Blog Archives

But we need training!

One of my favorite things about working in the field was going to trainings. For many people, these hours- or days-long events amount to pure torture–being forced to sit still for 2 hour blocks, bad coffee, boring PowerPoint presentations… And while that does describe a few of the workshops I’ve attended, I usually found trainings to be great for both learning and networking.

RPC Network

Oklahoma has a fantastic RPC network. Seventeen sites across the state–all with the same mission, the same goals, the same philosophies. We gathered monthly as members of the Oklahoma Prevention Policy Alliance to discuss policy change and enforcement. We came together whenever ODMHSAS coordinated a training for us, even if it was something as boring as evaluation (JUST KIDDING, Paul Evensen!). Every now and again, one RPC would pull together resources to hold a training that a single site alone would not have been able to afford. We met up at national conferences, we got to know each others’ life circumstances, we saw good preventionists come and go. More than anything, we supported each other and stood united as prevention providers. It’s the one thing I miss the very most about boots-on-the-ground prevention work.

Currently, two of my worlds are colliding: Prevention and E-learning. While much of my time is spent on social media and prevention, a great deal of it goes toward building e-learning courses for a state agency. Most of it is focused on professional development, and it includes creating courses out of webinars, learning collaboratives, and in-person trainings so that the content lives on much after the event is over. More and more, I find myself wanting to completely merge these two worlds and find out what happens. Here’s an example…

This morning, I received two emails–one from Maine, one from Virginia–asking questions related to my content on a couple of social media platforms. The subject of each of their questions strengthened an idea that LaDonna Coy and I have already been toying around with, and that is creating affordable mini-courses for prevention providers. Subjects like “Twitter Basics” or “How to Create Infographics Using Local Data”–these are topics that could easily be packaged within an online course. Instead of spending money on mileage and road time, the learner could be trained on these topics sitting at his or her own desk. For those providers who are unable to attend in-person events due to logistics (I’m talking to you, Guymon, OK and Spokeane, WA!) these kinds of trainings would be available to those traditionally not included.

But most importantly, some of the concepts that could change the way you do community work don’t necessarily require a full day training. Stay with me here… Like I said, I love in-person trainings, but how often have we sat through six hours of content (nine, if you include breaks, lunch, and refreshers/icebreakers) that most likely could have been summarized in two? I truly think the time has come that we invest more in virtual and free range learning opportunities. How much more cost effective is it for an employee to participate in a 4-hour “Using Social Media for Good” online course (conducted at their own pace) than it is to bring in a trainer like myself for a day-long event? Not only do we need to create these kinds of learning experiences, but management must allow staff the freedom to explore these opportunities.

Online training will never trump in-person experiences. After all, the main point of our jobs is to mobilize communities to create change. A huge part of that mobilization occurs in face-to-face conversations. Our network in Oklahoma was strong because we saw each other so often and we knew our colleagues. However, when these real life opportunities are not possible, there are alternatives. Social media combined with Free Range Learning allow us to connect and learn on our own terms. Embracing these technlologies allows us to continue to grow even as our budgets and our time shrink.

I would love to hear your ideas about online social media courses for preventionists. Everyone who answers will be given a free kitten…

Now for your kitten…

It's okay, kitty. We've all been there.

It’s okay, kitty. We’ve all been there.

Advertisements

#PrevChat: My maiden voyage

LaDonna Coy, my professional idol and social media guru, is the member of a team that conducts a bi-monthly Twitter “conversation” called PrevChat. Because of my work schedule and my west coast timezone, I had never been able to participate in a PrevChat session until this week. My foray into this event coincided with a slight change in their format, which made the adventure that much more interesting. Traditionally, the discussion begins with a topic and then several questions related to that topic. The participant responds via tweet by specifying to which question their answer corresponds and using the hashtag #PrevChat. Don’t be afraid if you’re a Twitter novice. It’s easier than I’ve made it sound.

This week, to shake things up a bit, they featured Bruce Waltuck (aka @complexified), to talk about evidence based practices and what exactly that meant. The tweet that drew me in was:

Complex or complicated? What’s up with prevention, wellness (behavioral health)?

