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The Best Low Tech Learning

In my job as a learning consultant, I am often asked about the best tech tools out there for improving learning retention. I understand the desire. It seems right that if we can find just the right tool to engage the learner, then professional growth will soon follow.

There are many wonderful learning tools. They can make your presentations look very slick, and grab attention with noisy and/or glitzy interactive events. The feedback received often cites how awesome the program looked or how energizing it was to be a part of it.

And that’s great!

When we make a presentation, be it online, in a virtual environment, or a live presence, we want attendees to be engaged. That connection is a vital step in setting up the learning process.

The difficulty arises when it also ends there. Think back on highly motivational programs you may have attended…and how much of the material you were able to recall a scant month later. The Wow Factor impresses at the time. You need to build upon it if you hope to have your learners retain the important aspects of your message.

Storytelling is probably the best low tech learning tool available. It’s also among the least expensive, which is terrific news for cash-strapped learning developers.

The Camtasias, the Captivates, and the Prezis of the world are tremendous enhancers of content. They draw attention and allow the learner to feel more a part of what is going on.

They are also empty containers awaiting packages of content to be placed in them. They are capable of supporting great content or emptiness. If they support the latter, they are not unlike a great pinball game. We feel a momentary elation when our “skill” allows us to receive an extra game, but the precise details are lost soon afterward.

When those tools are used to enhance great story content, they can immerse a learner into the experience. The trick is to make certain that the technique doesn’t get in the way of the story. Again, people shouldn’t remember the starburst effect when the subject of a story reaches her goal. If that is the main thing they remember, they have focused on the wrong thing.

I frequently have people come back to me and segue into “Remember when you talked about…” or some related phrase. Sometimes I’ll pretend to forget details of the tale or why I told it in the first place. I’m amazed by how often they are able to recall those details. The lesson was embedded.

In my early days of presentations, it was important to me to impress people. I threw tremendous amounts of energy into my talks, became very animated so that no one would be able to fall asleep, and timed PowerPoint presentations so that amazing slides would arrive at just the precise moment when they were needed.

People remembered enjoying those presentations. “You had so much energy!” and “The time just flew!” were frequent comments. Not once did I receive feedback about the content other than they liked it. It was a verbal form of the “smiley face” review sheet.

It was not long before that kind of a response became an empty victory. Oh, yes, it felt great at the time. But, when I reflected on what difference I had made, I was forced to concede that the answer was, “Not much.”

When good storytelling principles were used, I still received the “enjoyable presentation” comments, but I also heard valuable points recounted. The message was received and retained.

Now that is a value proposition.

Thank you for reading.