TGI Newsletter Issue #37 Learning CAN be fun. Training SHOULD be fun.
Training Games ARE fun!
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"Reflections" A New Training Game?
In our last newsletter we featured an article by Sallie Weems, Program Manager for Continuing Medical Education at CHW-East Valley located in Chandler, Arizona. The article was entitled "Creating a Culture of Reflection". Reflective Learning, as described in Sallie's article and according to Sobral, "comprises the act of thinking about what one has learned as well as how one learns" (Sobral, 2000, p. 182). Reflecting on past experiences, ideas and beliefs and then applying those reflections when learning about new concepts helps the learner to be more engaged in the process and in turn, results in new knowledge that the learner can then build on. Within the article, Sallie cited several studies which supported the idea of reflection as a powerful learning tool (Please find the entire article located at The article concludes by stating "Research on the use of reflective learning shows improved content retention, learner satisfaction with the educational process, and a deeper learning. Although it is impractical to use reflective learning techniques for all educational activities, reflection offers a powerful teaching tool that should be considered by educators in any field." All this started me thinking about a new training game that would incorporate "Reflections". We have always tried to develop games for trainers that were more than just review tools, indeed games that could be played to not only reinforce learning, but deliver new and key program training. We always knew our games had the potential to engage the audience and to focus attention. People love games, they like to compete and in general, have fun playing. Because of a game's ability to capture attention, we have always incorporated within our training games a means for the trainer to pulse in and out of the game itself while playing. For example, if the class was playing a typical quiz show game, a team might receive a question, select the correct answer, receive game points and allow the game to move on to the next team in rotation. Within most TGI games, instead of simply moving to the next question, we try to provide the trainer the opportunity to train. This is important, because we want to capitalize on this highly attentive and engaged learning opportunity (as provided by the game) to expound on the topic at hand. Perhaps after the team answers their question, the instructor pushes a button on the screen to launch a mini-PowerPoint presentation, or click on a TGI "More" button (found in most TGI games) to provide additional information or discussion points.

In the same context it occurred to me that we could also incorporate a "Reflections" button for the trainer after they have finished expounding on the question or topic. Drawing again from Sallie's article, the trainer might move to a slide that challenged their learners to relate this new learning to a personal experience, or ask questions like "What do you believe about this topic?, What did you learn?", or "In what ways can you foresee using this learning?" In essence this game could create a flow that would initially grab attention, then use this attentive learning state to expand on learning ideas, and finally "cement" the learning by asking the learner to reflect on it or relate it to their personal experiences. We've started development of the game (Reflections) but I thought it might be good to ask our readers their opinion of the general idea. As always, I'll look forward to hearing from you ([email protected]).

Famous Quotes
John Dewey — "Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself."

Sydney J. Harris — "The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows."

Wayne Gretzsky — "100% of the shots you don't take don't go in."

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Classroom Introduction Icebreaker – Some fun with introductions!

We've included a free TGI PowerPoint or Excel based Ice Breaker Game in this newsletter and promise to send you a free game with each and every issue! These games are great fun, and will make your meetings, presentations and training sessions more interactive and engaging. The download link is only active in newsletters sent out to TGI subscribers. We apologize for any inconvenience, but we are unable to send the free icebreaker offer in alternative file formats.

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Passive versus Active Reflection
(Response to the article "Creating a Culture of Reflection" by Sallie Weems)

The importance of reflective learning segments in Adult and Continuing Education venues is very important, however, we do need to make a distinction for teachers, trainers, etc., I believe — as to further specifying the difference between "active reflection" and "passive reflection" as it relates to adult learning culture needs. There are indeed both types, and they deliver very different outcomes. "Active reflection" for a learner occurs when you not only present something [a concept, an idea, etc] — but also challenge the learner at the time of delivery to better elaborate or re-define in their own terms the exact implications or long term impacts of what has been addressed. You do so in a direct, timely and focused manner-- and you thereby engage the learner's higher learning abilities, etc. and this indeed, truly "forms the active glue" that makes such ideas, constructs, to be lasting and filled with relative potential for instant recall, rediscovery and manipulation for future use.

