TGI Newsletter Issue #44 Learning CAN be fun. Training SHOULD be fun.
Training Games ARE fun!
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Seasons Greetings from Training Games

Lecture Design, In 10 Minute Segments
Lecturing is a necessary evil, but when we train or teach, quite a bit of our program is often delivered in lecture format. And why not? It is indeed the most efficient way to parade program information in front of your audience. I know what you're all thinking. It is what each of us has come to know so well. After about 10 15 minutes of lecturing you start to lose your audience. They simply lose attention; they simply drift off.

In our last newsletter I expounded on some of the terrific information focusing on how we learn, found in John Medina's great new book entitled "brain rules" (He doesn't use caps, and I make enough mistakes, so I thought to mention it). Within this book Medina also provides us with a lecture design he incorporates to improve retention and hold attention within his own classes. We've known for a long time the link between attention and learning. Medina asks in his class, "Given a class of medium interest, not too boring, not too exciting, when do you start glancing at the clock, wondering when the class will be over?" After a short initial shocked pause, a voice in the back of the room blurts out, "Ten minutes, Dr. Medina". When asked why, this intrepid soul volunteers, "That's when I start to wonder when this torment will be over".

Most of us have experienced such torment as students and as well as teachers. In response, John Medina puts forth his ten minute segments lecture design. It's fairly simple and straight forward. Given that most of his classes lasted 50 minutes, and the ever present "ten minutes til torture" attention rule, Medina cleverly decided to divide his lectures into five (10) minute modules. Each module or segment would cover a core program concept, and as Medina explains these were "always large in scope, always general, always filled with gist, and always explainable in just one minute, leaving the remaining 9 minutes for related detail." In regard to the detail, Medina states that the key was to ensure the detail could be easily traced back to the key concept with minimal intellectual effort. And he, of course, committed to go to great lengths to explain how the detail related back to the core concept being discussed.

Medina explains he knew that he would only have 600 seconds to earn the right to be heard, and in the 601st second, he would have to do or say something remarkable to earn another ten minutes. He carefully structured each module with attention to hierarchy which our brains really like. He first presented the big picture, the key concepts (1 minute), moving then to the details (9 minutes), while continually relating each back to the key concept. Just by adhering to this natural hierarchical brain preference, Medina states retention will improve by 40 percent. Finally he states that it is imperative for the instructor to explain this lecture plan in the beginning of the class, and continually reference where they are in the plan throughout the hour.

So now you should be asking, what is he doing on second # 601 to buy himself another ten minutes? Naturally, he states, he baits the hook. Medina tells us you must use ECS or Emotionally Competent Stimuli, a.k.a., "the hook". A hook is a relevant story or anecdote designed to stimulate emotion such as fear, happiness, laughter, or incredulity. The hook can be used to summarize the last key concept or to introduce the next module, but most importantly, it "touches" your audience. I think most of us are aware of the impact of such stories that capture us emotionally, but do we go to the next step and plan them within each program? If not, in second # 601 of our lecture series, we may start to see those faces grimacing and glancing up to the wall clock.

Evoking emotion naturally grabs attention and thus results in better learning. Kevin Ochsner, a Harvard psychologist demonstrated this through research which exposed students to positive (smiling child), negative (angry adult face) and neutral images. Several days later, when tested, the students readily recalled the emotionally tainted images while the neutral images had all but faded from memory.

It appeared to me that John Medina wrote his book "brain rules" using these same principles. It is filled with colorful hooks which keep your interest and cause you to emotionally invest in the book's content. Medina sums up his thoughts on lecture design stating, "The brain does not pay attention to boring things, and I am as sick of boring presentations as you are."

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Playing, at least as an adult, is much harder to do than it sounds. Playing may actually be a bit of a lost art, and perhaps one very much worth reviving. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres was asked how she does what she does; being so spontaneous and hilarious. How she answered the question goes to the heart of this brief article. She said she allows her inner child to come out and PLAY! As I write this article I am watching children run through a sort of playground water fountain. You may have seen these. Kids love them. They blissfully run and splash and try to catch water droplets in a maze of springing, spurting water jets shooting randomly up from this colorful, cushy play place. Kids know how to have fun. Kids know how to play. This activity is all happening in the middle of a fashionable outdoor mall, as parents gaze on with big broad smiles, secretly wishing they could join in the fun.

