January 19, 2007

Trying to design the best training event we can

  It's full... 
  Originally uploaded by manganite.

I've started in earnest at constructing and delivering a set of social media training events in both East Lothian for teachers and managers. The first of these has been a success and I want to build on the successful elements.

My first proper sesh in East Lothian took place on Tuesday night on simple podcasting. Working with 12 teachers (nearly all from the Primary sector, and the course oversubscribed by 200%+) I worked through the aims, from listening to a couple of podcasts (both 'commercial' and done by kids), how to choose a podcast, how to make some simple recordings, mixing and cutting a (hilarious) podcast with one or two partners. We also worked together to find uses for it in our classrooms rightaway.

The discussion and number of noddies on this course was among the most fruitful I've had the pleasure to see and I think this was partly to do with two facts:

The feedback has, in turn, been immensely positive, but why do I think these four factors make for a more successful training course?

Editable handouts are Good

One of the biggest problems I have with many training handouts is their quality, and often the participants will share particular problems in their locations to which one or two more will know the solution. But, from a trainer's point of view, having these technical glitch type problems aired during the training session does two things:

a) it distracts from the fun, exciting thing people came to be informed upon; and
b) it gets people negative about what won't work before they've got enthusiastic enough about the new way of doing things to go and break down the problem for themselves.

Having the opportunity to share their solutions online on a webpage anyone can edit (a wiki) means that this kind of inevitable stress can be somewhat diffused and allow everyone to concentrate on the task in hand. They can even go and edit things straightaway, which we did on Tuesday night.

Share your mobile number
I think it's funny how people won't give out their mobile number. I'm *that* close to putting mine on the blog since I don't think it would get abused and, based on others' experiences, a blogged mobile number helps raise the profile of the organisation you work for. For example, after giving out my mobile number in a meeting on Wednesday I was called yesterday by an influential figure in one of our biggest cities - he wants to get the place using more social media.

But in training sessions, there is a huge benefit for participants in terms of stress-reduction if they are reassured that they can give you a call at any time during the day to ask for help. It makes trying out something new with a class more do-able since the hotline is always there.

Tell people what they can do next
If your training session or keynote is any good at all then people will want to not only learn more about the subject but they will want to learn it with you. Don't expect them to ask, though, you've got to tell them. In East Lothian, as part of the training wiki template, I'm trying to get our ICT trainers to put in 'ads' for their next courses - and to never take a course unless they've got at least one other lined up.

This isn't just brutal marketing. It's a timesaver, too. After every training gig or keynote you will have a couple of people ask for one-on-one help. There's just no way that most of us can do that, so advertising another course will allow you to make that training go a little further and, you never know, they might just / probably will bring along a friend because the first course was so good.

Email is not evil
But it's no good just saying this to them - it's got to be written down somewhere either online or off. I've pushed this point even further by making sure I email all the participants and the administrator in charge of bookings with a follow-up "hope this was useful" email. This is partly because on Tuesday night they made a twilight session a joy to attend, but also because I want them to feel encouraged to go to the wiki, edit it and train up their pals. It's also nice to get a friendly non-spam email of encouragement.

As I'm paid for by LTS all the East Lothian / eduBuzz training materials are Creative Commons Share and Sharealike/Attributable (just got to get the license on there for all to see), so please feel free to copy and paste what's there for your own purposes. We used PBWiki because it looks cool and they've worked really hard to get the WYSIWYG interface, the lack of which I was moaning on about back in November, up and running really nicely (it's best on Firefox). James Byers from Wikispaces got in touch by email to say that they will catch up with better design later this year to match their easy-to-use interface. Why copy and paste and not just use our wiki pages? Well, these pages are for East Lothian teachers and managers to edit in their localised anecdotes and solutions. Your teachers will also want to have their space for their problems, too, so building up your own wiki is desirable all round.


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One question that a lot of people here are focussed on is how to measure the impact on pupil's learning. So, not just course evaluations, but finding out what CPD works.

Now I know that that needs a proper research effort to really pick out what works and what doesn't. But what do you think trainers/CPD designers can do to find out whether their events etc have made a difference?



Just by virtue of having the materials online in a format where people can add their own examples after the event we have some scope for finding this out. Better, though, is if/when the course participants have their own learning blog where we can see day-to-day progress. We did this for the Communicate.06 conference I helped to organise last year. By owning the system used we can track the creation and maintenance (or not) of blogs much easier, and get in touch with individuals if we see they need some support.

hi ewan,
The wiki looks great, should save a bit of time in answering those 'how do I podcast' emails.
eduBuzz seems to be coming along in leaps and bounds.
The creative commons approach looks like being a first for a LA's training material.
Was that driven by LTS, you or East Lothian? Do you think other LAs will follow?

The Creative Commons approach is coming from me but this is the advantage of being in the payroll of two organisations. They say that makes it easy to play one off the other and I guess that's what I'm doing to a certain extent here ;-) Whichever gets the CC idea first will serve as a model that it can be done for the other. Once LTS gets it other LAs might start taking the concept a little more seriously. I think East Lothian will win out on coming through this one first.

Next, I want the MFLE to become CC-ed, starting with the image bank. That'll be the first time LTS would have done this so it might be a bit more tricky with the lawyers.

Definitely going to save this post for my upcoming sessions with local teachers. http://experience.pbwiki.com (mostly in Danish)

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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