"Passive reflection", on the other hand, is the kind that occurs -- say after you've watched a PBS special on poverty -- and there is no one to discuss it with. You will perhaps do a bit of reflection, or "musing" — but no one is around to challenge, address, or otherwise engage you to better elaborate its direct implications in your thinking, etc. So this kind of experience will have a general but non-defined, non-specific long term impact. Adults will retain in those instances some such information for a period of time, and IF it is somehow engaged within a reasonable timeframe [say, a friend and she get together the next day for coffee and they both happen to have watched the same special and then talk further about it] — there will be some benefit recouped, but again not as much as if the reflection/ discussion/ clarifications occur nearer to the actual delivery of such information.

Not all trainers, teachers, etc. understand this distinction, and not all even know how to implement it — I've found. Asking adult learners, "So, did you learn anything?"— is a weak stab at active learning, but falls far short, etc. But, that is grist for another day. Hope this brief soliloquy gives another side perspective for your considerations.

Dale A. Werth, Sr. Consultant
[email protected]

Dale Werth has over fifteen years of experience as a Sr. Consultant in Training and OD, and is a proven Project Manager, Trainer and Sr. Technical Writer. His work has occurred in varied projects or programs delivered from both field and centralized headquarters positions. He has served as a team or project lead, senior project manager, instructor, senior consultant, curriculum designer, and technical writer. He has also worked successfully with a wide spectrum of enterprises - including small and large businesses, national organizations, global companies, governmental agencies, education, and non-profit organizations. His varied training and project roles have encompassed work in some 40 US states – as well as travels to the UK, France, Canada, Puerto Rico and Switzerland to date. He continues his role as Sr. Consultant, Project Manager and Sr. Technical Writer. He also continues to write and speak on innovative topics within a variety of today's current organization and productivity challenges. He holds undergraduate degrees from Washburn University and University of Kansas, and holds a M.S. degree in Human Resources and Creative Studies from State University College at Buffalo. He has been a Certified College Adjunct Instructor and has taught at a number of institutions [Westwood College (Arlington, VA); Graduate School, USDA (Washington, DC); etc.]. He teaches courses in social sciences, communications, and personal/professional productivity areas. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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Brain Facts (About Baby Brains)
Studies indicate that reading aloud to children helps to stimulate brain development. The problem is that only 50% of kids are read to by their folks regularly. There is also just an astonishing amount of brain development going on in the very early stages of life. In fact babies actually lose half of the neurons they've developed even before they are born. This process, know as pruning, is basically keeping the neurons that are put to use in the baby. A kind of "use it or lose it" proposition.

Talking to your infant helps them to learn. One study showed when moms frequently speak to their infants, the children learn about 300 more words by age two than other less engaged children. By the time babies reach their first birthday they will have learned all the sounds needed to speak their native language. The more words your kids hear, the better they will be able to talk! So parents, chat up those kids! In addition, kids who are read to during their early years are more likely to learn to read at the right time.

Furthermore, during the second half of a child's first year, the prefrontal cortex, which will be responsible for executive function (decision making and problem solving, as well as inculcating societies cultural mores - doing the harder thing) forms synapses at such a rate that it consumes twice as much energy as an adult brain. This ferocious energy consumption will carry through to the child's first ten years of life. Keep in mind, that the neurons in the prefrontal cortex are not fully myelinated (developed) until the mid to late twenties. (Myelination is a process of coating the neuron with a fatty sheath, that allows electrochemical messages to quickly move through the axon of neuronal cells.)

Your Facial Expression Is a Dead Give-Away
Careful: We Can All Read Facial Expressions
By David Stevens
Published August 22, 2007

Your face may not be your fortune, but your facial expression is as much a part of communication with others as is speaking. We all know and easily recognize the common expressions like fear, interest, sadness, shame, disgust, surprise, happiness, and anger. In fact, these facial expressions are universal. As evidenced in Evolutionary Psychology by David Buss, if you show photos or even drawings of people exhibiting these emotions to anyone in the world, no matter how remote, they will attribute the correct interpretation to every look without fail. Some cultures may interpret the intensity of the emotion differently. Asian people, in general, rate a less intense facial expression than would an American. In these cultures, displaying emotion too strongly is considered impolite and so there is a tendency to play down in the mind what may actually be present. One doesn't see what one doesn't want to see, so to speak, but facial expressions can be far more subtle than this.

