Archive for the ‘Technical Training’ Category


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Education traditionally focuses on knowledge acquisition and retention.  However, it usually misses a key element.  That’s the element of speed.  In other words, of fast can you recall information and how fast can you apply it. 

While there is usually a time limit on tests, it’s usually not at the speed of rapid recall.  You usually have ample time to think of the answer or to figure out the answers based on how the test is written.

If you really want to know who knows their stuff, try cutting the time you have to take the SATs in half.  Try cutting the time allowed for a multiple choice test to the time it takes to read all the questions and circle the answers.

So why the concern for speed?  If you have a fluent knowledge of something, it shows itself in terms of speed.  Think of learning a foriegn language, you have to get to the point where you know all the words well enough to keep up with a conversation especially when others start to speak quickly.  In fact, keeping up with a conversation is a good measure of how fluent you are in a language.  The same can and should hold true for other subjects.  With speed comes competences or vice-versa.

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Microsoft Office 2003 Professional  originally uploaded by Kris Kumar.

I’ve been surprised by all the people I’ve met who still use Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. They know the minimum amount of features by they still use it a lot like a typewriter.

Ask someone, do you know how to use styles? This will tell you all you need to know about what they know and don’t know.

The problem in learning this program is that people either have to learn on their own so they don’t even know what they should be learning, or they learn about features but never learn how to apply to their work.

When I’m doing facilitation, we often work with these document on a projector instead of flip charts. I’ll tell you that we spend more time on how things were done than the content. It’s the first time most people have see these features.

So when teaching any type of software, I’d forgot about teaching functionality and focus more on how it change the way people work.

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I had an interesting conversation with a the head of a techincal college about a major problem of technical education.  He gave this example.  We can train someone to fix an HVAC system.  However, these students are totally unprepared to go into someone’s home and deal with the homeowner.  They do the typical thing of separating technical and soft skills.

This is the same problem of getting doctors with poor bed side manners or engineers who feel uncomfortable dealing with customers.

 The answer is to integrate technical and softskills and focus on the situations and tasks.  In other words, when you teach someone how to fix brakes on a car, at the same time you teach them how to tell grandma that it’s going to cost $700.  In other words, you’re teach the job as a whole and not pieces and parts.  You don’t have to put things back together if you don’t separate them. 

In general think about training complete tasks from simple to hard, easy to complex.  It really does work better and it dramatically cuts time to proficiency.

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