After a surreal and very early journey to London on Thursday morning (surreal because I had a table, a plug point, no-one sat opposite or beside me, and even at one point, quite a good network connection) I got to the CILIP offices (first time ever) for a training session on using innovative methods in training. The day was being run by Barbara Allan from Hull University Business School. (Her blurb on the CILIP website says “Barbara is Director of Learning and Teaching at the University of Hull Business School and a National Teaching Fellow”). Now I’ve never come across Barbara before but if you stumble across any of her courses – just go – and don’t worry about what subject matter, just book it. She’s a great trainer and you’ll have a really enjoyable and valuable day.

There was a lot of useful information about course design, learning outcomes, using new technologies, (great to see Phil Bradley’s weblog mentioned here), managing interactivity with large groups, contingency planning – a full day! For today’s purposes I’m going to talk about a couple of the ideas which really stood out for me and that I particularly want to try in my training.

One of the top tips of the day for me was actually about a gadget. Which I thought was GEN-I-US. It was called Flipvideo and I’m really confused as to why I’ve never heard of it before. It’s a small handheld camcorder with a USB in it. Press record – video someone speaking – add to your website/VLE/email within minutes. It can be used really effectively for sound bites or podcasts to promote training or services. Barbara said that she gets students to talk about how useful they found the library training and then shows the next cohort what was said.

I was speaking to a delegate called Alan Power, who’s a public librarian for Bucks County Council and he told me that he uses Copac everyday for finding ILL requests. We joked then that I should have recorded him saying it using Flipvideo. It seems to me that this small and pretty low tech device has a huge return on investment. It’s not very expensive, and with very little time and effort you can produce something effective. (Remembering that because of the small and low tech thing, the finished product is slightly rough and ready.)

My other top tip was the use of ‘Stage anchors’ in training. Again I’ve never heard about these before but Barbara explained that she’d been using them with us all day. When she was in her ‘giving us information’ mode, she stood at the front of the room, in the middle, but when she was giving us an activity where we would be working in groups then she would stand off to one side. This meant that we were being given visual cues which reinforced the message of what was expected of us at any given time. They are, apparently, particularly useful with large groups and I think this is a GREAT-little tip. It makes complete sense to me that this helps your students and it seems such a little thing to change about your presentation style.

I was also interested to see that Barbara is using twitter to re-inforce the messages of her training. As a twitter addict (see how I’m refraining from coming up with some sort of ‘down with the kids’ contraction here 😉 ) it’s odd but I’d not even considered using twitter for training. I’ve only thought about using it for informational purposes, so pushing information out, in a ‘marketing the training’ way. I’ve certainly not got my head around how to make this effective in terms of my own training yet.

Especially when you consider that, you can’t be sure all your students will be in the twitterverse (sorry).

Or even, if as many as 1/3 of your class are there.

Hmmm, so you’d have to think of using an alternative at the same time. I can see that you could send a link to the training slides or handouts. However now I reflect on that, that’s just another iteration of pushing information out. Which is really all about how I use twitter myself. I can see with certain types of training you could have top tips and perhaps tweet a tip a day in the style of ‘Remember to backup your work’.

As you can see, I’ve not finished thinking about this yet at all. I’m still working through all of these ideas and the thought that when you’re training you are essentially pushing information out. Which twitter does well.

Rats, did I just come full circle? And hey, bite-sized chunks of learning have always really appealed to me. On the other hand, am I ready for bite-sized to mean 140 characters? Hmmmmmm. Dunno. Definitely something to mull over though.

Anyway it was a good day and Barbara fosters a great atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable sharing their experiences and I felt I learnt a lot from her and from the other delegates.

Oh yeah, and always have post-it notes with you. You can adlib any sort of training activity with post-its.  😉


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