Category Archives for Teaching

The Perspectives of 2020

group of people on Zoom

If you think back to New Year's Eve, 2020 (that sweet and innocent time Before the Dawn of Covid), you may remember that the general mood was one of happy expectation.  Individually and collectively, we were hoping for great things from 2020, not least because the number makes us think of having perfect vision and a clear perspective.

Well, be careful what you wish for, as they say.

Now that we're almost halfway through the year, what's clear is that 2020 really IS giving us a new perspective... on just about everything.

Sunglasses on a table, with 20 on one lens and another 20 on the other (as in 20/20 vision)

At the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting last Saturday, we talked about how we can gather data  to look for meaningful patterns in business and society and life.

We discussed how accurate observation of what we see going on around us, and appropriate interpretation of the signals, messages, and lessons implied, can help us forestall problems and avoid crises.

The pandemic is giving us a new perspective by breaking our existing mental schemas-- the patterns we have previously found useful for understanding the world. 

This is a painful thing to go through. We have to let go of comfortable ways of seeing  and doing things, and instead learn to cope with chaos and tolerate complexity in a new reality where the BEST one can hope for is to be able to say, "It's complicated".

At the meeting last week, we talked about  the relationship between taking care of ourselves and taking care of others, at the level of our businesses.

Taking care of our clients and customers can be part of a positive feedback loop that nourishes rather than depletes us.

The Course Design Formula Master Course starts June 16th!

Create an online course that makes a real difference for the people you are here to serve.

The key is to build self-care and rest into our schedules. Although what we do as online educators can't compare with the level of sacrifice being made by front-line workers in hospitals, factories, grocery stores, transit, and emergency services, there is a way in which online educators are on a different kind of front line: 


Online educators are on the front line of helping people learn in the new reality we all face.

 Learning is the process of adapting to one's environment in order to promote survival.

So learning is one of the most important things people can and must do in order to survive and thrive.

At next week's community meeting (on Saturday, May 23rd, 2020) we will explore how one can have a balanced life under these new conditions:

  • Personally, with balance between work and rest
  • Socially, with balance between self and family, one's own needs and community needs
  • Communally, with balance between personal freedom and public good

In a situation where no one has all the answers (and sometimes we feel as if we don't have ANY answers), the important thing, as we've discussed  before, is to ask meaningful questions.  

And once we've asked the important questions,  we can work collaboratively to find answers based on patterns that start to emerge from accurate, meaningful, scientific data.

When we focus on collaboration rather than competition, we recognize that while none of us has THE answer, by co-creating things collaboratively we can allow everyone to contribute their own expertise to find solutions that benefit everyone.

Questions to ask on a community and societal level include:

  • How can we strengthen social capital?
  • How can we make sure everyone has what they need?
  • How can we take care of the very young and the very old?

Questions to ask on a global level include:

  • What is working for people in other countries?
  • What systems can we find globally that we can all learn, from each other?
  • What social structures are working for people (in families, workplaces, and communities) and which are not?

2020 has yanked us all out of our comfort zones and caused us to confront whatever needs strengthening: in ourselves, in our families, in our social and health care and financial systems, our supply chains, and our planet as a whole.

We've been forced to contract into our own spaces, to question everything we do, to ask life-or-death level questions about  going to the grocery store.

If we can tolerate the discomfort of staying outside of our comfort zones long enough to accurately evaluate the data that we are gathering,  the end result will be expanded awareness and improved collaboration and a more sustainable global culture.

So 2020 is giving us the gift of perspective… not an easily won gift.

Through collaboration we can create something that none of us can create on our own. Our role as teachers  is not to have all the answers, but to provide spaces where meaningful questions can be asked and collaborative problem solving can occur.

If we learn to look for the silver lining, while accurately assessing the clouds, the end result can be expanded awareness, improved collaboration, and a more sustainable global culture.

You are invited to contribute your expertise, insight and wisdom at next week's community meeting. I hope to see you there!

Woman struggling to carry a heavy present

Register for the meeting

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 noon Eastern

Many people portrait on a tablet screen

Engaging the senses in online learning

composition of human face and technological elements to serve as background in works on mind, reason, intelligence and imagination

As the world goes through a sudden, enforced global experiment in living online, we've all come face to face with what the online interface can, and can't do well.

The online interface CAN (thankfully) connect us in ways that allow us to interact with each other, conduct many kinds of work, and counteract physical distance with social and emotional closeness.  Thank goodness for all of that!

