Experiential Learning Preconference @ #ala2016

Courtesy Flickr user clarkmaxwell https://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkmaxwell/4958612436/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I have the honor of co-facilitating a pre-conference on Experiential Learning at ALA this summer. My co-facilitator is the supremely talented Dr. Sharon Morris, Director of Library Development and Innovation at the Colorado State Library. May it be of any interest, we’d love to see you there! Here are the deets:

Designing and Facilitating Learning Experiences that Make a Difference: The Power of Active Experiential Learning

When: ALA Preconference, Friday, June 24, 8:30am – 12:00pm
Where: Orlando, Florida (Convention Center, room TBD)
Speakers: Peter Bromberg & Sharon Morris

Description

Are you tired of “Sage on the Stage” presentations and trainings? Have you been to presentation after presentation that didn’t result in anyone –including you –actually doing something different?

That’s because the kind of deep learning that leads to real change happens when we make meaning from our own experience and then design a plan to apply our new understanding to real life situations. Come to this highly engaging program and experience for yourself the power — and fun — of active, experiential learning.

Ticket Prices:

  • LearnRT Member: $120
  • ALA Member: $150
  • Non Member: $200

Not currently a LearnRT member? Join now to save on this event.

Key Links

 

Image Credit: Courtesy Flickr user clarkmaxwell https://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkmaxwell/4958612436/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Want to be healthier, smarter, more creative? Get some sleep!

Sleeping Cat

Courtesy Flickr User thejbird (CC BY 2.0)

I’ve written about the importance of sleep before.  The research suggesting that sleep is vital to our health — physical, psychological, cognitive, and emotional health — could reach from here to the moon and back if you started piling it up.

Here is the latest in a long series of articles that I routinely bookmark: Why You Should Sleep Your Way to the Top.  In the article, Dr. Matthew Walker, neuroscientist and psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley (where he runs a sleep research lab) talks about the relationship between sleep and memory, learning, and emotions.

The whole article, which is in easily-readable interview format, is worth a read. Here are some key excerpts:

I would argue that, if you look at the other main biological drives—things like eating and drinking—it’s fairly clear that the lack of one night of sleep causes detriments to your brain and body that far exceed anything you would see from a lack of food over the same duration of time.  In fact, studies on animals in the 1980’s demonstrated that rats will die as quickly of sleep deprivation as they will from food deprivation. Sleep is that essential.

When you are sleep deprived, the frontal lobe and the amygdala become disconnected, and so you become all emotional gas pedal, without sufficient brake.

Socially appropriate responses and controlled emotional reactions are quintessential for cooperation and interactions with others, so sleep loss has the potential to impact such processes.

[R]esearch has clearly demonstrated that if you restore and normalize sleep in different severe mental health conditions, you can see very significant clinical improvements.

Many of the emotional benefits that sleep provides involve taking the painful sting out of difficult emotional experiences from the day before, or balancing our reactivity to next-day emotional challenges. Sleep even improves our capacity to recognize different and specific types of emotions in people’s faces more accurately.

Sleep before learning is critical; but you also need to sleep after learning, and to take that new information and essentially cement it into the neural architecture of the brain.  More recently, we’ve realized there’s an additional benefit for learning. Sleep is much more intelligent than we have previously considered. It not only takes individual pieces of information and saves them and protects them, but sleep can intelligently cross-link new pieces of information together. As a result, you can start to extract commonalities and develop novel insights into problems that you were having the day before.

We’ve found that sleep will  more than triple  the probability that you’ll figure out [a] hidden rule. Sleep seems to inspire a creative insight into previous problems and challenges we’ve faced.

Sleep seems to support such a remarkable and broad constellation of different functions. Not just the brain; your body also benefits dramatically, your immune health, your metabolic system, your cardiovascular health. Indeed, there is not one major tissue or organ in the brain or body that is not benefited by sleep. 

Simply put, the single most important thing you can do each and every day to reset your brain and body health is to sleep. Once you start to get anything less than about 7 hours of sleep, we can start to measure biological and behavioral changes quite clearly.  People will say, “I can get by on 4 or 5 hours of sleep.” But your subjective opinion of how you’re doing with insufficient sleep is a miserable predictor of objectively how you’re doing with insufficient sleep. Essentially it’s like the drunk driver at the bar picking up his keys after a couple of drinks and saying, “No, no. I think I’m fine; I’m perfectly fine to drive.”

 

Learn More, do Nothing: The Importance of rest and renewal

Would you like to be more creative?  Learn faster?  Super, all you need to do is… Nothing.

