Training, Snowball Fights, and Chocolate Hugs and Kisses

Snowball fights as a training technique? Yes, if we are to brave enough to follow the example provided this morning by Stephanie Gerding and Brenda Hough in their latest MaintainIT Project train-the-trainer webinar, “Using MaintainIT Resources for Technology Training.”
Here’s how it works: participants in a workshop are encouraged to write their questions down on sheets of paper, crumble the papers into ersatz snowballs, and toss their snowballs at others in the classroom. Those retrieving the snowballs unravel them, read the questions, and attempt to respond so that everyone becomes a trainer-teacher-learner and no one holds back on asking questions for fear of appearing stupid.
If that one isn’t enough to bring a class to life, Gerding and Hough also recommend chocolate hugs and kisses. If workshop participants are struggling with a classroom problem, they are comforted with chocolate kisses or other pieces of chocolate which serve as confectionary hugs.
As is the normal procedure with other MaintainIT Project train-the-trainer webinars, this one offered plenty of opportunities for interactions contributing to the support of a lively community of learners. The exchanges often felt as if they were examples of the snowball fight technique in action: participants used a combination of chat entries and live comments made over the phone connection we shared to toss best-practices training ideas back and forth, and many hit their virtual targets. Carol Bean, a reference librarian in Palm Beach County (Florida), provided a link to a series of BeanWorks blog articles she wrote on how to work with older adults who are learning how to use computers. And it won’t surprise anyone that Infopeople’s free archives of past training materials and webcasts and webinars snowballed their way into the exchange, along with mentions of Marc Webb’s Book a Librarian project.
Gerding and Hough also displayed an intriguing willingness to take risks. Giving co-presenter status to everyone attending the webinar, they increased the interactivity tremendously, but also introduced the possibility that any of us could affect the presentation in unexpected ways—as we inevitably did. One person, during a previous presentation, inadvertently closed out the entire visual feed, leaving us only with the audio portion for the last few minutes of the webinar. And it is not uncommon for co-presenters to forget that if we try to advance the slides or move to previous slides on our own computer monitors, we’re actually changing the visual display for everyone—something Hough and Gerding always react to with unbelievable grace even though, by this time, they must want to slap all of us silly for repeatedly making that mistake. (No chocolate hugs and kisses for us.) The result is that our MaintainIT Project colleagues, through this level of interactivity, provide trainers the hands-on experience of learning what it means to be a co-presenter in real time and learning how to guide other trainer-teacher-learners in an interactive online learning environment.
Those interested in taking advantage of this unusual learning opportunity will find up-to-date listings of MaintainIT train-the-trainer and other webinars posted online. And for the latest Infopeople webinars, please check the current listings on the Infopeople site.