It's more challenging, though, to get the online interface to give us the rich sensory experience that life in the physical world provides. We can't physically experience taste, smell, or touch through a computer screen. 

But there are things we can do to punch up the sensory richness of online learning activities, to include more of the whole person who is sitting on the other side of the screen.

Plugging more sensory modalities into your online course will help the learning come alive!

Electric plug and power socket as brain organ as symbol of brainstorming, creation, learning process, cognition, perception, success innovation, use your brain

Would you like to learn how to add fun, creative activities to your online course that will make the learning more engaging and interactive for your course participants?  

This Saturday, March 28th, 2020 at 9 AM Pacific/12 Noon Eastern, during our community meeting on Zoom, we'll do a short, fun, interactive exercise that will expand your thinking about the types of activities you can include in your online class.

(I've set the community meeting up as a weekly event for the next several months, but right now we are only talking about the meeting for Saturday, March 28th, 2020 at 9 AM Pacific/12 Noon Eastern.)

Come to the meeting!

many people online in a conference call

Register here to receive the meeting link and password.

In the meantime, if you're eager to get started making your lessons highly motivating and engaging, read chapters 11 and 12 of my book, Course Design Formula: How to Teach Anything to Anyone Online.

Course Design Formula™ Book

We'll also have time at the meeting to discuss any course design issues, challenges, and concerns you are working on.

If there's a topic you'd like to be sure we cover, please email me in advance at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com.

Hope to see you on Saturday.... you can register here!


Three steps to take WHILE presenting instruction

blackboard with drawn checked boxes. Text next to boxes reads: Present the instruction/ Provide guided practice/ promote independent performance

You've warmed up your audience.

You've gotten their attention.

You've told them what they're about to learn, and you've reminded them of their prior related knowledge.  

It's time to start actually teaching....this is the exciting part!

"Actually teaching" is a three-step process, if you want your course participants to actually REMEMBER and be able to use what you teach.

Robert M. Gagné's "nine events of instruction" include not just presenting the instruction, but also providing learners with guided practice in APPLYING what they've just learned, with your direct guidance and help.  And once they can do what you're teaching them to do with your help, the next step is to structure in some way for them to do it on their own.

This three step process takes your learners past the point of passively absorbing YOUR expertise, and helps them begin to internalize and develop their own competencies and skill sets, based on what you have shared with them. 

Create a course that teaches beautifully

Make your online course highly effective and engaging!

We'll show you how.

The next cohort of the Course Design Formula® Master Course launches in June.

Any time you plan to present instruction, it's critical to consider how you will include guided practice, and how you will help your learners implement what you're teaching on their own.

This is what makes the difference between effective teaching and simply exposing people to information.

Over the next three weeks, I'll write blog posts that go into each of these steps in depth:

PRESENT

INSTRUCTION

Present the instruction the way that works best for the specific TYPE of learning the lesson contains. 

What are the different possible types of learning, and how do you know which one your lesson contains? I'll explain  in next week's blog post, so stay tuned!

GUIDED

PRACTICE

Provide ways for your learners to implement the instruction themselves, with your guidance, support, and help.

 This is one of the MOST important things you can do to ensure your instruction really gets learned.

INDEPENDENT

PERFORMANCE

It's not enough to just tell learners to do something...we must build structures into our courses that help them do the right thing, on their own, in the right way...

.. and to demonstrate that they know it, through their own actions.


As you think about content that you want to include in your online course, it's helpful to start brainstorming about how you can help your course participants play an active role in learning the materials... at first with your direct guidance and help, and then on their own. 

If you'd like to learn more about how to do this, check out my book, Course Design Formula: How to Teach Anything to Anyone Online.

If you'd like to talk about it, send me an email to Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com, or join us on Facebook!

Three things to do BEFORE you present instruction

Human Brain Lobes on Blackboard.

Educational theorist and researcher Robert M. Gagné observed skilled teachers in action, and noticed that they followed nine specific steps in order to create effective learning.

He codified these steps and called them "The Nine Events of Instruction".

Let's take a closer look at the three things Gagné  noticed highly effective teachers do, BEFORE they present the new material they want their students to learn.

The first step is: Gain the learner's attention.  (See how I gained YOUR attention by using a different font color and larger text?)

How can you gain your learner's attention before presenting new instruction in your online course? 

