corporate training

How “Fly Swatter Phonics” Can Help Solve Your Next Training Challenge!

My 4-year-old grandson, Jackson, loves kindergarten and loves learning. In fact, I’m honestly amazed at how much he’s learning—and how quickly!

Is it because he’s smart and curious by nature? Yes, I’m happy to say that he is. Does he love learning because he likes his teacher? No doubt. She’s very likeable! Or is there more? Could it be because his teacher is making the job of learning exciting and fun? Bingo!

Here’s an example of what I mean, taken from a recent weekly update.

Dear Parents,

Our “W” week turned out to be a very fun week as it included a brand new game called “Fly Swatter Phonics” (inspired by the season we’re learning about, Spring). The game was played as follows: 3-5 flies (one-vowel words) were placed on the board. Two students were handed fly swatters. I then read aloud one of the words…blending our phonics sounds together. The students were to read the word choices and try to be the first to swat the fly (correct word). Once the fly was squished, two more students were selected and different words were placed on the board, continuing the game until all had a turn. The game was a huge success! On Friday, we played again, except this time I allowed the winner of each round to play a couple more times before sitting down (a modified “Around the World”). And the great part is you can play this at home. You just need 3×5 cards and a fly swatter and your house can be buzzing all weekend long!

The thing that impresses me most about Jackson’s teacher isn’t what she’s teaching, but how she’s teaching it. Through fun, age-appropriate games, she is laying the foundation for a lifetime of learning.

Let the Learning (and Fun) Begin

So what’s the point here? What does a fun little game 4-year-olds play in a kindergarten class have to do with solving the complex training challenges today’s organizations face? I believe it’s the connection between having fun and actually learning. In this blog, and the next, I’ll illustrate, and leave you with a few takeaways.

In his May 3, 2012, blog, colleague David Hutchens shared a very common situation. David wrote: Client X comes to us with a PowerPoint deck of 300 bazillion text-dense slides and says, “This is our old training program. Can you do something with this?”

He’s not kidding! This happened with a longtime client just a few months back. As it turns out, the content driving the training program (and the 300 bazillion slides) had been created by 10 (this is not an exaggeration) different internal committees. Believe me when I say there was nothing fun about the program. However, because we love this kind of challenge, we dove in and sifted through the many layers of overlaps, inconsistencies and redundancies to uncover the content most relevant to the critical learning outcomes. Then we “chunked” (a totally magnificent training term) the content into a flow that people could actually wrap their heads around. The result was a relevant and manageable number of “flies” to swat. The takeaway? If you want to make training fun, keep it relevant and manageable!

While this sounds so obvious, it’s a mistake we see organizations make all too often. Even if “fun” isn’t a direct outcome of your training program, your content needs to be kept to a manageable amount of data and it should be immediately useful on the job.

Come back next week as we continue to explore what 4-year olds (who are learning to read by “swatting flies”) can teach us about solving some very common training challenges.

Author Moves us Closer to the Promise of the iPad

When the iPad was introduced three years ago many in the community wrote about its potential use in corporate training, including me. Since then, many organizations have begun to take advantage of the iPad’s portability, constant connection through WiFi or cellular networks and engaging interactivity to create custom training solutions for their workforce. Unfortunately, the tools to really tap the potential of the iPad were not readily available or accessible to most designers. Training solutions on the iPad meant creating custom apps and that meant hiring programmers to bring the module to life.

Apple recently changed all that. With the introduction of Author and iBooks 2, Apple has opened the door for instructional designers and developers to create rich, engaging, interactive training without the need to learn programming skills or hire a programmer. While Author and iBooks 2 were introduced as Apple’s answer to expensive, heavy, out-of-date-by-the-time-they-ship textbooks for K-12, it can be used for much more.

In case you missed the announcement, Author is a new Mac program for creating highly interactive books and is available for free on the Mac App Store. With a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get interface it allows creators to just drag and drop elements of a book onto the creation screen. Take a Word file of text, add images, movies, Keynote presentations, even interactive 3D animations and Author will automatically create a layout ready for the iPad. It has built in testing features, and makes full use of the iPad’s gestures for zooming, tapping to expand or launch a movie, etc.

It’s easy to imagine a number of elearning modules being adapted for deployment as an iBook 2, which means greater portability, easy reference at the point of need and personalization. In the new iBook format you can easy highlight information and then review it. Imagine a Human Resource Representative, who highlighted key passages of new policies or governmental regulations, being able to quickly and easily reference those noted areas weeks or even months later when a relevant need arises.

I also imagine that sales organizations will be developing product training that can also be used for doing demonstrations for customers.  As new product information is reviewed, the salesperson can highlight those sections most applicable to their particular customers’ needs. Then when on a sales call, just pull up the noted section and tap on the accompanying video to demo it for the customer.

When it was introduced, the iPad was a revolutionary product that eliminated much of the complexity and learning curve involved with using a computer. I believe in time we will see Author and iBooks 2 as the next stage in that revolution that brings the creation of compelling, interactive content to a wide population. And this is just version 1.0. Apple’s history suggests that they have many other capabilities and features in mind that we will see over the next couple of years.

Over 20 years ago desktop publishing software provided affordable tools that allowed almost anyone to create a brochure or newsletter, but that did not do away with the importance of good design skills. Now Apple has introduced tools to allow almost anyone to create an interactive training in the form of an iBook 2, but that won’t do away with the need for good training design skills. Though the tools just became more accessible, effective and engaging training will still rely on great design. Let the award-winning designers at Blueline Simulations help you explore how you might deploy interactive iBooks to meet your organization’s objectives.