There are no boring topics, just boring learning designers
Documentary filmmakers want viewers to care. Isn't that our job, too?
When TV comedy Schitt’s Creek ended in 2020, it took a curtain call with Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell. This hour-long documentary featured interviews with the cast and crew who created the much-loved show. And one segment in particular jumped out at me: it was about fashion.
As colleagues, friends and family will attest, ‘fashion’ is not something I pay attention to. For 15 years, I reliably wore the same furry hat every winter (an ‘ushanka’!) as it creeped slowly into fashion, then quickly left again. But in Schitt’s Creek, fashion isn’t just set dressing: it’s used to contrast the character’s old life of wealth-and-luxury with their new more humble existence; it acts as a shield against the community they don’t want to be a part of; it reflects how they feel as they come to accept their new environment.
I thought I’d discuss fashion this week because it illustrates a point often made by the film critic Mark Kermode: the mark of a good documentary is it’s ability to make you care about something that you otherwise have no interest in.
That sounds a lot like learning design.
Every workplace learning designer I know has worked on traditonally ‘boring’ topics: data protection, competition law, fire safety. But if the Schitt’s Creek team can make me care about fashion, surely we can find ways to make others care about even the driest of issues?
After all, data protection isn’t about emails and passwords: it’s about the person whose identity is stolen.
Competition law isn’t about contracts and pricing: it’s about maintaining a thriving economy where we’re all treated fairly.
Fire safety isn’t about types of fire extinguisher: it’s about two brothers, thrown together by chance, fighting infernos as they fight with each other.
Wait, that last one’s Backdraft. But it’s a pretty exciting movie that spends a lot of time explaining how fires start.
If this sounds like a stretch, consider that we typically work with subject matter experts who have spent a huge chunk of their working lives specializing in these areas. Surely, in all this time, they’ve got something interesting to say about them.
That’s where we come in. Like journalists or documentary filmmakers, our job is to find the humans behind the regulations: to uncover the stories that grab your attention, and change how you see the world.
There are no boring topics, just boring learning designers.
If you want help with your compliance training, visit our site or email email@example.com
🎧 On the podcast
Finding interesting and creative ways to explore topics requires that we develop a new habit: holiday eyes - the practice of experiencing the world like a tourist.
I loved this concept when it was shared by authors David Hayden and Steve George on this week’s podcast. The duo joined us to discuss their new book, Adjacent Learning, which provides a framework for taking what we’ve learned outside of work and applying it to our roles.
Speaking about ‘holiday eyes’, Steve said:
One of the delights of being a parent is that you get to experience new things for the first time again, so from that ‘holiday eyes’ concept there’s that whole thing of taking a child to an art gallery and the way that they describe the story behind the picture… It’s seeing things from that slightly different approach, stepping outside the convention of how we view things.
To hear the full discussion, listen here:
The book, Adjacent Learning, is available now from Kogan Page.
You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify or the podcast page of our website. Want to share your thoughts? Get in touch @RossDickieMT, @RossGarnerMT or #MindToolsPodcast
📖 Deep dive
If you’re over 16 you might not be that familiar with Roblox, but this Virtual Reality platform has over 40 million daily users; 54.86% of that number are under 13; and 55% of Americans born between 1997 and 2012 have an account. This makes it ideally suited to student education because learners already love the platform.
Contrast this with any attempt at deploying VR in the workplace, where boomers like me struggle with devices they’ve never used, buggy apps, and authentication nightmares.
In this 2023 paper from Han, Liu and Gao, the authors write that:
…the use of Roblox in learning has the advantages of attracting a large number of student users, eliciting the positive attitudes of students, and promoting students’ cognitive and noncognitive learning abilities. (Emphasis mine)
Or, you might say: learning tech works best when learners are already comfortable with the technology - and can get on with learning.
Han, J., Liu, G., & Gao, Y. (2023). Learners in the Metaverse: A Systematic Review on the Use of Roblox in Learning. Education Sciences, 13(3), 296.
👹 Missing links
🤖 Google’s new workplace AI tools are freaking me out
Google has embedded artificial intelligence throughout its workplace productivity suite, and the results are incredible - at least according to the promo video for the new features. You can generate images within your slide deck (something Ross D and I already do for this newsletter) and you can compose a long email with just a one sentence instruction. I shared my thoughts about this in a Twitter thread so, yes, this week’s first ‘Missing link’ is a link to… myself.
In further AI news, ChatGPT-4 is here - and Atlantic CEO Nicholas Thompson has already used it to write a book for his son. The question Nicholas asks is: who wrote it? Did he? Or did the AI? Similar to my own musings above, Nicholas points out that this is not just a question about what he produced, but about who now is producing anything. We can’t put the genie back in the bottle, so what we’re seeing is a dramatic shift in authorship and content creation. Check out Nicholas’ daily #mostinterestingthingintech posts for more.
🏊🏽 Finally, a useful application for all the images I’ve been generating!
This one feels like it should sit in our ‘Deep dive’ session, but so it goes. A swimming pool in Exmouth is being heated by a tiny data centre! Basically, all that fun we’ve been having with AI uses up a lot of energy. It is not, in fact, free. Now, the extra heat generated by the Deep Green data centre is being used to heat Exmouth Leisure Centre’s pool to 30C 60% of the time. Thanks to my colleague Alice Gledhill for sharing this one.
The Earth is moving around the sun at about 67,000 miles per hour. It spins at about 1,000 miles per hour. All of this goes unnoticed by us as we casually hop, skip and jump through life, because of a concept in physics called ‘frame of reference’. Here’s what that looks like in practice, joyfully demonstrated by these dudes who put a trampoline on the back of a tractor 👇🏽
Thanks for reading The L&D Dispatch from Mind Tools! If you’d like to speak to us, work with us, or make a suggestion, you can get in touch @RossDickieMT, @RossGarnerMT or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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