Here's a humorous example: an attention-grabbing cat video I  designed as an ice-breaker for a (hypothetical) online piano course for reluctant first-time musicians:

I hope you got a kick out of that video,

and that it got  (and held) your attention!

Here's why it works:

  • It's funny
  • It's short
  • It's unexpected
  • It tunes in to the learner's anxiety and concerns (about being able to learn to play the piano)
  • It's supportive and encouraging
  • It leads directly into the (imaginary) piano lesson to follow
  • Everybody loves cat videos


Notice that this opening video does not actually start teaching how to play the piano. 


Gaining the learner's attention is an introductory step to take BEFORE you present the actual instruction.

What's next? 

The next step is to let your learners know what they will be learning in the instruction that is going to follow.

(You're still not presenting the instruction. 

 You're just TELLING THEM what they are going to learn).

In our imaginary music course, the instructor might say something like "In this lesson, you will learn how to play a simple chord on the piano."

And there's still one MORE thing you need to do before you actually start teaching the material. (Keep reading to find out what it is....)

Grab your learners' attention

with stunning digital workbooks.

It's FAST, EASY, and FREE!


The third step to take before actually presenting the instruction, is to help learners recall anything they already know, that is relevant to what you are about to teach them.  

For example, in our imaginary piano course, the instructor might say, "Remember that yesterday we learned the names of the notes on the piano. In today's lesson, you will learn how to put those notes together to make a pleasing sound called a 'chord'."

Course Design Formula™ Book



If you'd like to learn more about the three steps to take BEFORE you present any new instruction, check out pages 161 to 183 of my book, Course Design Formula: How to Teach Anything to Anyone Online.

I have a mission  for you (should you choose to accept it.... )

Think about a specific lesson that you'd like to teach online, and ask yourself these questions:

Before you begin actually teaching the lesson:

  1. 1
    How will you gain YOUR learners' attention?
  2. 2
    How will you inform them about what you're going to teach?
  3. 3
    How will you help them remember relevant things they already know, that will help them learn what you're about to teach?

I'd love to hear your ideas.

Write to me at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com and let's talk about it!

How to make anything easier to learn

Students Wearing Lighted Mind Reading Helmets

As a student, or just a regular person going about your daily life, have you ever tried to learn how to do something, that was presented as being easy... and you just could not for the life of you figure out how to do it?

As a teacher, parent, or coach, have you ever tried to help someone do something, that seems so simple to you.... only to watch in frustration as they struggled to "get it".. and failed?


Whether you're on the teaching or learning end of the equation, this type of experience happens to everyone, at some point in time. And when it does, it feels puzzling, frustrating, and annoying. 


This (whatever you're trying to teach, or learn) is supposed to be easy! Why can't we (or they) figure it out?

When this happens, the problem is often that we are expecting our learners (or ourselves) to take mental leaps we are not yet ready for. We are expecting ourselves, or others, to be able to run before learning how to walk.


Once you realize that, the solution is surprisingly simple. Keep reading to learn how to fix this annoying problem, FAST!


Learn the Course Design Formula® !

Create courses that are engaging and easy to learn from.

play


Bloom's Taxonomy gives us a way to understand the levels or stages of learning that have to happen, in sequential order, before someone can perform a complex task using concepts or information that are new to them.


The stages of learning are divided into two groups: lower order thinking skills, and higher order thinking skills.

Wh.

lower and higher order thinking skills 1

These skills have to be mastered in step by step order:

  • If you can't REMEMBER what you're supposed to do, nothing else can happen!
  • If you don't UNDERSTAND what you're supposed to do, it all becomes a meaningless jumble
  • If you remember and understand the information, but can't figure out how to APPLY it to your specific situation, you get stuck
  • If you can apply the ideas to your situation, but can't ANALYZE how to adjust and adapt to make it work, everything grinds to a halt
  • If you apply the ideas but then can't EVALUATE whether they worked, you won't know how to proceed
  • BUT... if you can complete all those steps, you are then ready to CREATE something new using the new information you've learned

Think about something you've been trying to learn how to do, or teach someone else how to do, that's been frustrating and hard to grasp. Were you expecting yourself, or others, to use higher order thinking skills before they'd mastered lower skills?

For example: If you ask a learner to write a paper without being sure they remember and understand the subject matter, the paper is not likely to be very good.

