Are we delusional? [my observations from a recent training]

I am so excited. I received an invitation to attend Youtube training, and I’ve been told that it’s a big deal, as it’s the first Popup Youtube Space in Australia. There will be creators from all over Australia and New Zealand. The event is ‘invite-only’, and it should be cutting-edge.

I sign up for both Saturday and Sunday, reschedule my weekend plans, and rush to Australian Film and Radio School in Moore Park.

sign moore park

An hour and a half in the first training, and I am ready to crawl under the chair and cry.

The training consists of a Powerpoint presentation structured around general topics. It is filled with technical details. It’s boring and de-contextualized.

The presenter talks and talks and talks and talks…and talks. Despite my best intentions, I find myself fading off and stop caring (get me out of here!).

I learn more from lunchtime chats with other participants than from the 09:00-17:00 ‘lecture’ (sorry, workshop).

Youtube space

Since I have already cancelled my weekend plans, I reluctantly make my way to Moore Park again next day. At the very least, I’ll network with other creators. And… it’s a completely different experience.

The second day is active, relevant and energising. It makes me want to go and get things done (yay!). It inspires me, and it leaves me with clear ‘actionables’.

What was so different about the second day?

Instead of being ‘talked at’, we are asked to form groups, pick a channel to improve, and get down to work. It is truly active learning when a presenter provides a structure with a series of tasks and reflection questions, but leaves it up to participants to research and do the work. We talk, we bounce ideas off each other, and we learn.

wall

I walk away reflecting: why is it that even companies like Google that invest so many resources in events like Youtube Space do not always get it right?

Why was the first day so hopelessly ‘content- centered’ with a presenter ‘owning the stage’ and participants losing the will to live, while the second day was active and energising?

I guess a lot depends on a particular instructor. Some instructors just can’t get out of an entrenched, deeply rooted habit of structuring everything around content. They seem to view their job as ‘passing the knowledge’ and telling people ‘useful information’.

The problem is: talking at people is no longer viable. We live in the age of Google and easily available information. Information is everywhere. It’s cheap. It’s abundant. We can find details on pretty much anything in a minute if we know what to search for and where to search for it.

We know that educators should adapt, and we have been talking  about being a ‘facilitator’, not a ‘lecturer’ for decades..

Why is it then that I’ve also seen so many educators who, while agreeing with the ‘facilitation’ idea intellectually, keep being ‘sages on stages’? Is it human nature to fall back on ‘tried and tested’ ways of doing things?

The presenter from the first day of my training seems to have been exactly from that category of instructors. He started the workshop saying that he’s “an educator, not a teacher” and that his mission is to help us learn..” and proceeded to talk at us for the whole day….

Misguided? Out of touch with what he actually does ? How many colleagues are like him? Are you like that? Am I like that? How many of us truly believe that we do one thing, and we do something else?

Walking away from those two days made me realise that it is indeed important that we look critically at our teaching and do regular reality checks of whether actions align with what we advocate.

I know that self-awareness, reflections, peer-observations are often seen as ‘fluffy’ and ‘nice-to-have’ concepts and get pushed down our priority list when research and other demands get on top of us…But how can we break away from the ‘death by Powerpoint’ otherwise?

Do share your thoughts below!

11 thoughts on “Are we delusional? [my observations from a recent training]”

  1. Nice write-up Olga!

    I’m curious: was it a different presenter (or a different set of presenters) on the second day? Also, did you later get to talk to other attendees and did they feel the same way as you did about the first day?

    1. Thanks, Arun. It was indeed a different presenter the next day, and, yes, other attendees seemed to have shared my feelings. Many ‘voted with their feet’ and left the first day. I’ve actually talked to Youtube organizers at the end of the second day, and gave them my feedback. They seemed to have taken it on board.

      1. Cool =) I asked the second question thinking “maybe the main audience actually wanted/expected that ceaseless spew of content?” — but it seems like they audience did not want this at all.

  2. Hi Olga, great write up. We need to move on to more active learning and engagement. Reading PowerPoint is not viable any longer and students are voting with their feet.

  3. Hi Olga, that was a great read – made me reflect about what I do. I love active learning too so try to add that to my classes even with EndNote training!

  4. Excellent post, Olga!

    It is awful to be talked at for an hour, let alone a whole day. Well done for sticking it out and getting to the good stuff the next day.

    The idea of ‘passing on knowledge’ is still default in education, almost as if people feel their not teaching anything if they don’t tell the students the information. I worked on a project redesign where the content was heavy, 2 hour, powerpoint driven lecture, followed by a 1 hour tutorial where students where asked questions based on the lecture from the previous week. Looking around the students were not engaged at all. I think a curiosity driver, scenario or problem that students solve, come back and share can make an active learning experience that replaces ‘talking transmission of knowledge’.

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