Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Training Room Set-Up and Technology: Important But Not Everything

 Jack Handey is the author of many Deep Thoughts that were popular on Saturday Night Live and in his books. They are absurd, introspective sounding statements that I find hilarious. One, from the book Deeper Thoughts, by Jack Handey: All New, All Crispy, (Hyperion, NYC, 1993) struck me as being apt for training situations I have encountered recently:

Instead of raising your hand to ask a question in class, how about individual push buttons on each desk? That way, when you want to ask a question, you just push the button and it lights up a corresponding number on a tote board at the front of the class. Then, all the professor has to do is check the lighted number against a master sheet of names and numbers to see who is asking the question.

Think about it a moment.

The desire to look innovative: I have noticed in the last decade or so, that training is often made more complicated than it needs to be, for the sake of appearing innovative.

  • Good technology is overdone or not done effectively.
  • Tables and chairs are dragged all over, even if participants cannot see or hear well, to make the set-up look less like a lecture room.  
  • Masking tape and flip chart pages are used for lists that mean little,
  • Discussions between the students (or student presentations) fill more time that they are worth.

Both the learner and the trainer are distracted because of the efforts. On the other hand, I am also aware that some people who conduct training only know one style: Lecture all day without anything to aid learning, and that is not effective either.

A trainer’s workshop: I attended a workshop for trainers not long ago, in which the participants were straining to find interesting training methods and classroom technology. Most admitted they spent a lot of their own money to enliven their training programs. Many said they often relied on video clips to keep participants interested, and were seeking lists of good videos to use–often without concern for the topic, except in a general sense. The ideas for games, activities, visuals, seating arrangements, tricks and tips that were produced seemed endless!

I was reminded of the training I attended a few years ago where participants were told to write their questions on potatoes and leave them at the front of the room during break. Then, the instructor would toss the potatoes to other students for them to answer.

Yes, that really happened. Since it was a class of raucous people, you can imagine the results! No one wrote serious questions, and, shall we say, the potatoes were not always used appropriately.

Back to the workshop…The trainers said that in spite of the many creative methods they used, it was almost impossible to get and keep the attention of the participants for a half day or full day class.  One trainer said, “They’re fine as long as we’re doing something fun or if they are moving around, talking and working on something at the same time. But, the minute I go back to explaining a vital process, I can tell they are restless and don’t want to sit still. Some of them spend most of their time text messaging while I’m teaching. ” (And these are adult learners who are being paid, I should note.)

Put the focus on learning: Many of my classes are multiple days or a full week, so I can certainly understand the challenges. However, I am convinced that trainers and training coordinators need to focus on learning, not solely on unique classroom experiences–unless those experiences absolutely increase learning. At the same time, managers and supervisors who arrange for training have to also focus on learning, rather than being overly impressed with the bells and whistles of a trainer who leaves many participants smiling, but without any new skills or knowledge or at least new thoughts.

Coming soon: In an upcoming article I am going to discuss some methods trainers (full-time, part-time and now and then) use to keep things moving along and keep students interested–and that genuinely aid learning.  Look for that in the next couple of weeks. If you have ideas or tips, please let me know about them. You know how to contact me!

What must the learners do or be? In the meantime, if you are setting up training or going to conduct training yourself, focus on what the participants in your classes absolutely must leave the classroom prepared to do or be. That is the value of those pesky learning objectives you have heard about. Make those your priority. Training participants may prefer to be entertained or kept busy, rather than thinking or applying learning. However, they are usually there to learn something that is needed for effectiveness at work. Trainers should stop apologizing for training!

If your classroom seating arrangement, PowerPoint, overhead transparency, flip chart, video, visual aid, activity, game or discussion is only designed to make you look like a new-age trainer, but does not better prepare the learner to achieve the objectives, think twice about using them. You will save yourself a lot of preparation time and force yourself to consider your balance between the essentials and the extraneous.

June 24th, 2008 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | one comment