If you try to assemble a piece of furniture (create something new) without being able to analyze the instructions to see how they apply to the jumbled mess of parts in front of you, you're likely to end up with .... a jumbled mess of parts.

If you are trying to learn how to dance the salsa, but you can't remember the steps, you won't get very far. But let's say you CAN remember the steps... the way the teacher showed you... but now you have to do them all backwards in order to move with your partner. You'll need to first understand, apply, analyze and evaluate how to reverse the direction you need to move in, before you can create that winning dance routine.

If you're stuck teaching, or learning, something and it feels frustrating, go through each of the stages of Bloom's taxonomy and ask yourself if it's been mastered. If not, go back to that level and get solid on it, before trying to go to the next step.

Let me know how that works for you! I'd love to hear your challenges, reactions, and ideas.

Write to me at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com and let's talk!

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy showing lower and higher order thinking skills: remember/understand/ apply/ analyze/evaluate/create

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy

The 9 Events of Instruction

9 different colored sticky notes on a blackboard

What has to happen in order to actually teach someone something?

If simply exposing people to information is not the same as actually teaching them, how DO we actually teach, especially online?

Educational theorist and researcher Robert M. Gagné studied good teachers in action, and discovered what they were doing that made their teaching effective.

His research revealed that highly effective teachers were following nine specific steps, which he called "The Nine Events of Instruction".

It's hard to remember nine things at a time (the limits of our short term memory make five to seven things the maximum length for easy mental processing).  

So let's break the nine events of instruction down into three groups, each of which only has three things in it that you need to remember at any one time.  (See what I did there? 🤔 💭 💡⁉️)


              

        


In order to teach effectively

in any context

(but especially online):

  • There are 3 things you have to do BEFORE you present the instruction
  • There are 3 things you have to do WHILE you present the instruction
  • There are 3 things you have to do AFTER you present the instruction
One small piece being cut out of a larger pumpkin pie

So that means:

Presenting the instruction  is only ONE of NINE steps needed to teach effectively...

..and if all you are doing is PRESENTING information, you are only doing  A FRACTION of what it takes to effectively TEACH that information.

Here's your main takeaway for today (unfortunately, it's not an actual piece of  pumpkin pie):

In order to teach effectively online (or anywhere, but especially online), there are NINE THINGS you have to do, in the right order.

Presenting the information is only ONE of those nine things.

Next we will talk about the three things you have to do BEFORE you present the instruction, so stay tuned!

hilarious cat dressed in a tie and shirt collar, holding a laptop and decaf as he presents information

Teaching vs. exposing people to information

Sign in page on computer screen. Desktop computer with login form and sign in button. User account. Modern concept. Creative flat design vector illustration

We’ve talked about the difference between being exposed to information (especially online), and actually learning it.

But what about teaching?

What’s the difference between simply presenting information online, and actually teaching it?

You heard right: presenting information is not the same as teaching it.

Just because you’ve said something (using text, video, or audio) doesn’t mean you’ve taught it.

In order to learn new material, people have to go beyond simply being exposed to it.

They have to:

  • focus on it
  • take it in
  •  process it
  •  label it, and
  • store it in long term memory for easy retrieval.

Now wait just a minute”, I hear you saying. “How can I control what someone else does with the information I present online, after I’ve presented it?”

You can’t.

Frustrated teacher standing in front of a chalkboard screaming

Unless you’re teaching online in an academic or corporate setting where learners are required to show up for your course and pass it in order to fulfill a requirement, you have little if any control over whether and how learners consume and process your course material.

As an online course creator working with independent adults, your responsibility for teaching the material ends once you’ve put it out there for people to consume.

So teaching online (as opposed to just exposing people to information) involves putting the material out there for people to consume, in ways that promote learning.

That means you have to present the material in ways that allow your audience to:

  • focus on it
  • take it in
  •  process it
  •  label it, and
  • store it in long term memory for easy retrieval.


In this type of online teaching context, presenting the material is not the first step; it’s the last. If you want to teach online in an effective and engaging way, presenting the material should be the final step in a carefully planned series of steps. That series of steps will guide you in knowing exactly what material to present, and how to present it.

So.. what are the steps you should take in order to present your material online, in order to teach it effectively?

Stay tuned for the next blog post to find out! (Can you stand the suspense? It's a real cliffhanger....)

rock climber hanging on to the edge of a cliff with bare hands (it's a real "cliff-hanger"!)

(If you just can't wait to find out how to teach effectively online, go here.)