Almost a year ago, I got a phone call from James Leventhal who follows me on Twitter. He is Deputy Director for the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and an expert in using social media in a museum setting. He welcomed me to the Bay Area and asked if I would be interested in doing some trainings for the local arts community. I said yes.
James pulled together a group of funding partners and Clay Lord from Theatre Bay Area. One thing led to another and I designed a social media lab for arts organizations. The inspiration was part The Lab Theater a place where you try out contemporary or experimental works before you bring them to the main stage and part peer learning program.
We had space for 25 organizations out of the 100 that applied. The social media lab for arts organizations is a combination of face-to-face workshops, phone calls, and online support via a wiki and Twitter over several months. Participants design and launch a social media experiment that helps them improve their practice and share learning with one another. The last face-to-face session, in fact, is participants sharing the results of their experiments.
We were lucky enough to have a fabulous space for the workshop in the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The space was large enough so we could have small group tables, space for food, and space to do full group and small group moving around exercises. There was also excellent AV support and acoustics. The configuration of the physical space definitely enhances learning.
We were welcomed by directors of two partner organizations, Connie Wolf, Director and CEO for the Contemporary Jewish Museum and Brad Erikson, Executive Director, Theatre Bay Area. Both organizations have demonstrated leadership in embracing social media. Claire Rice, from Theatre Bay Area, was live blogging the whole day and captured their opening remarks.
Here are some reflections on the instructional design:
1. Put Your Learners on the Stage and Hand Them the Mic!
My teaching style has been influenced by constructivism in short - less "sage on the stage" and "more guide on the side" and that learners should be actively involved in their learning process. I don't believe in the expert as one person, but more as a network. I think this style is a better match for social media as well as social media training.
When I deliver content, I will use visual slides (to honor visual learners), but my preference is to also have a wireless mic and remote clicker and involve people in the conversation. I think it makes the experience richer, although some people may feel uncomfortable because they are more used to sitting back and listening to experts speak and not engaging.
You may be wondering why some of the participants are wearing neon gangster hats. For the social media game, I use the pre survey to do a bit of social engineering for the small group work so that each table includes someone with lots of social media expertise as well as someone with marketing expertise. I ask certain questions to help identify these individuals.
Most importantly, I need a good facilitator for each table. So, I ask for volunteers who love leading meetings and making brief presentations. It is always interesting to feel the a little bit of nervousness in the room, but then the leaders raise their hands! These leaders are then given the meeting agenda (game instructions), keep the group on track, and volunteer to report out.
Photo by James Leventhal
In workshops, it is important to have a full group discussion about people's concerns about social media and a discussion about organizational readiness. I have been using human spectra gram, a technique I learned from colleague Allen Gunn from Aspiration. Colleague Kaliya Hamlin has this description. I do agree/disagree to statements like "Social media is a waste of time" or I do a spectra gram based on personal comfort level and whether or not they feel social media is valuable for their organization. I select what I questions I do based on answers in an online pre-survey.
When they are lined up by comfort level, I have been doing a quick poll to see where generations appear along the line. What has been interesting, is that social media comfort does not always play out along generational lines and it was true for the arts organizations in the room.
2. Social Learning: Face-to-Face
Somewhat skeptical about the value of social media.
After hearing a story from a peer.
I do a lot of small group and share pair exercises. It is important to vary your instructional delivery because the human brain -on average - can only concentrate for 12 minutes. Varying the delivery improves retention. With small groups, you, as the instructor, have to give away some control and see what happens.
I tend to bumble-bee around and listen in on selected conversations, but it is important for people to hear from their peers. That has more influence sometimes than an "expert." James Leventhal was sharing a table with two participants from SFGMC who were skeptical about Twitter. James was able to search Twitter and show them a conversation happening online with other choruses about fundraising. (We arranged for wifi in the room and asked participants to bring their laptops). Later I asked them if they were still skeptical and they said not as much and posed for the above shots.
3. The Power of Social Learning: Online and Offline
In every training that I am doing, I incorporate social media in ways that enhance learning and connection between participants in the room as well as those who are not in the room. In other words, how can you make the learning more social before, during, and after the instruction?
Some may think that tweeting during a workshop may take away from learning or paying attention. But for some people, it can actually enhance their learning. If one is comfortable with using Twitter, it forces you to listen for key points and consolidate your insights into a couple of short (140 character) messages.
For this workshop, we had a hashtag - #Artslabsf and the wiki. This helped us bring in people with knowledge who are not in the room. TheatreBayArea did a fantastic job in engaging its members in the learning through social media. They took live notes on their blog and invited others to participate, live tweeting the event, and engaging members on Facebook.
A week before our session, I posted a request to my broader Twitter network for arts and social media examples and asked people to add them to the wiki. That's where I learned about a Twitter hashtag called #2amt - a channel for theatre artistic professionals to discuss their craft and trade and support one another. They were able to join the discussion in our Twitter channel.
I do believe that social media as part of your training can enhance learning, help facilitate social learning. I'm interested in learning how to do this better, take it deeper, and perhaps begin to measure it. I would welcome your thoughts on how to do that.
Somethings to improve ...
There is plenty that I need to improve. Here's a few thoughts.
(1) Social Media Game: I have used the the social media game at over 50 trainings during the past four years and many others have re-purposed and remixed it too. Every 4-6 six months, I blow up the game and start from scratch. This month I piloted a brand new version of it.
- Give the new version of the people cards a joyful funeral if doing the game as part of the social media lab and there isn't enough time to cover the content. I created a nonprofit version of Charelene Li's Social Graphics Framework. Because of limited time, I did not cover these ideas as a full group, although the basic information was on the printed materials and the cards. It is an advanced concept and it was difficult for this group to learn from discussing the information on the cards and print handouts.
- Composite simulations work best, but there is value to the full report out. I've experimented with using the game as a peer assist, fictional situations, and having groups make up a scenario. What seems to work best are some composite scenarios based on the assessment form that groups fill out before the workshop. The scenarios clearly outline the social media objective and audience definition. In half-day workshop (4-5 hours), I give more time for reports for each group. With a larger group like this, it wasn't possible, although it may be possible to create a mechanism for each group to capture and document what they discussed so it can be shared.
(2) Capturing the Energy in the Room: Part of the design is for each organization to implement a low-risk, thoughtful social media experiment that helps improve practice. Based on the assessment of the group before the first workshop, I selected two different experiments (Twitter and Listening). While it might be ideal to have participants select any experiment they want, that would have been a larger scope of work and I was concerned the learning would be lost.
I'm still trying to refine a method on how to best help participants make the leap from the strategy brainstorm and learning about the different options for tools to honing in a focused experiment to implement in between sessions. The morning is high energy, but when we get to the afternoon and focusing in on the experiments there is a need for better connection. The modules for the experiments include online tutorials, a worksheet that asks them to plan and implement their experiment, and the check-ins in between now and June.
I think that it is impossible for everyone to leave the first session with an experiment fully planned without a lot front-end one-on-one consults or to break up the face-to-face workshops into two different half-day sessions (strategy/tactics) with time for people absorb in between. This would have increased the scope of the project, of course.
Right now the goal is to have participants identify the experiment they want to do, think about it, and have questions ready for our first phone call. The real learning is going to happen on the phone calls and stewarding the group. And, of course, at the end, when participants share the results of their experiments.
I'm working on two social media labs right now, this one for arts organizations and another for Packard grantees. I expect to learn a lot about to design effective peer learning that incorporates social media.