Trainers Learning: Conferences, Training, and Communities of Learning (Part 2 of 2)

January 15, 2010

A few suggestions for trainer-teacher-learners attending professional conferences as large as those offered by the American Library Association and ASTD (the American Society for Training & Development): draft a schedule of meetings and events you want to attend. Keep it with you as a basic roadmap of what you hope to do. And deviate from it as often as you can.

Having informal communities of learning in place is certainly not a prerequisite for attending conferences, but it certainly helps. The wonderfully fruitful encounters, as mentioned in an earlier posting, can be as numerous as they are unplanned.

One example makes the point: Infopeople webinar presenter Kelli Ham and I, having always worked online together rather than ever meeting face-to-face before traveling to an American Library Association (ALA) conference in 2008, decided to get away from the crowd one night, so drove to a Thai restaurant just on the periphery of where the conference activities were scheduled. We walked into a nondescript pizzeria and found we were the only two people in the place. Within five minutes, three other people came in—one of them being a colleague from the ALA training group (now the ALA Learning Round Table; formerly CLENE)—and the five of us spent the rest of the evening continuing a somewhat raucous conversation on the training-teaching-learning themes we had been exploring ever since arriving at the conference a few days earlier.

It’s all about the sort of continuing collaboration which helps us nurture what already is in place: connections between those of us who are actively involved in ALA, ASTD, and other first-rate organizations. You can’t always plan the sort of community-building and community-nurturing which I’m describing here, and you certainly can’t stop it once the seeds are planted for a process of continuous learning in which everyone is a trainer-teacher-learner. Where every place is a meeting place, a classroom, and a learning lab all at the same time. Where ideas fly faster than they can be captured on paper or in blogs. And where some of them are spreading informally through viral learning—their informal transmission in the form of conversations which continue in other settings, with other interested members of our community. Which, of course, is comprised of anyone who is a trainer-teacher-learner.

N.B.: An earlier version of this article was originally posted on Infoblog.

Viral Learning (Just in Time)

January 15, 2010

Forget about viral marketing, the contemporary version of word-of-mouth promotion combined with Web 2.0 social networking tools.

Let’s popularize a relatively new, rarely encountered phrase—“viral learning”—and acknowledge San Francisco Public Library Access Services Manager Marti Goddard for unintentionally providing an example of how easily we can use this to the benefit of those working in libraries.

The story begins with a lunch Marti and I had. We were talking about articles on the topic of “Training, Story, and PowerPoint”; Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points; and how to make training and learning sticky. I had read both editions of Atkinson’s book, was using the ideas with Infopeople webcast and webinar presenters, and was about to do my first bullet-less PowerPoint presentation. Marti had not read a word of Atkinson’s book, but was intrigued by what she was hearing.

When we met again a week later for lunch, she proudly told me she had tried a bullet-less PowerPoint presentation and was delighted to receive enthusiastic, unsolicited comments about her slides from those who were present—which leads us to the idea of viral learning and how easy it is for anyone working in a library to put it to use. As Marti demonstrated, it is not difficult to informally exchange word-of-mouth descriptions of lessons we have learned so that they are immediately adapted, applied, and shared at the moment of need with others who might repeat the process in a quickly expanding group of learner-trainer-teachers.

This really is no different than the experience I had as a result of taking Michele Mizejewski’s “Web 2.0: A Hands-On Introduction for Library Staff” Infopeople workshop. I knew very little, at that point, about wikis, blogs, or RSS feeds. It wasn’t long before I was using Netvibes and iGoogle to read RSS feeds; writing articles on training and Web. 2.0 for two different blogs; experimenting with a rudimentary form of wikis with colleagues in Canada by using Google Docs; and, most importantly, engaging in viral learning by describing my successes (and failures) to others who might pass this learning-training on to others in our libraries and beyond.

Let the viral learning spread!

N.B.: An earlier version of this article was originally posted on Infoblog.

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