Episode 47 – Learning Emergencies

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It’s April 2020 at the time of this recording. Learning has changed almost over night for quite a few people. For some of us, it is business as usual because we’ve been involved in the online learning world for a while. It’s important to remember this – you can learn how to navigate in this world of technology. And, you must learn it to remain relevant in the world of work. Regardless of your role – help desk, learning technologist, manager, leader, teacher, or parent – this is now a required skill to succeed going forward.

Though I used the phrase “learning emergencies” in the past to describe situations where we blew learning moments out of proportion, it is now relevant to our times.

And, no excuses about your age. Find out what my grandfather learned at 93 years old in this episode.

Episode 47 Show Notes

Episode 47 Transcript

This is Rebecca Clark. Episode 47 Learning Emergencies This podcast is for anyone that knows they haven’t yet found and offered up their best work, but are compelled to seek it out and do it. Are you ready to move your desk? Very lucky in many areas of my life, and one of the ways I’ve been lucky is that I have known all four of my grandparent’s throughout my life. And I even met one or maybe two of my great grand parents. And one of my sets of grand parents died over 20 years ago, and they were both in their eighties.

And then my father’s parents have been alive within the last 10 years and my grandfather still alive. But my grandmother died about six or seven years ago. My grandfather is someone who loved to travel the Earth literally. He traveled around the world. In fact, he got caught in Australia when he was in his nineties, because after she died, he decided he wanted to go make sure he could see friends in different parts of the world for the last time, and he got sick and he was stuck over there for a month or two.

But one of the interesting things that happened after my grandmother died a. Suddenly he became very interested in having freedom because the last couple years of her life he had to attend to our a lot. He couldn’t take the trips he had taken before, and he wanted that freedom even though he was in his nineties. And so even though many people had asked him to get a cell phone before, it wasn’t until she passed away that he suddenly became motivated to have a cell phone and to use it.

And when the funeral was done and we sat around and shared a lot of family stories, he expressed an interest in getting a cell phone and learning how to use it. And I was staying at his home at that time, and so I was the person that ended up going to Wal Mart with him, helping him pick out a flip phone and then creating a set of directions for him to use and making sure they were so simple and making sure that we practiced so he would be in the living room.

I would go in the dining room and we’d practice calling each other. I went outside, he would call me, we’d practice. And then when I flew home after that experience, I would call him every couple of days to check in to make sure he still know how to use it. And then, you know, it changed to maybe once or twice a month. And then it went toe once a month and from there kind of got more sporadic until he couldn’t really hear very well on the phone.

And it was also a phone that had minutes that you would purchase. And he learned how to do that, actually, which I don’t know, because I went straight from a BlackBerry to an iPhone years ago, and I tend to make sure I have unlimited data, and so I don’t have to go through that process. So he figured it out somehow and was able to use this cell phone, and it was a very interesting experience to go through to show that we could learn how to use technology at any age.

It was all based upon the motivation we had within toe learn, and at his point of need, he suddenly was willing to learn and was able to do so fairly quickly with very little practice. And I share that story because there are a lot of people right now that are experiencing learning in a different way than they’ve ever learned in their life. And I think that some of us who are early adopters of learning online and using technology have a wonderful opportunity to share what we know to those that are interested right now for their particular needs.

Now, over 10 years ago, I was involved in production management of a lot of online courses, and these could be called online distance learning E learning. You’ll hear it under different names, and those of us in the training and development world get really technical, saying things air synchronous learning or a synchronous learning when we’re describing whether people are online with someone live, or if they’re just going in on their own time and learning at their own pace, reading, watching videos, participating in discussion boards, whatever and why I was in that mode of managing the production of all of these products.

I got an out of office message one day from one of my peers, and it was amazing because I wish I still had it, but I don’t want to divulge who it was. But it said, I’m out of the office today. If you need to get a hold of me, Here’s my phone number, and if it’s really urgent, here’s my husband’s phone number. Here’s his email address. Here’s my home email address and it just felt like it was listing all of these points of contact for someone that was just gonna be out of the office for the day.

And their job wasn’t necessarily in charge of anything urgent. They had to think about strategic design, but they were not actually on the production teams trying to get things out the door for the government, for government clients or for any contractor. And I remember when I read it, I had this moment where I just sat back and I ended up laughing because I said something to the effect of in my mind my word. This isn’t in the emergency room like, why are they acting like this? Is a learning emergency?

And from that point forward, whenever things took on so much importance in the field of training and development, that I was working in. I would say, Is this a learning emergency? Because at that moment in time, it kind of helped me sit back and hopefully the others that I was talking to and say Wait a second, Are we in the emergency room here or are we working on a product that is helpful for people? But it is not a life and death situation in the way that an emergency room would be.

