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.
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…
One of the things I’m dealing with when it comes to blogging is the concept of writing things that people want to read. It seems simple enough, but it’s really more difficult than one would think. When the page views and the comments don’t roll in, it can really affect one’s confidence. I continue to remind myself, however, that this blog is still relatively new and that I have a lot to learn. So in the spirit of complete transparency, just know that if you’re blogging for your coalition and you’re not seeing the results you’d like, you’re not alone. But let’s keep pushing through the uncertain times and see what can happen.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…
Last week, I blogged about learning more about using the iPad as part of the 10 Tools Challenge. In Part I, I mostly focused on apps while promising to talk about training and learning in Parts II and III. In the spirit of writing things that people want to read, I’m going to skip the training part, as I think I’ll have more insight into that later on. Instead, I’d like to focus on the mobile Free Range Learning opportunities that the iPad enabled me to experience.
The first online course I’ve taken this year (accessing via the iPad) is the iPhone Video Hero course offered by Jules Watkins. I know just enough about traditional video and audio production to be dangerous, but I wasn’t familiar with iPhone/iPad production at all. When I found out that the youth attending my “Using Social Media for Good” training would have access to iPads, I knew I’d have to take what I knew about traditional media and modify it to mobile devices–and fast! Jules’ lessons not only taught me about the specifics of creating amazing audio and video footage using an iPhone/iPad, but it also provided tips about video and audio production in general that I didn’t know prior to taking the course. Priced at only $97, this course is affordable and would definitely benefit any youth or adult coalition. You may not be able to afford a membership for every coalition member, but I can’t stress the value it would bring to those who are interested in creating these kinds of products for your group. If you do decide to sign up, I would be grateful if you use the referral link in this paragraph and on my Recommended Products page.
Much of my Free Range Learning this year has come from a site that most people would consider less about learning and more about time-wasting, and that site would be Pinterest (by way of the iPad app). Yes, it’s easy to jump on Pinterest and get lost in the vegan cupcake recipes, DIY map projects, and sarcastic som(ee)cards, but it can also be used for learning and research. By doing a simple search, you can find pins related to almost any topic–my favorites being Social Media, Productivity/Apps/Resources, and Infographics. On Friday, we even created a specific Prevention Infographics board for those who wish to share and find infographics specifically related to substance abuse prevention topics. (Contact me if you would like to be added as a contributor to the board.) The great thing about Pinterest, as with most other social media sites, is that you create the content that you want to see. Therefore, if you think Pinterest is all about cookie recipes and homeschooling ideas, it’s because you have chosen to follow people who pin that content. However, with a little bit of research, you can find contacts and boards that focus on your specific interests. Of course, be warned that many of us (ME!) are guilty of mixing personal and professional boards, so be sure to “Follow All” and then unfollow boards that don’t interest you. After all, not everyone wants his or her timeline filled with Doctor Who memes.
The latest focus of my Free Range Learning project is working through the book It’s Not About the Tights: An Owners Manual for Bravery by Chris Brogan. This book is only available in Kindle format, but for $5, you can’t beat the price. I’ve been reading this on the Kindle app on my iPad. While I know there are those of you who shun e-books for various reasons, this is one of those books that is enhanced by the e-book format. First of all, I have enabled the “Popular Highlights” setting, which allows me to discover what other readers have highlighted in this book. Not only does it give me the opportunity to see what like-minded people find important, but it also directs my attention specifically to meaningful parts of the book. If that isn’t social learning, I don’t know what is! Also, although this book is in electronic format, the reader is encouraged to keep a pen-to-paper “Brave Journal” to track his or her own progress. This combination of the technological side and the traditional side of learning has created a very influential learning experience that I hope to utilize in my own work.
In the process of checking the first box in the 10 Tools Challenge, not only was I able to learn more about the tool, but I also found myself learning through the tool. The iPad, or any tablet for that matter, is a powerful resource that is underutilized and, in my opinion, misunderstood in today’s coalition work. We should proudly and confidently use our tablets to change the perception of it from a toy to a legitimate must-have for increased productivity and for tech-savvy coalition work.
I would love to hear more about how you use the iPad in your day-to-day work, for learning, for networking, or for other tasks. You can email me, leave a comment below, or take it to Twitter. As always, thank you for contributing to the conversation, and let’s go forth and do good things!
This month, I had the pleasure of spending some time with the Walters S.M.I.L.E. (Students Making Important Life Efforts) Coalition. They participated in a training developed by myself and LaDonna Coy called “Using Social Media for Good.” This training includes creating a social media policy, creating a social media plan, and learning how to develop products that amplify the success of a coalition’s social media presence. Thanks to amazing technology resources at Walters High School, each student was equipped with an iPad loaded with several photo and video apps, which really optimized this hands-on training.
