Thursday, October 2, 2014

Learning Activity: The Learner and The Advisor

In this post I wanted to do a spotlight on an activity that I hadn't seen before, but was led through at a recent workshop I attended. Like all activities, it can be adapted to meet the learning goals of your session. Email me at to let me know if and how you use it!

The Learner and The Advisor
Purpose of this activity: Allow participants to leverage previous experiences and apply new concepts through problem-solving with a partner. This activity can also be used to help practice advising or consulting skills.
Overview: Participants identify a dilemma to discuss. Each participant plays the role of Learner or Advisor. Each person will be the Learner for two rounds and the Advisor for two rounds.
Total Time: 30 minutes
Materials: Participants will need paper and writing implement to take notes
  1. Participants identify a dilemma related to your topic. (3 minutes)
    1. Examples:
      1. Identify a question you want help answering
      2. Write out a scenario you do not know how to address
      3. What would you ask an expert in (your field/this topic)? Write out your question.
  2. Part 1: Round 1 of advising (5 minutes)
    1. Ask the group to form two circles, one inside the other (like speed dating or networking). Each participant is to pair up with the person across from them. The inner circle acts as the Learners, the outer, the Advisors.
    2. Instructions to the group:
    3. "You will form pairs--one advisor and one learner. The learner will share his/her dilemma/question with the advisor. The advisor will listen, ask questions, and help generate solutions."
    4. Facilitator gives the group about 5 minutes to pair up and discuss.
  3. Part 2: Round 2 of advising (5 minutes)
    1. Instruct the inner circle to rotate two spaces (any number is fine) to find new advisor.
    2. Repeat the sharing and advising process from Round 1. 
  4. Part 3: Round 3 of advising (5 minutes)
    1. The Learners and Advisors switch roles: the outer circle becomes the Learners and the inner circle the Advisors. Ask the outside circle to rotate a 3 people to their right.
    2. The new learner shares their dilemma/question with the new advisor
  5. Part 4: Round 4 of advising (5 minutes)
    1. Final round. The outer circle rotates one last time to find a new Advisor. The Learners discuss and share their dilemma.
  6. Debrief (7 minutes)
    1. Who heard something new? (show of hands)
    2. Who had their ideas validated by their advisor? (show of hands)
    3. What connections do you see between what you discussed and [insert the topic of the session]?
Possible Variation to Reduce Time:
Reduce the number of rounds to two. Instruct the group to form pairs. Each person has one round to act as the Learner and one round to act as the Advisor.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What is Active Learning?

What is active learning?

I define "active learning" as stimulus that engages the learner to actively apply a concept. For a visual, this concept would like like this:
There are endless activities that you could use. They go by different names, too. Examples might be "discussion techniques", "reflection activities", "structured experiences", etc.

Here's one of my favorite lists compiled by the University of Indiana's Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning called the Discussion Techniques for Active Learning: Dictionary of Methods and Strategies.

In upcoming posts, I will give examples of different activities you may use to engage your learners.

What's one of your favorite active learning activities?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Update: What happened to Microsoft Clip Art?

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Microsoft Clip Art appeared to be disappearing; using the search option in PowerPoint wasn't yielding much.

Today, I noticed that the search in PowerPoint yielded the same results as searching on the Microsoft clip art website. It appears that Microsoft has  linked their images to their programs through their website rather than allowing you to keep images locally on your computer.

What does this mean for you?

When you go to Insert Clip Art, make sure that the "Include content" box is checked. I took a screen shot for you:

If you do that, you will a lot more clip art to choose from! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

3 + 10 Tips for Effective PowerPoint Slides

In an earlier post (Book of Interest: Graphics for Learning by Ruth Clark and Chopeta Lyons), I introduced a great book about visuals for learning. Visuals can be used across in all aspects of your presentation: in the slides you use or your handouts.

Image from the TED blog

In this post, I wanted to focus specifically on slide content. I found a post on the TED blog called 10 tips on how to make slides that communicate your idea and wanted to share it with you. You can read the full article here.

In addition to their great tips, here are three tips that I live by:

  1. Know your tool: Learn about the opportunities and limitations of PowerPoint features. I do this by talking with colleagues, reading blogs (read this), and viewing YouTube videos (view this). The more you learn about your tool, the better you can use it.
  2. Stick to a visual theme that relates to your topic: Use the same color palette throughout; use the same style graphics throughout, etc.
  3. Start with a visual and then add relevant text: Change your mindset of "text first, then graphics". Text-heavy slides disengage your audience; they read instead of listen.
Working on your PowerPoint and visual skills does take time. The time you do spend will help your presentation be more effective for supporting the learning you desire for your audience.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blog of Interest: Sticky Notes by Barbara Carnes

One of the best ways to grow you capacity to be a great trainer is to learn from others! Blogs by professionals and academics in the field are a great way to learn more and more deeply about a variety of topics.

Barbara Carnes, Ph.D. is a trainer who writes about the learning science and activities to get training to "stick". I appreciate that she addresses both the theoretical concepts and direct applications. The more you know about the principles behind the activities, the more effective your learning experiences will be for your audience.

Her most recent post is about a reflective closing activity where participants write a letter to themselves about what they want to remember after a session. The letter is then opened 3 weeks after the event to help reinforce their learning.

Read her blog post and subscribe to her blog here:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The "Speakers Concierge": An Educause resource for speakers

Cultivating facilitation skills may require tapping into a broad range of resources; you never know whose take on teaching and learning may connect best with you!

A resource I stumbled upon recently that illustrates this point is the Speaker Concierge by Educause.

What is Educause? From their website: "Educause  is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology."

They hold a lot of conferences. To support their presenters, they created a resource called the Speakers Concierge.

What I like about the Speaker Concierge:

The Speaker Concierge outlines a step-by-step process for creating an engaging conference session and provides tips for session design, session delivery, and discussion strategies that can be applied to leading workshops, too.

It's also a great example of a well designed learning tool that could be used for visual inspiration for designing handouts or slides. They use graphics to connect to topics and make their content easier to understand.

Have you stumbled upon a resource you love?
Share it with me, a few sentences about why you like it, and I'll post it to the blog crediting you for the find: Katie at

Thursday, July 10, 2014

5 Ways to cultivate confidence in front of a group

Most people would rather experience some amount of physical pain than speak in front of a group.

While you may design your workshop to minimize your place at center stage, inevitably you will need to address the group.

So, how do you cultivate the confidence to speak in front of a crowd?

  1. Embrace your nerves. Everyone gets a jolt of adrenaline before addressing a group. Tell yourself those feelings are a positive energy there to pump you up rather than a destructive force.
  2. Emulate speakers whose style is like your own. We all have different styles for how we lead a group (See Grasha's work Teaching with Style as an example). Identify your style and find examples of people who do it well.
  3. Practice visualizing yourself as a facilitator. Walk yourself through the entire workshop you facilitate all the while seeing yourself at your best.
  4. Learn more about public speaking. SLU has a Toastmaster's club on campus ("Toast of SLU") or you could attend an Instructor Led Training called "Speaking with Confidence" (sign up through SkillSoft located in the MySLU tools tab).
  5. And, if all else fails, fake it until you make it! Amy Cuddy will tell you how in her TED talk on how our body language can increase (or decrease) feelings of confidence.