the third rail

moving things forward

Training…1, 2, 3

August 7, 2009 by seanwilliams · 2 Comments · teaching

As summer is winding down educators are going back to school and that means “back to school workshops” for most of us. Recently I sat through a two day session to to learn how to use some new technology in our district.

Yeah, sat through is what I meant to say.


We literally sat…for hours…not touching the new technology we are supposed to start using in a few weeks.

Not talking about how we could use it in our classrooms.

Not putting together ideas to see what the interface was like.

Not making mistakes.

Not getting stuck.

Not helping each other.

Sitting. Watching (some times). Listening (once in a while).

At this point let me say a few things….

The presenters were very well intentioned and most of the crowd didn’t expect anything different from the presentation. Also, the presenters (I am pretty sure) were never trained to present, they are teachers and we asked to do the training. Last and definitely not least, I know I am guilty of “death by powerpoint” and I am not always the dynamic presenter that I want to be.

But I am working on it.

A few things my mentor taught me…

1. There is a huge difference between Androgogy and pedagogy. The whole clapping your hands thing works to adults attention if you have a room of Kindergarten teachers, otherwise don’t try it. Remember – Those are adults (grown-ups) and they need to be treated that way.

2. Everyone learns at their own pace and in their own way. If somebody in your presentation isn’t hanging on your every word it’s probably ok. Let them play, process, work things out. If they are bored give them premission to “unbored” themselves but remind them to check in once in a while. Value and respect their time, they might already “get it”.

3. Almost everyone needs time to actually work/play/mess around with whatever it is you are trying to teach them. You can’t just stand there and show them, let your people participate! I think this goes back to something from the Game of School. Many teachers were successful in a school where they sat in neat rows and “learned” by having someone in the front of the room give them information. While this works somewhat, is it the BEST way to do things?

4. Finally, and this goes back to #1, don’t read your slides to me. We are grown-ups remember, tell me what’s NOT on the slide. Related note: If you say,”OK, this is important” it tells your audience that all the other stuff wasn’t important so they are wondering why you were wasting their time. Just give us the important stuff.

I really don’t mean this to be negative, but do want to bring attention to boring presentations. I honestly think most presenters are doing the best can and as well as they know how to. And I am not a professional presenter by any means. I was lucky to meet someone who taught me a few of these ideas and I want to pass them on.

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Greg

    This clicked for me in a couple ways…
    I’m a techie, not an educator.
    And I do my best to stay away from presentations, because quite honestly, I suck when it comes to presentations.
    Get me in the back of the room, a dark room, with something I understand well, and I can do good. But that is probably an option about 3% of the time. The other 97% of the time – I suck at any kind of presentation.

    When it comes to being on the other side – as the trainee…
    Might that be as unique as the individual, and also dependent on the topic being taught?

    I ask this for a couple reasons…
    When I go to tech training sessions – those 1 week cram courses that I really don’t like, but that’s another story… – they have lecture and labs (i.e. hands on). I hate the hands on piece.
    And I hate it because if I make mistakes, the class time isn’t designed to help me fix those mistakes and learn from them.
    So the result is that I do my best to do what I’m told to do, not make mistakes, and in the end… I haven’t learned what I really need to know – how to go about fixing a problem when one does happen. I actually learn more when the training session doesn’t go as expected, and the teacher has to fix something because of it.

    The second piece that clicked…
    I went to a training session on using the Promethean software and clickers.
    Sat next to Nori.
    The trainer/presenter started to ask questions that needed a clicker response.
    Nori handed it to me.
    It scared me in a way.
    I don’t like to make decisions that quick, and I’m not good at making decisions that quick. So I clicked a button just to be done with it.

    A third thing that came to mind after reading this…
    I was doing an online self-paced tutorial on ethical hacking – the idea being to understand how to know what hackers are doing, and to be able to keep them from doing it.
    The online, self-paced tutorial really wasn’t working for me.
    And I realized… I really need a classroom training for this – I need a lecture type class – something where a hacking attempt is happening right now, and the trainer is dealing with it.

    Hmmm… maybe a new reality tv show?
    I’m being hacked!

    Might it be useful to have a listserv setup so that after you work with things after the class, you can then discuss them with the others that are dealing with the same things?
    I can do that… :-)

  • seanwilliams

    Great ideas Greg, thanks for posting. Lets see….one at a time. you make good points that each training is unique to the material, the trainer, and the person attending. My point is I like to have/attend trainings where I can make mistakes and the person leading it will help get solutions. Of let me flounder on my own (even better) knowing I am not alone.
    I like the second piece-you are not alone. I think there need to be opportunities to participate but wouldn’t expect everyone to every time. Which brings us back to androgogy, you have to let grown ups decide. Well, kids too but that’s another post.
    The last piece is great because we are working on just that at the University. What needs to be taught in classroom? What can be taught via tutorials? We already know that there is no one answer because people are different, but what works best MOST of the time?
    Thanks for your thoughts!

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