So it’s ironic that we’re living in a time where learning is requiring us to avoid emergency situations to our help, while also requiring us to rapidly triage what’s important toe learn right now, what will have to wait to learn or do and what constraints are a forcing function for us to look differently at possibilities and in the situation that we’re in as we move forward now. Before I left my job last year, that’s in 2019. I had an interesting experience. Our organization had hundreds of self paced online learning products.

It also had hundreds of classroom courses and it had a few where it was virtual instructors, right through platforms like black four door can va or It’s canvas. Sorry canvas, a different product. So we had a handful of those, but the organization decided, Whoa. Oh, to prepare for the future, we’re going to need to have more of these instructor led courses in the future. And so they’re starting the process of getting into that planning but hadn’t quite gotten all the way there. And during this time, where is very slow shifting?

All of a sudden, there started being request to deliver some training in this way, using ah WebEx or a go to meeting or resume and situations where they weren’t just online. But they’re in the classroom with some people that were virtual and online and their special skills required for those kinds of situations. They seem easy on the surface, but there’s some logistics. There’s technology. There’s basic social graces that are involved that if you haven’t been through it, you won’t think about, and that’s okay. But once someone has been through it and knows to think about it, it’s important to include that in the planning process.

So there’s this big one day important event where there’s people coming from the Pentagon. There’s people coming from Department of Defense there’s instructional designers, there’s leadership that knows learning strategies. And they’re having this full day strategy session on how to deliver this content to a workforce of people that need to know how to do certain things and to do them well. In fact, they think they were talking about an entire badging and certification process, which is a topic for a different episode. But some people would be there in the classroom and some people would be virtual and there would be slides showing on the screen.

And those slides should be showing on the computer as well and be viewed through a virtual tool, which in that case was either go to meeting or WebEx don’t remember. Doesn’t matter. They’re kind of the same. And they got their day started. And in a series of unfortunate events I t support was not available, and neither were the learning technologist. Everyone was busy. There were so many things going on in so many expectations, and it was left to one assistant who had had training once or twice to somehow orchestrate this whole situation.

Well, I have enough experience to realize that I should probably go check up on this sense since I had spoken to the assistant and our team was all about learning technologies, right. But everybody was busy managing other meetings, managing other systems and that kind of thing. So I thought, I’ll I’ll walk over and check in, be some moral support, help with a little trouble shooting, and then I will go back to my job. Within the 1st 5 minutes of helping, I could tell that this was not going to go the way that anyone planned.

Hey, and the reason why is there so many nuanced things going on in that room with a conference phone on one side of the room and a couple laptops on the other side and showing it on the screen and the one showing it on the screen couldn’t be the one that was showing it to the people in the virtual meeting. And the people that had to help out hadn’t used the tools enough and couldn’t troubleshoot everything at that moment, and they were getting very stressed. So I come in, plop myself down and literally within a few minutes before the actual meeting started, I figured it out right because I should be able to figure that out.

That’s part of my expertise. And so what happened is I figured it out and then stayed for an hour and then two hours and then three hours. And then it was lunch and in the middle of being asked questions from someone about who wanted what sandwiches ordered from the place over lunch, I had to also coordinate feedback from people that were virtual get that information to the live instructor in between moments that he was teaching and then go back and make sure that I maneuvered the two or three laptops that helped broad cats.

This to the people in the room and the people virtual some kind. Co workers in the class thanked me publicly and that experience and said, You may think that the woman sitting behind those computers is one of the people from the help desk. But she’s actually the director of the Learning Technologies Group sitting here helping us today. I will tell you that that day was very important for me because sometimes when you were in a director roll or a manager role or another leadership role, you can forget how the people reporting to you roll up their sleeves on a daily basis and troubleshoot problems in the workplace.

And it was kind of a mini mind blowing reminder to me that first I had skills. Thank goodness, right that what I knew how to do was valuable two people right then when it was needed, and that when different moments came up in the presentation or during the day, I was easily able to switch out information and take care of it because I had learned technology in the past, and I had bothered to learn the skills in experiences where I was being taught where where I had to lead, and those became suddenly very valuable.

In that moment. It also increased my empathy for those working through these situations on a daily basis at a level different than I was operating at, and reminded me that it was important to take to my leadership how we were unprepared to handle and manage these types of learning experiences in the future, and possibly to point out that maybe we don’t want to handle them like that, because if we’re trying to broadcast in a classroom and online at the same time, it makes it very difficult for the instructor to provide him meaningful experience to everyone in the experience.

And likewise, the students that are in the classroom may not be seeing the chat going on online. And the students virtual won’t be getting the nuanced facial expressions and social interactions that are happening in the physical space. And so I am so grateful for that day and I had to e mail everyone that day and say, I must clear my schedule. This has suddenly become the most important thing for me to offer help with today, and there were other people in the room that were fully capable of doing it.

I know there were two or three that were, but they were participants in the learning experience and in the brain stormy experience that was taking place. And if they were to help with what I was helping with, they would not have been able to offer up their knowledge and experience and expertise to those people in the room and so very powerful experience for me to have, as I was walking off the job and meaningful also because now I am my own I T department. I am my own help desk.

