Sunday, September 30, 2012

Flipped learning: training got there first with flipcharts!

Flip one’s lid
We’ve all been there. That collaborative event where you’re forced to sit at round tables and asked to select a chair The trainer then poses some questions which you’re expected to answer with the Chairs of each table feeding back to the group as a whole, while someone writes it up on flipchart sheets and pins them on the wall, so that it can be collated and sent out to everyone.
What actually happens is that the extrovert quickly volunteers to be the chair (or becomes chair by default as no one else can be bothered), the table spends too long deciding what the ill-formed question actually means or shoots off on obscure tangents, the question forgotten. The chair then feeds back their own thoughts, ignoring all other contributions. Sure the flip chart pages are pinned up on the wall with bluetac, ruining the paint work, but you never, ever get the feedback sent to you afterwards.
This is what passes for collaboration in training, an tired-old ritual that is generally a waste of time. It’s illusory learning, pretend collaboration and just one of those awful things that only happen on awful training courses. I really do want to flip my proverbial lid when these sessions are suggested.
OK, the flipside of flipcharts is that they do have their uses. They’re a bit boring, but big enough to be seen by small audiences and small enough to be used by a presenter and a little more small scale and human than a massive projection. For small group brainstorming and sport’s coaching, they can be useful.
Of course, they don’t require batteries or computer technology, so many trainers see it as a safe bet. Unlike PowerPoint, paper is designed to be written upon, and so you can capture the thoughts of learners. Its popularity among trainers is due in some part to its suitability to small audiences in courses with fixed content.
Some flipchart tips include; writing straight by ruling faint lines before you start, write words or images in faint pencil and amaze learners with your free-flowing sketching skills or write faint notes to keep you on track.
Not much to them really but I do like this spoof entry under Flipcharts in Wikipedia,
Recently, scientists have developed a digital self-writing flip chart which writes word for word everything it is instructed to record. The disability action group "Armless" has stated that this is a significant step forward for disabilities groups to have conferences with people without disabilities. Also being released into public sale is a flipchart which is self-heightening. This system is known as the POGO system.


jay said...

Unlike slates, pencils, and so on, the flip chart was developed specifically to support training.

NCR founder John H. Patterson more or less created professional sales training and he invented the flip chart to reinforce his messages.

NCR's Sales Training School opened its doors in 1893. Sessions inevitably started with Watson at the flip chart. He always began by writing one word on the first page: THINK.

(Thomas Watson Sr. took the idea with him when he started IBM.)

Digital photography increased the value of flip charts for documenting meetings by making them easy to share.

Flip chart hats are another story.

Donald Clark said...

Wikipedia has inventor as Peter Kent who founded Nobo plc. Good point about Digital Photography.

jay said...

Wikipedia is in error. Somewhere I have a photo of Patterson in the 1890s in front of a flip chart. Peter Kent is contemporary.


Mark Frank said...

You are unlucky with the quality of the instructors/facilitators you have come across in your career. Have they not been told to think carefully about the question, make sure groups are on track, and use the debrief constructively?

I am a bit surprised that drawing on a large piece of paper qualifies as an invention - but they are a great asset. They are easier on the eye than all but the very best electronic devices. Perhaps the most useful thing is that they can be parked somewhere where they can easily be referred to for a long period. I often use them to draw a map of the course or whatever and pin it on the wall (use masking tape not blutack). That way students(or the instructor) can relate whatever is going at the moment to the larger picture with just a glance. It is surprisingly difficult to find a better way of doing this in even the most sophisticated learning environment. Like all tools they are only as boring as the way they are used.