For instance, almost everyone has met someone who is seemingly friendly and happy, but afterwards says, "I don't think he liked me" or "He didn't seem so happy underneath." That is because, although many expressions are voluntary, many more are beyond our control. They flit across a face, sometimes lasting only a microsecond, and even though we may not consciously perceive them in others, our sub-conscious is nevertheless taking in the information displayed. Reading facial expressions is something that goes back to the dawn of man. Those who were good at it tended to be able to tell friend from foe a little better and thus lived a little longer. Those who did not read facial expressions as well were disadvantaged and tended to have shorter lives.

The skill is still variable, however people have an innate ability that enables them to read the main emotion signifiers; it is the micro-expression that slips by many of us. If we accept that such facial expressions are universal, there must be a set of rules governing their manifestation.So thought anthropologist Paul Ekman in the late 1960s. He had shown that all cultures read facial expressions in much the same way and wanted to know what the mechanisms were that caused the expressions. Ekman, a professor at the University of California in San Francisco, put together a substantial videotape library of people's face expressions and studied them, sometimes in slow motion, until he could pick up a flicker of emotion that might last no more than a small fraction of a second. He and a collaborator then decided that they needed to list all possible variations of expressions. To do this they had to study the underlying muscles and look at what controlled them in the brain. This was no easy task.

The muscles in the face can adjust themselves into 10,000 different configurations. An eyebrow lifted just a fraction, the eyes opened more than usual, or the lips turned down a smidgen, can produce an expression entirely different from that where the muscles pull the individual components into only a marginally different configuration. By working through every combination, he isolated 3,000 expressions that carried meaning. These were identified as the facial indicators for the entire gamut of human emotions. Ekman compiled the mechanics of all these combinations and the rules for reading and interpreting them into what he called, the Facial Action Coding System or FACS. So precise are the mechanics and rules that digital animation movie studios such as Pixar and Dreamworks used them to help properly animate the faces in Toy Soldier and Shrek.

It takes some study to be proficient at recognizing so many combinations of facial expression and their meaning. It takes even longer to be able to create those expressions at will on your own face. In an interview with the New Yorker magazine Ekman demonstrated his skills. He told how he was watching Bill Clinton on TV during the 1992 Democratic primaries and said, "I was watching his facial expressions and said to my wife, 'This is Peck's Bad Boy.' This is a guy who wants to be caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and have us love him for it anyway. There was this expression that's one of his favorites. It's that hand-in-the-cookie-jar, love-me-Mommy-because-I'm-a-rascal look." Ekman then began to assemble the look on his own face. He started with a classic smile, but tugged down the corners of the lips. He raised the chin, slightly pressed his lips together, and rolled his eyes. It was amazing. It was as if Bill Clinton had suddenly appeared in the room.

The recognition of facial expressions, particularly micro-expressions that come and go so swiftly is a skill much sought after in law-enforcement organizations. Ekman and ex-ATF agent J.J. Newbury put together a program to train officers of police forces around the world in interviewing techniques and lie detection. They also assist the CIA, FBI and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in counter-terrorism training.

A training tool they use is a tape of an interview with the famous "third man" in a soviet spy scandal in Britain during the Cold War. On the tape, Kim Philby, a high-ranking figure in British Intelligence appears to convincingly deny any wrongdoing; however, when played in slow motion, it is a different story. When asked if he has committed treason, a smirk of pure smugness, too brief to see normally, flits across his face. Ekman calls it "duping delight," the thrill of fooling other people.

Police Sergeant Bob Harms is another expert face reader. He has always been able to read peoples' facial expressions and body language, and one rainy night in West Hollywood, it saved his and his partner's lives. They spotted a man all bundled up in a large coat and called him over to the squad car to check him out. They asked him what he was doing and he told them he was just out for a walk but had "something to show them." While he was reaching beneath his coat, Harms shot him. Harms' partner couldn't believe it, but when they checked the body, they found a makeshift flamethrower with which the man was going to incinerate them. The follow-up investigation also discovered that the man was unstable and had just attempted suicide.

These are the geniuses of facial expression recognition, but everyone does it to some degree. Paul Ekman says it is not that hard to do it better. Close observation and being aware of what you are looking for can quickly improve your ability to judge what the other person is really thinking. Always remember: Your thoughts are written on your face for all to read.

Training Games Inc.
Gary Trotta, CEO
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Cave Creek, Arizona 85331
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