making learning fun

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

Last week, we started exploring the connection between having fun and actually learning…something my 4-year old grandson does by “swatting flies” as he’s learning to read. A key takeaway from that discussion was to keep your training content relevant and manageable. Otherwise, there’s a good chance the “fun-o-meter” will register pretty low. This week, we’re picking up there.

We often hear clients say something like this: “We rolled out training, but we can’t keep people’s attention. They aren’t engaged. What can you suggest?” Remember the client from last week? The one with the bazillion PowerPoint slides? What we discovered was their training wasn’t connected to people’s everyday work in a real, practical and believable way.

Our suggestion was to rebuild the training to simulate the learner’s real world. We felt it was critical to give people a chance to immediately apply what they were learning in meaningful ways and get immediate feedback at the same time. I’m happy to report that the client loved the idea, we built it, and it was a huge success! People remained engaged the entire time as they practiced “fly swatting” the way they would be doing on the job. The takeaway? If you want to make training fun, engage the learner through realistic practice!

In “Fly Swatter Phonics” the game mechanics were pretty simple. There was a fly swatter, some 3” x 5” cards, a blackboard and a few rules. But it wasn’t the game itself that made the learning fun. It was the fact that my grandson was actively involved in the learning. He wasn’t just a bystander. He was doing something. He was participating. He was making decisions. He was competing, appropriately, with his peers. He was responsible for earning his rewards or watching others earn theirs. These are the things that made it fun. (A fly swatter without purpose is just another fly swatter!)

When our client handed over all of those PowerPoint slides, we knew immediately that we had to find a way to make participants active learners rather than passive ones. We did that through the simulation. We also did it through a self-directed learning visual where, with minimal facilitation, teams navigated themselves through a collection of activities, team discussions, applications and mini-challenges.

Here’s what ‘our client of many slides’ had to say about their new program: “CONGRATULATIONS! The new training was amazing! What an improvement over the old method. Thank you on behalf of all involved. I would be very surprised if there was one person in the room who did not gain from the two days.” The takeaway? If you want to make training fun, involve the learner in the learning!

We at Blueline Simulations believe there’s no good reason—and no good way—for effective learning to be boring or passive. Let us help you swat your biggest training challenges!

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.