Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Post-workshop reflections: "Your Library and New Media: Collaboration through Social Networking"

Yesterday I conducted this 2.5-hour workshop for 16 participants. About 12 were MOE teachers while the rest were in education-related jobs.

"Your Library and New Media: Collaboration through Social Networking"

Not one of my better sessions, I'm afraid.

On a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), I'd give the workshop outcome, and myself, a "2".

Several frustrations:
  1. The event organiser did not get in touch with me, until I had to contact them just two working days before the session! This left me with only a weekend to work on the content. And I was clueless on number of participants, profile, background
  2. I'd planned for a workshop format but was informed it would be a talk (so I modified my approach accordingly). To my horror when I reached the venue, it was a computer-lab and obviously the expectation was for a workshop
  3. With myself: I was complacent! I still think the organiser was sloppy but I should've chased them earlier. I was aware of the many unknowns yet I went in cold on the day itself. Didn't plan for contingencies. Over-confident, I think.

Here's what we managed to cover (outline was worked out on the spot):
  • 2pm: An overview of what Web 2.0 was about
  • 2.30pm - 3pm: A hands-on exercise on using Posterous.com
  • 3pm - 3.30pm: Tea-break
  • 3.30pm - 4pm: Group discussion on ideas and desired outcomes for what they wanted to achieve for their school library, and ideas for using new media (this part was sloppy, and I take the blame). Also made them input their discussion points on to a Wiki
  • 4pm - 4.15pm: Review of the wiki activity. Also demo of how to restore pages and deal with vandalism (a bit sloppy, 'cos I temporarily couldn't find the link to restore the pages)
  • 4.15pm - 4.30pm: Discussion on application, use of new media for collaboration (ended up with me doing most of the talking; I think most of them didn't feel this part was comprehensive enough)
  • 4.30pm - 5pm: Explanation of Creative Commons, its relevance to a school library, how to search for CC content, and how to license one's work using CC (this part was me talking, and I can't tell if I convinced them to see themselves as content producers, and how sharing was part of social collaboration)

What I did right
I arrived about one hour earlier. Managed to whack out a outline for hands-on activities, worked out the new approach mentally.

Another thing done right: I didn't complain and got to work instead. When I realised the venue was for a workshop and not a talk, I sorely wanted to. But it wouldn't have helped anyone and would certainly have wasted precious time.

When I sensed the participants had a different expectation, I modified my approach rather than bulldoze through the session (but the outcome was partly successful). During the hands-on exercise at 2.30 - 3pm, when I went around checking on the participants. That was when I sensed and got some feedback that the participants didn't really want hands-on. I asked the group what they'd like to focus on, and modified the subsequent approach.

What could've been done better
Before starting the session, I tried to get participants to share what they expected out of this workshop. But I didn't get everyone to share (they did it in groups) and I didn't write down the points so that I could revisit those points. And also use those points to focus the discussions.

I didn't establish that critical rapport with the group. Upon hindsight, I think I could have given more time for each individual to share their thoughts. I realise teachers liked to express themselves and have their thoughts heard. Getting them to share might also clarify their expectations, their skill level, their organisational context.

Next time I'd schedule when each group could edit the wiki pages. The mistake was to allow all groups to edit the wiki. Net-effect: everyone overrode everyone else's work! Next time, I'd assign a scribe for each group, and also give each group a specific time to edit. And warn them not to override.

The participants
When I shared my woes to two other teacher-friends separately (they weren't in the session), they consoled me to say that teachers were a tough bunch to teach!

But to be fair, the teachers were cordial and they patiently went along the discussions and group activities as instructed. I think if they really wanted to be difficult, they could.

Problem was, I didn't manage to engage them in terms of the depth of discussions and the ideas generated. That was the biggest disappointment for them and for me too.

At one point (around the 4pm to 4.30pm segment) I felt as if I'd lost them when the discussions didn't get into the level of sharing and the ideas and sharing from them weren't forthcoming.

Their expectations
I felt most gave very tentative responses when asked to share what they wanted to get out of the workshop.

I had my share of participants who didn't read the workshop blurb!

I felt most of them weren't that sure what they wanted from the session. They had a general sense of wanting to learn something practical, but generally just came to see what they could get out of it. But when they didn't get the sort of specific ideas and discussions, they were disappointed.

Final thoughts
I'm not sure how they collectively rated the session (don't think the organisers would be sending the collated feedback my way).

I won't say this was a disaster.

There were signs that some participants learned something. For instance, they maintained eye contact throughout, showed non-verbal responses, they actively took notes at certain points.

Also, when we ended the session, I told them the workshop won't have to end there. I gave them my email. Said I'd be happy to share more individualised responses, if they have specific questions after the workshop. Quite a few wrote down the email. That should mean something. :)

Still, I didn't feel that sort of satisfaction I've experienced with some other workshops.

In the final analysis, I can only say as a trainer, I've got ways to go.

I feel a trainer of excellence would always manage to make participants feel the session was worth attending. Regardless of the situation.

"Your Library and New Media: Collaboration through Social Networking"

At one point while reflecting on this workshop, I wondered if I should decline future training invitations from this particular organiser. Or of such a scope (e.g. teachers, new media). Quite likely they wouldn't want to ask me back, heh.

I didn't even feel like blogging this. A part of me didn't want to share the less-than-positive aspect of the workshops I conduct.

But I posted it anyway. To clarify my thoughts, if nothing else. If faced with the same situation again, I'd know what to do without being overconfident.

Well, if any of the workshop participant manage to find your way to this post, as I mentioned in the closing remarks of the workshop, be as honest as you want to be.

Let me know what could've been done better for you.

1 comment:

  1. Don't be too hard on yourself. We all learn from our experiences in training and conducting workshops.

    At my recent session at the civil service college, I was asked if I wanted to have the laptop and internet access on, so that I can "show and tell". I decided against that eventually as it would distract people from what I had to say, and also form a barrier between me and the audience. Not sure if that would help in your case, since the participants seem to prefer to listen more rather than to do.

    Generally, most folks don't remember almost 80% or more of what is covered in training sessions. It is the 3 or 4 points that they will recall, if at all. What's more important would be the non-verbal cues that they pick up about the trainer, and the degree of interaction between him and the audience.


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