It is a secret we've somehow learned to keep well and perhaps too well. When, might I ask, is the last time you've laughed with abandon? When is the last time you acted impulsively, or did something spontaneously? When is the last time you were just stupid silly? If it was just this morning, BRAVO, but if you are like many of us, these playful sides of our personality seldom come out to play.

Somehow, as you watch Ellen, you realize she's found that magical road back to "the kingdom of kid-dom". And as you stare at her enthusiastically-animated audience, you realize that this fun-loving Pied Piper is leading them, and perhaps yourself, back to the kingdom as well.

Perhaps as adults we've learned to be too aware of what others are thinking about us. Perhaps societal protocol has simply worn us down and we packed away our silly side, saving it for some fanciful future day in which the world's prudish onlookers, standing at the ready with their "you're being inappropriate" out stretched finger, have simply gone away. This is, of course, unlikely and frankly that's because it would be unfair to expect us to all become like Ellen DeGeneres. She is, after all, an entertainer, and paid well to be funny and playful. And also because it would be a bit presumptuous of me.

But I did want to tell you that I have been working on this part of my own personality. I'm finding it requires a bit more energy, but that it also has some very pleasant upsides. I try now to go through my day being more spontaneous and interactive with the people I meet. I try to say funny things and ask more questions to engage the folks I come in contact with. I'm trying to recapture a bit of the playfulness I experienced when I was a kid. As a result, I wind up treating everyone a little bit better, I'm actually getting to know past friends in a way that makes me believe we are a little closer and all in all, I'm having fun with it. It just seems a shame that with many of us, our ability to play suffers as we become adults. And if you're like me, I thought you might also enjoy being a little bit more like a kid again.

Some Interesting Brain Facts
1. The thalamus is situated at the anatomical core of the brain. Most of our sensory stimuli arrive at the thalamus before moving on to primary and higher order cortical areas. The thalamus is kind of like the Grand Central Station of our brain.

2. The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland link our central nervous system and the endocrine system. The hypothalamus is a very important monitor of homeostasis. As blood circulates through the brain, it keeps track of many substances. For instance, the "thermostat" of the body is in the hypothalamus. If the blood coming to the brain is not warm enough, it will make the body do things to make the blood warmer again. For example, you will start to shiver which makes your muscles contract, which burns energy and releases heat. If the blood is too warm, your sweat glands are signaled to begin producing sweat which cools the body. Other bodily functions regulated by the hypothalamus include blood pressure, fluid and electrolyte balance (thirst), and body weight (hunger).

3. Memory - After years of study, much evidence supports the idea that memory involves a persistent change in synapses, the connections between neurons. Different brain areas and systems mediate distinct forms of memory. The hippocampus, parahippocampal region, and areas of the cerebral cortex (including prefrontal cortex) compose a system that supports declarative, or cognitive, memory. Different forms of nondeclarative, or behavioral, memory are supported by the amygdala, striatum, and cerebellum.

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Famous Quotes
Ellen DeGeneres "For me, it's that I contributed, ... That I'm on this planet doing some good and making people happy. That's to me the most important thing, that my hour of television is positive and upbeat and an antidote for all the negative stuff going on in life."

Ellen DeGeneres "I was in yoga the other day. I was in full lotus position. My chakras were all aligned. My mind is cleared of all clatter and I'm looking out of my third eye and everything that I'm supposed to be doing. It's amazing what comes up, when you sit in that silence. 'Mama keeps whites bright like the sunlight, Mama's got the magic of Clorox 2.'"

Ellen DeGeneres "They say you just stand over there, he'll say thank you and you walk back off and that's what I thought was gonna happen, but in my head, I had for five or six years known that he was gonna call me over." Ellen DeGeneres, Commenting on being called over to sit with Johnny Carson back in 1986

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Cave Creek, Arizona 85331
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