Interested?  Read the complete post over at ALA Learning
(also archived below on 3/27/13)

October 9, 2010 update:  Check out Bobbi Newman’s post on the connection between innovation and working less


The New York Times reported this week that researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have found that rats don’t learn from experience until they take a break from the experience.  The break gives them time to process and create persistent memories.  Furthermore, the researchers believe that their findings almost certainly apply to the way humans learn. Uh oh…

Why uh oh?  Because many humans are increasingly connected to our ipads, blackberrys, smartphones, and laptops, keeping our brains engaged continually throughout the day.  And while all of that ubiquitous connectivity offers us the possibility of reaching heretofore unreachable levels of efficiency and productivity it seems that it might come at a price:  The Times reports that “when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas. ”

Having recently started a new job, I can attest to the fact that there’s nothing like a silent drive or a brief nap to process and organize a great deal of new information.  My 45 minute commute home might be the most productive part of my day, as that’s where all of the sense-making is happening.  Strange as it may seem, sleeping has also been incredibly productive as I awake many mornings with a number of ideas synthesized from the previous day’s conversations, observations, and readings.

So as we come to the end of another summer and start getting geared up for the busier days of Fall let’s take a moment to remember:  There might be no better way to learn than by stopping, unplugging, and doing absolutely nothing.

Photo Credit: Simone Ramella via Compfight cc

10 Steps to Promote Learning in Your Conference Presentation

A small meme developed on Twitter yesterday prompted by the following tweet by David Wedamen,  “Just had a GREAT idea from @brandeislibn. Conferences should be built around TEACHING not PRESENTING. Wouldn’t that be something?” (Thanks to Michael Stephens for retweeting and bringing to my attention.)

Alice Yucht built on the idea with her tweet, “how about Conferences should be about LEARNING, not Show-n-Tell ?”,  which got me thinking about how we approach conferences, and conference presentations, in the library profession.  If the goal of the conference is that attendees will learn, what do conference presentations have to look like to achieve that goal?

I believe the goal of presenting should be to a create a change in the listener;  a change of behavior, thinking and/or feeling.  Any good teacher or trainer will tell you that to be effective in creating that change, you must begin with the learning objective(s) in mind, and work backwards from there to design the lesson or the talk.

CONFERENCE PRESENTING: THE CART BEFORE HORSE?

Wedamen’s tweet points out an interesting feature of many library conferences—they seem to be designed around topics that presenters wish to present on, more than they are designed around, or focused on, the learning that participants need.  In too many conference presentations speakers design their talks as core dumps of data, or long, dry recountings of “how we did it good”, without giving enough attention to the key question, “As a result of hearing me speak, people will do/think/feel_________ “(fill in the blank).

The answer to that question is the main organizing principle, the guiding star, of any well-constructed talk.  Leaving out all of the other variables that go into an effective presentation (emotion, humor, pacing, eye contact, vocal variety, body language, visuals, questions, room environment, acoustics, etc.) it is very difficult to have a successful presentation if what constitutes success is a mere afterthought (or worse, if success is constituted by the fact that the speaker got a chance to speak at a conference…)

PUT THAT HORSE BACK!  TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO TO EFFECTIVELY PROMOTE LEARNING WITH YOUR TALK

Courtesy Flickr User: gruenenrw (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  1. Ask, “What do I want them to do, think, and/or feel as a result of hearing this program?” Ask and answer this question before you write one word or create one slide.  The answer to this question is your OBJECTIVE.  Let the objective guide you continually as you construct your presentation, throwing aside anything that does not help achieve the goal of the talk.
     
  2. Share your objectives with the audience at some point during your presentation–preferably during the first few minutes.  If the audience knows what you intend to achieve with the talk it will give them context that will help them make meaning and ground the learning.  It will also help them evaluate whether you have effectively achieved your goal.  Or not.
     
  3. Have a strong opening.The first two minutes of your talk gives you a great opportunity to grab and hold the audience’s attention, but it’s likely that you already have their attention during the first two minutes.  It’s the next 58 that present the challenge!  So what do I mean by a strong opening?  I mean an opening that engages the audience, creates some positive expectation for the rest of the talk, and/or provides a framework for the learning that is about to take place.  Olivia Mitchell, who blogs over at Speaking and Presenting, suggests three possible openings –  Organized Opening, Story Opening, Dramatic Opening — and discusses when/why to use each.
     
  4. Use examples to illustrate your points. For example…  Don’t just say, “Merchandising your collection is good.”  Say, “When we created a ‘recently returned’ display at the front door and displayed them all covers out, 98% of them recirculated within the same day and our circulation stats increased 20%.”  Examples support the learning by attesting to the truth of your message, and also help ground the learning by clarifying and fleshing out your meaning.
     
