I was driving over the Golden Gate bridge on my way to Stanford University to attend an International Development conference. I’d driven my little car all the way there from Vancouver with my best friend. We’d loaded up my trunk with brochures from local NGO agencies to give away at the conference.
We were giddy and bubbling over with excitement. We were almost there! The drive had been lovely but long. To pass the time we’d belted out the lyrics to songs I played on my old cassette player, including Annie Lennox’s ‘I need a man.’ Her fast lyrics tripped off the tongue of my friend as she could read the liner notes and follow along. I had a harder time, because I had to keep my eyes on the road and couldn’t read the lyrics in order to learn them.
This was one of my first clues that learning just by listening was going to be a tough haul for me. I needed something to do and to see to get those lyrics more easily into my brain.
Fast forward to today.
I’ve learned a lot about learning over the decades since that conference.
These are all goals for great learning.
We want our participants to be engaged, curious, focused and interested.
We want our content to resonate, apply, make a difference and be relevant.
And we want the learning to be retained, remembered, to stick and hold fast.
All too often though that’s not the case. Learning gets lost, is boring, and doesn’t fit the learner, including their needs and their learning style.
That’s often because we tend to teach how we prefer to learn. Which is great for our learners who have similar styles but it sucks for those that don’t.
So what’s someone who has great content and wants to create powerful learning to do?
Easy peasy. Design your learning content so you learners can see, hear and do.
Your chances of getting and keeping your learners’ attention, engaging them, getting your content into their brains, getting it to stay there and then come out in terms of application, are wayyyyy more likely if you do all three – see, hear and do.
It doesn’t matter what your subject matter is or how long your workshop is, this applies regardless.
Create opportunities for your learners to see, hear and do. These three things are your lucky charm for learning.
And speaking of three, here are three engaging ways to do just that for each of your lucky charms, all of which are online friendly.
- Ride the wave of reflection: give your learners some time to reflect and “do nothing for two minutes” while listening to the sound of waves. Link to a website that lets you do that is below.
- Chime in: have each person claim a particular noise that they use to chime in with their answer when you’re having a competition, like playing a learning game. Check out the resources below for some examples. By the way, this works best when you’re working with a smaller group as it can get too confusing with larger groups.
- Group sounds: Have folks unmute and say hello, good morning etc. in their first language.
- Emoji: have folks put an emoji in the chat that describes how they’re feeling.
- A picture says a 1000 words: ask people to find a picture that represents what they’d do if they won a large sum of money and post it in the chat.
- Alphabet soup: have everyone hold up a sheet of paper with one random letter on it then see how many words can be made from the letters.
- Symbol; invite people to get up, find something that symbolizes ______ (something related to what you’re teaching) and share with the group.
- Stand up and …: start off a workshop by asking folks to stand up if they’re energized, turn around if they’re tired, raise their arms in the air if…. (you get the idea).
- Challenge pass: have participants collaborate to pass a pen around their screen (or teddy bear as in the example below). This works best for smaller groups, otherwise it gets too complicated.
Grab your three lucky charms for powerful learning and make sure you include opportunities for your learners to hear, see and do. Try some of the examples above and let me know how it goes.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead.
- Do nothing for two minutes while listening to the sound of waves.
- Three examples of chime in sounds I made for you.
- This is the true story and transcript of my argument with a BOT, who ends up telling me off. Talk about not feeling seen or heard.
- What’s your preference for learning? Do you learn better by seeing, hearing or doing? Find out here. Then examine your workshops to make sure there are components for each of your lucky charms: see, hear and do
P.S. Interested in other ways to make sure learning is inclusive? Sign up for my ‘Leave no one behind: Four inclusive, accessible steps to teaching workshops.’