I could go into the details of the training, but instead, I’d like to take the time to focus on a few of the things I learned from them, specifically the differences between training adults and youth. Cue up the band, Paul Shaffer, because here we go…
The Top 5 Things I Learned From Training Youth About Social Media & Technology
1. Youth exhibit little negativity when it comes to using technology.
How many of you have ever attended a training or a meeting that the moment that social media is mentioned, someone begins poo-poo’ing the idea of it? I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “I don’t have time for social media,” or “I don’t get Twitter, and I don’t really care to,” or “What’s wrong with meeting face-to-face?” My answers to those statements would be: “Yes you do,” and “Then prepare to be obsolete,” and “Nothing. That’s why we use both.” Adults, especially those who might not have grown up in the digital age, will many times joke about social media or passive-aggressively insult it because, face it, the idea of social media is scary if you don’t know what’s out there. It’s BIG! It’s far-reaching! It’s impossible to control! *now cue screaming people running through the streets apocolyptic style* But here’s the great part, curmudgeons. We want you here. We welcome you with open arms! Millennials understand the power of social media, and they want their bosses on board with the idea of allowing them to utilize these tools to the fullest potential. A couple of years ago, we began to see the rise of older adults using social media, and this statistic will grow as Baby Boomers increasingly embrace technology. Instead of grumbling about “kids these days, with their texting and their tweeting and their cell phones,” let’s allow them to show us where we can and should go.
2. Youth do not fear gadgets.
As I mentioned, during “Using Social Media for Good,” we used iPads exclusively to take notes, capture pictures/video, and create products for the training. I provided no paper handouts of any kind. The agenda, presentation, and evaluation were all electronic-based, and I didn’t hear a single word of negative feedback. This is not to say that every artifact from the training ended up on the iPad. We used the whiteboard for harvesting ideas and some students jotted ideas in their own notebooks. Because we conducted a skills evaluation prior to the training, I know that not all of them were familiar with the iPad or the specific apps we used, yet I heard no grinching about technology or about the programs. Like the old fish-to-water analogy, they jumped right in, and each of them created a product by the end of the day. This isn’t to say that adults always complain about these things, but there usually seems to be one or two in a room who do. I think we have a lot to learn from kids when it comes to learning new things–mainly to dive in feet first and see what happens.
3. Youth approach technology and social media with an enthusiasm and sense of optimism that only they can feel.
Face it, most of us adults are reluctant to change–be it our systems, our professions, or even our coffee creamer. It’s part of the “Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt.” mentality. I admit that in the past, I was a “stand back and let some others try it, and if it doesn’t implode, then I’ll do it” kind of person. More often than not, youth haven’t bought the t-shirt yet, so they’re a little more willing to give things a go. It also doesn’t hurt that the internet has been in existence since before they were born, so it’s not a big, scary, abstract plane to them.
4. Youth do not see social media as an additional task but as something to integrate into their work.
I preach this concept CONSTANTLY. I’ve thought about tattooing it on my right arm so it’s the first thing that people see when we shake hands. Unfortunately, I’m philosophically opposed to word tattoos, so instead, you’ll have to hear it incessantly on my blog and in trainings I conduct. It’s a concept called different things by different trainers. Beth Kanter calls it going after small victories. Chris Brogan calls it “small bites.” Rhonda Ramsey Molina (one of my most favorite CADCA trainers ever) calls it “Big A, little a.” But whatever you call it, all it boils down to is that it’s a tiny step within a larger goal. You may not have the time or resources right now to sit down and develop a far-reaching social media plan. However, you can promote an event on Facebook. You can tweet a link to an article about the event. You can take 15 minutes to write a blog post about it (which will help with evaluation in the long run, for the record). You can create some quick infosnaps about your cause to spread your message faster and more effectively through any social media venue that you choose. The kids I worked with didn’t stray from their goals of promoting healthy lifestyles, addressing bullying, or increasing youth leadership. They saw this training as a way to enhance the tasks associated with those goals. So once again I will say, “Social media is not an additional task but something to integrate into everyday work.”
5. Youth do not consider bureaucracy, deadlines, or “worst case scenario” when learning about social media.
None of the points I’ve made today are meant to be negative or positive to any one group of people. They are mere observations about the process. However, this last point more than any of the others exemplifies why youth need adults on their side when considering and practicing these concepts. In a sense, this lack of bureaucratic thinking made it a joy to train them because there wasn’t a single “doom and gloom” prediction. Conversely, because this part of reality is not at the forefront of their everyday lives, they need guidance and assistance to make sure rules are followed, timelines are established, and potential setbacks are considered. With the optimism and enthusiasm mentioned earlier comes a vulnerability that might have the potential to create difficult situations. This is an area where I see how much we can learn from each other–youth learning to set boundaries and adults learning how to stretch those boundaries every now and again.
This list is by no means meant to be an absolute for all adult or youth trainings. It’s merely my single experience in a single point in time with a single group of (AMAZING) kids. Because I’ve trained both youth and adults on and off over the past decade, I knew these differences existed. However, seeing the specific differences when it comes to social media and technology taught me valuable lessons that I think we all could learn from.
I’d like to leave you with a few questions to ponder (and hopefully comment on!) as you reflect on your own experiences:
- What are the differences you notice when training youth vs. training adults?
- What are the similarities?
- What do you think we can learn from each other and what do you think that would result in?
And until next time, here’s a little GenX geek humor for you…
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.
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:
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.