or participants are not looking directly into their camera. With all the things on our desks – for me it is two computers, a phone, an iPad, notes, and office supplies - it can be a challenge to remember where to look when speaking with others.
My solution – googly eyes! Or at least, their print equivalent. I used one of my favorite icon sites, www.thenounproject.com, and found a pair of eyes that would be “eye-catching” to me. Then I created a doc with several sets of eyes, all with a bright red arrow next to them. I printed them, laminated them and cut them up. (Don’t have a home laminator? Paper will do just fine.) Using a bit of sticky tack, I adhered one to my computer cover so that it points right at my camera. I’ve offered the others to family and friends that want a friendly reminder to look at the camera.
You can download my sheet of eyes here or easily create your own.
I hesitated to share this idea on my blog. Why? It seems like a very small thing, rather than an idea with big outcomes, an idea that will impact the talent development field in an important way. But then I realized, like many who are much wiser than I, that small things can make a big difference! Enjoy!
Bored with your review strategies, especially in virtual environments? Activities with a game theme boost interest, even in their simplest form. Here’s an easy strategy, grounded in memory research, to mix things up a bit.
Near the end of your session (or chunk of content) show the RETRIEVE slide (download here). Ask participants to set aside their notes and try to retrieve their learning, creating a word that begins with each of the letters R, E, T, etc. After about 30 seconds of silent retrieval, ask participants to share in the chat box.
If you are using Google Slides or some other co-creation platform, you can ask participants to write or type their words onto the slide. Large group? Send them to breakout rooms and ask them to make a copy of the slide before adding their thoughts.
For a variation, pick a word from your own content and edit the slide. Generic alternatives include BEST, ACTION, IDEAS, LEARN, REALIZE, EMPLOY, REFLECT.
High engagement is boosted by novel strategies. My sessions are packed with new ideas! Contact me to learn how easy it is to bring these ideas to your colleagues.
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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