I am my own sales, marketing, training, leadership management person, right? I haven’t built out my own team yet, and so I am rolling up my sleeves and doing all this type of troubleshooting. This is what all of us have suddenly become called to do. Like it or not, online learning is part of your future, So why not like it? And why not learn how to do it at an individual level and instructor perspective? From a manager perspective and from a leader perspective, it may have not been popular at the time.

But whenever my opinion was asked about what we needed in certain leadership roles over the years, I’d say it’s very important that they understand technology and really important that they understand how it can be used for learning. Because that’s what our business waas and so often they’re people that are put in leadership roles now that don’t know technology and haven’t bothered to learn cause like, well, I need to be a great leader. Well, it’s 2020. In order to be a great leader in 2020 you must understand technology. You don’t have to be a programmer or coder.

You don’t have to create a mobile app, but you need to have gone through certain experiences learning how to create something that goes online, whether it’s a small video, whether the blogger post learning simple things like taking embed code from YouTube and plopping it in the right spot in a block post, so that in your block post there’s a video snippet that’s very easy for someone to click on. This has now become your responsibility. This is something where, if you want to be relevant going forward, you must learn how to do this.

Now there are some of us that are willing to teach you in a safe space. But I would encourage you that if you do not have skills in these areas to seek people out like me to say, Hey, I don’t know this lead me in a direction where I can learn it, lead me to a person, lead me to a website. What can you do to help me? Because I will definitely help, and hopefully I am a safe place to help with technology. But I will also express confidence that I know Scott Matthews expressed in another episode on this show.

I think it’s Episode 44. He was expressing confidence that you can do it. If you’re a teacher, you can learn this. If you’re a leader, you can do this. You have to go through some pieces and parts of this technology because when you make decisions, you need to understand what the trade offs are with. The constraints are where the opportunities are. And I’m saying those words in the context of strategic planning and project management, those kinds of very riel things. You have to decide on a daily basis on where you’re going to spend the money, where you’re going to get that return on investment, where it’s a waste to spend money on technology.

And right now, who should be one of your closest friends in your organization’s your help desk? That’s who customers call. That’s who’s getting all the feedback, and I know that working with the help desk is invaluable. The main help desk and everything trickling up from it can give you trends on what people don’t understand, what isn’t working for them and from those trends. If you have really open discussions about tthe um you can change business processes. You can change and tweak product lines, and you can create happier customers that air with you longer term and will market you for you.

I will have other episodes that I will title learning emergencies and I’ll put a dash and I can talk about a specific topic, but feel free to email me from the website. If you have questions about learning, we’re learning technologies because this is something that I know, and I know a lot of people who know it. And so even if I don’t have the answers, or if I can’t help you at that moment, I know a lot of people to route you, too. I’ve worked with them in government and in private corporations and contractors, and they’re a lot of people that can help you through this.

But I encourage you. If you need help in this area to at least go out there and look up whatever question you have, if you have an immediate need, because the answer is available on the Internet and I would also say to just go try something, log in to YouTube and hit the button instead of upload video, hit the button where you can record the video and you can put it on private. Did you know that you can put it on private so no one else can see or sign up for a free VIMEO account that’s also video?

Sign up to create a block post on blogger or wordpress dot com, and just try it out. Believe me, people are spending thousands of dollars trying to get attention to their blog’s. Not very many people are going to see you fiddling around with a brand new WordPress account. It’s a great time to practice, and these tools are fairly easy. And with a little guidance, you can start doing more thumb on a regular basis. So these are just some of my thoughts. I am here to help you conduce Oh, it and I would say You must do it.

This is how the world is now, and especially in March April 2020 or whenever you’re listening to this, we have just been told we can’t go to school toe work to church to other places where we learn and connect, and this is your only option for many of you and we don’t know when it will be the only option. Again. I know I’ve had a couple of online zoom meetings with my family where we’ve shared different messages and we’ve had a story hour, which was not an hour.

You learn to shorten some of the times online, but this is a perfect time toe learn technology to get creative with learning and to spend time figuring out how to look appropriate on camera. How to act appropriate in a conference call, how to clean up the mess behind your desk, since it will be showing if you show your face on camera all these little things that may not matter until they matter. And that is right now. Thank you for letting me indulge and share my little learning emergencies phrase.

I love it. It’s so valuable, and it’s become even more valuable now, hasn’t it? But go out there and try something new with technology and learning that you’ve never tried before, and I guarantee you’ll have ideas and I guarantee you’ll have questions. Have a great day and good luck dealing with your personal learning emergencies. I am ready to help you move your mind move your desk. I am a coach. If you’d like to work with me, go to move your desk dot com and select the work with me Tab.

We can put our minds together and help you offer your boss.

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