This year has really flown by, hasn’t it?

For me, a contributing factor is likely the travel I’ve enjoyed the past few months. In conjunction with client work, I’ve been to Minneapolis; Alexandria, VA; Seattle; Allentown, PA; Atlanta; Washington, DC; and Wilmington, DE…some of these cities more than once. Tucked in the middle was a trip to San Antonio for a family celebration of life and a too-short visit with some friends.

The highlight of the year (so far!) – and my first international client engagement – was a week-long trip to Singapore at the end of May. I had the pleasure of facilitating a three-day workshop for 24 of this new client’s in-house trainers, who came from eight different Asia Pacific countries. I always enjoy leading SME workshops; it is great fun to see the “light bulbs” come on as these folks discover how to increase the effectiveness of the training they lead. I always learn something from participants in workshops I facilitate, and Singapore was no exception! I discovered a lot about learning in other cultures even as I led the group – who spoke English far better than I spoke any of their languages – in exploring how they could make their training more effective. Continue reading →

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If we know that adult learners want active engagement in learning opportunities, why do so many webinar speakers still just “talk at” participants?

Lately I’ve been thinking about what makes webinars successful, for a couple of reasons. In some recent conversations about learning, I’ve heard use of webinars almost tossed aside as a viable learning tool because of their one-way, lecture format. That caused me to do a double-take; I know webinars can and should be very engaging.

As for anything worthwhile, it takes some focused planning and preparation to create a good webinar. It’s easiest to lead a webinar as a lecture…for the presenter. Not so great for the learners, though, when you consider that one of the most basic adult learning principles is that adults want to be active and engaged. As John Medina says in his book Brain Rules, “we don’t pay attention to boring things” (rule #4). Bored learners get busy doing other things, and your webinars suffer as a result.

A while back, I wrote a white paper for a learning technology provider about helping webinar speakers actively engage their participants. As a result of that paper, I led a webinar for the company’s clients and prospects, in which we looked at ways to increase the webinar engagement factor. And we didn’t just talk about the tools; we played with them a bit too! We also used Twitter for conversation before, during, and after the webinar using a specific hashtag.

Meanwhile, what do you think? Do you see a place for one-way webinars? Or do you think the way to go is planning for every webinar to be an engaging learning experience?

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We hear a lot about “innovation” in business…about the need to innovate to hold a competitive edge, for example, or innovate to attract people to our association’s conference year after year. Whatever the reason, we’re always on the lookout for how we can be more innovative in our work.

I’d like to postulate that what we want isn’t innovation…it’s imagination.

Last Friday I wrote about the vision held by the Challenger 7 families and the organization they founded, the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. That got me thinking, in the funny way our brains work, about the role of vision in learning, which led me to recall a blog post I’d read in early January. That post from Jonathan Fields featured JK Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement address, in which she makes a pretty strong case for the power of imagination and failure. A little later in January, Fast Company featured in its daily e-newsletter 13 “radical ideas” for spending $100 million dollars to really save education, a response to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million contribution to the schools and city of Newark, NJ last September.

And then yesterday morning, another article in the Fast Company e-newsletter introduced me to No Right Brain Left Behind, an intriguing 5-day challenge to the creative industries to “concept ideas that can help the creativity crisis happening in U.S. schools today.” One reason for this emphasis, cited in a slide presentation about the project: a lack of creativity in schools and a recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identifying creativity as the “#1 competitive edge for the future.” Continue reading →

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