On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to do a Webinar called "Social Media for Trainers: A Bag of Tricks" over at the Engage 365 Online Community site. I blogged about the content last week. I had sooo much fun creating and delivering it. And, in looking over the evaluations and reviews, I think the participants did too. I got an email from hosts Chris Uschan and Tony Veroeven who shared some numbers, "We had 190 attend and ask 140 questions in a back channel that looked like Clark Griswald's House at Christmas!"
I had to look up the Clark Griswald reference (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation), but you might be scratching your head wondering what the heck is a back channel? It's a live chat during a workshop or presentation and these days, it mostly taking place on Twitter.
Cliff Atkinson's new book, The Back Channel is a must read for anyone presenting at conferences or planning trainings in age of social media. In fact, we gave away a couple of free copies.
I've been experimenting with integrating social media into instruction for the past five years, so the webinar was a great opportunity to reflect on practice. I covered these three topics:
- Why: Social media integrated into instruction - Pass or Fail?
- What: The art of social instructional design
- How: 6 Tools and Tips
If you didn't have a chance to participate, you'll find the slides, resource materials, and an archived recording over at the webinar wiki. But what's even better is that this wasn't an isolated training, it was part of an new online community called Engage365 which runs on a platform called "Conference 2.0"Engage365, is a place to network and share knowledge about how to integrate the use of social media for events. It has 400 members. The community is hosted by Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer of SocialFish in collaboration with Omnipress
This is a lively community, mostly because of the expertise of people like Maddie, Lindy, and Tony who are skillful community managers. However, the platform offers some excellent social features. It integrates online community discussion forums, structured learning like webinars, content, with participants' social profiles. I like how it aggregate the social ant trails of the community. And, how you click on your "friends" profiles and see their social streams. It isn't a walled garden.
Here's some reflections on the Webinar:
- Overcoming the Strawberry Jam Problem With Social Design
I emphasized the importance of knowing your audience. In the presentation, I showed folks how to easily survey the audience using google forms. However, some webinar platforms have a real-time polling feature, the virtual equivalent of asking people to raise their hands if ... The poll revealed that revealed 40% were beginners/novices and 60% intermediate or experts. We had similar spread for those having experience designing and delivering trainings.
One participant described this as the "strawberry jam" problem that if the training is trying to cover too much content and too many different levels, than it gets spread too thin. From my experience in doing technology trainings, no matter well you describe levels and content, you always get a range of experience, comfort, and skill.
I think you can design around it. How? By having the whole group understand at the beginning that there are different levels and how they might react to the material. Then, I encourage beginners to ask their questions and acknowledge that the content may feel fast-paced - and that's why I've included tutorials on the wiki. For the intermediate users, I put them to work sharing their knowledge. After all, teaching others improves retention and helps consolidates one's own knowledge. Otherwise, more advanced people might get bored or start ask more detailed technical questions. This is where a back channel like Twitter can be really useful.
Since the engage365 platform is very porous, when I tweeted about the webinar, a lot of colleagues joined. And they have lots of wisdom to share, so the backchannel transcript had some gems. I was delighted to see that some of my colleagues were excited to try some of these ideas in their trainings and Kivi Leroux Miller suggested that we do a session at NTC this year called "Online Trainings That Don't Suck," so watch out.
- Social Instructional Design
I think I made up the term "social instructional design" which is how you integrate social media tools into your workshop AND how you plan for engagement during delivery. What I wasn't able to find was any research that spoke to the pros and cons, in a scientific way, of integrating social media into instruction. I was able to find some research and pieces about laptops in the classroom. Know of any?
My own experience as a learner and teacher is that social tools deepen the learning. But it is definitely a matter of personal learning styles and treating your participants as adults who can decide how they learn best. As the instructor, there are clearly benefits - like being able to better read the room, getting really useful insights from participants, and improving your materials.
- Key Instructional Concepts As Tweets
One piece of advice that I learned from Cliff Atkinson's book was to think about your presentation key points as tweets so people can retweet them. The book has a cool worksheet to help you plan these out. It's also good to look at your Twitter transcript so you can see what resonated with participants. Here's a few points that I picked up that I will integrate into the next time I do this:
- Integrating social media into your instructional practice will change how your teach
- Be prepared to improvise more and drop the script if it isn't working with the audience
- Live in a tool for a month, and experiment with only one tool at time
- Learning the tools is like learning a music instrument, start slowly and work up speed and practice
- Don't hold all your questions until the end, take Twitter breaks and allow for questions
- Understand the art of repurposing your materials to save time
There were a lot of questions along the lines of "how much time does this take?" Why create a wiki for each workshop. I remembered some terrific blog posts that Kivi Leroux Miller wrote (here and here) about repurposing content and this definitely applies to instructional materials. All I can say that if you design for repurposing, it takes less time.
When I design a workshop, I start with a simple framework. Why, What, How. The what usually has some sort of grid. For this workshop, it was thinking about the trainer's tasks before, during, and after - and then how social media tool might enhance those tasks.
- The Place for the Nitty-Gritty How To Questions
There are always nitty gritty what button do I click questions or a specific question about whether a tool can do xyz. If you are doing a webinar that is why, what, and little bit of how - there is not time for that. One thing I do is include a list of links to the best how-to and tutorials. It is also good to have people in the back channel who can answer those questions or do a follow up session.
For follow up sessions, these are best designed as "Ask the Expert" or get your questions answers. I love the way NTEN does these sessions. They're done on the phone and chat. An NTEN staff person interviews the expert on a conference call line, while people listen and post questions in the back channel. And then an NTEN moderator in the chat answers the questions or asks them outloud, selecting the questions in a logical order.
I could imagine a two-part session. The why, what, and how and then a second ask the expert session.
Here's a few questions that were posted in the chat during the Webinar:
- What is Beth's delicious user name? (http://delicious.com/kanter)
- Can we get the full site for the twitter statistics? (Yes check here)
- Can you add audio with slideshare? (yes)
- Are the three wiki tools listed free? (yes, pbwiki, wikispaces, and wetpaint have free versions)
- For webinars - do you have a favorite webinar tool? (I use what the host uses. I like webinar software that facilitates learning between participants)
- How do you install the delicious tool to google chrome? (look here)
- Any advice about using Google Wave? (here's info about using it as backchannel)
- Have you ever used a wiki during webinar for interactivity? (once and it was disaster, best to use to supplement discussion in between phone calls)
- Extending the learning
I always ask reflective questions at the end of each training - these are 1) What's one idea you'll put into practice? 2) What's one resource you need to move forward? This is useful to ask just as the training is over, but even richer if you can ask again the next morning after everyone has had a good night's sleep.
Learning gets richer when they marinate. Unfortunately, we don't often have a whole day and half to connect with people we are training. So, here is where social media -- tools like Twitter can help you connect again with your learners.
What are your thoughts about integrating social media into your trainings? What have you learned that works or doesn't work?