  5. Use simple, clear, engaging visuals to reinforce your points (or don’t use them at all.)   Good visuals can help you focus the audience’s attention, help them make meaning, and promote future recall, by connecting intellectual ideas with visual representations. As for bullet points… I’m not one of those people that believes bullet points should never be used, but if you use them, do it sparingly, with a  large readable font, and a supporting image (if room permits.)
     
  6. Tell stories. Our brains are actually wired to enjoy stories.  And because stories have the power to simultaneously engage the listener both cognitively AND emotionally, they are highly effective in getting your point across (assuming you know your point–see #1).  And speaking of engaging the listener…
     
  7. Appeal to emotions as well as reason. Unless you are presenting on the planet Vulcan, your audience probably consists of human beings, and research shows that it is our emotions that lead us to act.  If your goal is get listeners to DO SOMETHING, you need to rouse some feeling within them by appealing to their empathy, their self-interest, or some combination of both.  As the Heath Brothers suggest in Made to Stick, you want to appeal, “not only to the people they are right now but also to the people they would like to be.”
     
  8. Practice, Practice, Practice:There is no substitute for practicing your talk, preferably in front of others, to work out the kinks, identify and clarify muddied points, and become comfortable with the material.  When you know your talk cold you will relax, let you personality show, and more easily connect with the audience. You may have noticed that it’s difficult to connect with a presenter who reads his talk in a monotone and seldom glances up from his notes.  Conversely, it is very easy to tune out and start twittering during such a talk.
     
  9. Have a strong closing, and telegraph when it’s coming. You don’t have to bring tears to the audience’s eyes, or bring them to their feet.  But you do need to let them know that you’re wrapping it up, and use the closing as an opportunity to reinforce your goal.  You can do this by simply restating your main points and asserting why/how the listener will benefit by doing what you want them to do. Or you can end with a provocative question (engaging them cognitively), or with a story (engaging them emotionally).  However you choose to close your presentation, use vocal variety and word choice to telegraph that your are concluding so the audience realizes that it is now appropriate to clap wildly.
     
  10. WHAT ARE YOUR IDEAS? I’m leaving #10 blank for suggestions.  What do you do to effectively promote learning in your talks?  What have speakers done that have helped you as a learner/listener?
     

Continuing Education: What We Want v. What We Need

In my day job, one of my core responsibilities is to provide continuing education opportunities to the staff of all 630 libraries (of all types) in South Jersey. My goal is to provide a slate of classes and workshops that will help library staff develop the skills they need to provide excellent library service to their customers. But what skills do they need? There’s the rub.

One of trickiest parts of my job is doing needs assessment. I use the basic tools: evaluation forms, online surveys, etc., but I’ve found that what people tell me they want/need is not always what they sign up for. And more interestingly, I’ve found that classes/workshops that NO ONE asked for are often the ones that fill up immediately and demand repeated encores for the next year or two.

That’s where the fun comes in! The Dylan lyric, “Your debutante just knows what you need, but I know what you want” comes to mind, but in my case it’s the reverse: Library staff tell me what they want (and I schedule it), but sometimes I also give them what they need (even though no one asked for it.)

A perfect example of this is a recent class I scheduled on Web 2.0. I hadn’t heard Web 2.0 mentioned in any of many interactions with library staff, nor on any of the hundreds of workshop evaluation forms I’ve collected where I ask students for future class suggestions. But I had seen Web 2.0 (and Library 2.0) being discussed in many blogs, and the principles seemed highly relevant to the current and future health of library services. So I found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor (oops, Dylan on the brain) a super competent instructor (Sophie Brookover, PopMeister and recent LJ Mover and Shaker) and scheduled a class. It immediately filled up, and we’ve just about filled the encore class scheduled for June from the waiting list alone. Score!

I’ve seen this phenomena before, generally with semi cutting-edge topics. No one asked for blogging classes, but they filled immediately. No one asked for RSS classes. Again, filled. The same with classes on wireless a year or two back. What’s next? (um, that’s not a rhetorical question… someone please tell me what’s next.)

Blog reading, and the ability to track headlines through RSS has given me a keener eye for what’s coming down the pike, and helped me to broaden the scope of classes that I offer. Ever since I started following a few blogs through RSS (Firefox toolbar did it for me) I’ve been better informed and my knowledge and awareness of trends, tools, and timely tips is broader and deeper than ever before. I love the way RSS has made it simple, simple, simple to stay on top of an immense amount of information, not to mention the exponential serendipity of finding one great blog and being led (through blogroll or post) to other great blogs.

Getting back to the question, “What’s next?” I’d like to put that out there to you. What classes or workshops do you want? What do you need? What cutting-edge trend or tool do we need to know about today to give great service to our customers the day after tomorrow? I’d love to hear your thoughts.