Perhaps it’s due to my “simple” roots, but multiple times a day, I wonder why we in prevention attempt to make a lot of things more complicated than they are. That’s not to say that the problems we face are not complex, but we don’t make it any easier with all our acronyms and five-dollar words. I was interested in seeing what other people had to say about this subject.

To participate in PrevChat, one almost has to use a specialized app/tool like TweetDeck in order to keep up. I could see myself getting lost trying to use the standard Twitter timeline. When using Tweetdeck, your desktop will look something like this:

TweetDeck during PrevChat. You may also notice I was simultaneously tracking OK primary election results.

It looks like one would have to multitask to keep up with the conversation, but in reality, it’s quite easy to follow. In the third/right column was the bulk of the conversation. In the middle column, I kept up with those who had mentioned/replied to me directly. And in the first/left column scrolled my regular timeline, where I might have caught a tweet or two in which someone had forgotten to use the hashtag (you must be a follower of the people in the conversation in order to see those, though). All this may seem pretty obvious to those who are Twitter pros, but part of my goal of this blog is to help explain the most basic elements of these “experiments” of mine so others might do a little experimenting of their own.

The most interesting part of this format was seeing not only the answers to the questions that PrevChat provided, but seeing the off-shoot of conversations that would take place down the road from those initial questions. Today at work, I found myself referencing phrases like “culture eats strategy,” which had been discussed in-depth during the course of the chat. I found myself feeling a little giddy when my own words were retweeted by others or when the featured speaker responded to one of my ideas. The hour flew by in a flash, and the nervousness I’d felt about saying something “elementary” had melted away by the time we were prompted to wrap up our thoughts.

In all, my first experience with PrevChat was entirely positive. Like most of the new (and sometimes intimidating) concepts I’ve been exploring related to combining technology and prevention, I found myself wanting to show this system to my colleagues and try to coax them into participating in such an amazing project. There is so much more that prevention has to offer that we sometimes don’t see while pounding away at our keyboards inside our neutral-colored, canvas cubicles. But the fact is, until we begin to make social media an integral part of our jobs, we are missing out on opportunities for our work to take on a life of its own.

What is a Prevention Geek?

What’s a Prevention Geek, you ask?

Well, it’s not me. Not yet anyway…

Currently, I work for the Washington Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery as a member of the prevention training team. The goal of our project is to record a series of trainings (both in-person and webinar-based) for prevention professionals so that they can be added to the state’s professional development website, The Athena Forum. Though I love my work and give it my all, many days I feel greatly under-qualified for my job. I have approximately three years in the field as a prevention specialist, but the training and technology side of things is entirely new to me.  The Oklahoma girl in me would compare the experience to being a barrel racer who suddenly finds herself on the back of a bull trying to hold on for 8 seconds.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to participate in four full-day trainings with CADCA trainer (and self-proclaimed Coalition Dork), Rhonda Ramsey Molina. Our technology consultant, LaDonna Coy, traveled to Washington to assist with the recording, uploading, editing, and ultimately the publishing of these trainings. LaDonna is the latest in my series of professional mentors (though said mentors may not realize their role in my mind!), and an all-around shining star in the field of prevention. She’s the kind of person I could sit and talk to for hours if we ever had the time and the means. Some of it is probably due to our shared sooner state roots, but so much of it is about my fascination with her view on not just the history, but the FUTURE of prevention.

At the end of our final day of training while discussing the various means of technology that we had used over the course of the week, Rhonda casually said to LaDonna, “You’ve been a prevention geek as long as I’ve known you–even before anyone else used computers.” Prevention Geek. I liked that. Later on, I tweeted to LaDonna: “This week I learned the difference between coalition dork & prevention geek. I’m aiming 4geek because they have cooler gadgets.” And there, the seed for this blog was planted.

I once heard Dr. Paul Evensen say that coalitions need to be able to tell their stories to secure funding. In turn, I think that preventionists need to be able to tell their stories not only so we can see the evolution of our profession, but also so we can mindfully plan its future. This is the prologue to my story–a wannabe prevention geek who has no idea where I’m headed or how I’ll get there. Let’s see where this story goes!

::Disclaimer::

Opinions expressed on this blog are not a reflection of my employer. These are my own ramblings from my own brain on my own time. 🙂