Sunday, September 25, 2016

Learning to listen effectively to podcasts

Rachel Burnham writes: I have a love/hate relationship with podcasts – actually that is way too strong!  I can see the value of podcasts; I frequently recommend them and build them into programmes I’m designing;  and sometimes I even listen to them myself – but I don’t really find them an effective way of learning personally.   I can listen to comedy podcasts fine and I can certainly listen to jazz based podcasts with great enjoyment and attention, but when it comes to business podcasts all that goes out the window.  I get distracted; I start clock-watching – ‘Are we really only 8 minutes into a 20 minute programme?’; I instantly forget what is being discussed; and if the podcast is good it gets me thinking, I start chasing that thought and then lose my place in the broadcast.  On many occasions I don’t even make it through the whole podcast!
But what is a podcast?

If you haven’t come across the term ‘podcast’ before, it refers to a digital audio-recording and is a bit like a short radio programme, except that they are usually available via the internet.  They can be a one-off programme, but many are produced as part of a regular series and can be subscribed to, so that every time a new one is ‘broadcast’ your phone or tablet or PC receives it.  Just like a radio programme, a podcast can be a single person talking, an interview, a panel discussion or a whole mix of segments.  There is no reason why they can’t involve drama or music too – although these are less frequent components of business podcasts.  Podcasts can be used as part of corporate communications or as a learning resource and are particularly suited to being accessed from mobile devices.  They are relatively cheap and easy to produce and so can be a valuable option for L&D.

 I love to read

But for myself, I prefer to read.  I love to read and have done since I was a child.  Even though I struggled to learn to read, I always loved books.  With books you can have pictures and diagrams.  With books you can read at your own pace, pause at any point to think more about what you’ve read, easily go back and re-read a section or jump forward to a more interesting page.  And you get to hold them and smell them.  I am a proper bookworm and I read to the end of the book. I do love to read!

 The experiment

So, when we started to explore the use and creation of podcasts as an L&D resource, during the ‘E-learning: Beyond the Next Button’ year-long MOOC that I am studying with Curatr this year, I was intrigued and slightly embarrassed about my own lack of enthusiasm for podcasts.  Eventually, during a Twitter Chat (#LTMOOC16) I owned up to my reservations.  As I shared them, I noticed that they sounded very like the sorts of comments, I often hear from people who don’t like reading – they get distracted, they forget what they have read, it doesn’t go in, it seems endless.  In this situation, I have often recommended highlighting key points, adding your own notes linking the material to your own experience or mind-mapping to summarise what you have read. So I decided to take my own advice and try this sort of strategy with podcasts myself.  As I like Sketchnoting, I decide to experiment with sketchnoting whilst listening to some podcasts and see if this made a difference to my experience with podcasts.

So over the last fortnight, I have listened to three different podcasts and created a Sketchnote for each one.   The three podcasts were from different sources and in each case, I sketchnoted as I listened.   The three podcasts were:

‘Communities of Practice and Showing your Work’ a Good Practice podcast 13 September 2016

‘Curating & Sharing Knowledge’ a CIPD ToolClicks podcast featuring Martin Couzins

‘Neuroscience & the Organisation’ a Learning Now Radio podcast featuring Amy Brann 2nd June 2016

By comparison, I have probably only listened to about three podcasts in the past year prior to this fortnight (excluding jazz related podcasts).

 Did it make a difference?

I felt that Sketchnoting made a huge difference to my experience.  In all three cases, I felt that I had a much clearer sense of what the podcast was about – I could picture it.

I actually enjoyed listening to the podcasts and was still attentive at the end of each one – this is a major breakthrough for me.  
When listening to the middle podcast, I was interrupted by family members who came to chat and by a phone call, but because I was Sketchnoting, it was easy to find my place again and pick up the thread by looking at my picture.  In the past, I probably would have used the interruption of the phone call as a reason to give up on the podcast and not complete it.

From previous experience of Sketchnoting, I know that I do refer back to Sketchnotes that I have produced to remind me of key points and that they do work to jog my memory.  It helps that I have them altogether, in a bound notebook and so it is easy to find these notes.  It is interesting that I hardly ever referred back to more traditionally made notes, except when doing a formal course and I have needed to for an assessment or exam.

So, although three podcasts is a small sample, I do feel that Sketchnoting has improved my ability to listen effectively to a podcast and has as a result changed how I feel about podcasts for the better.

If you haven’t listened to any podcasts before why not give it ago.  All three of the podcasts I listened to are part of series and there are many others available for free via ITunes. 

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Developing Ourselves

Here is a Sketchnote that I created to summarise some key points from Learning Live 2016 7 September, organised by the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI).  It focuses on the importance of investing in our own development for L&D professionals.

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The value of asking - my learning from working with people with disabilities

Rachel Burnham writes: A couple of weeks ago the #LDInsight twitterchat explored how we work with people with disabilities on learning.  Many of the participants identified that this was not something that they had experienced very often within their professional careers.   My experience is rather different and looking back I realise that I have fairly regularly worked with colleagues and clients with disabilities.   These have included people with visual and hearing impairments, people with mobility problems and people with dyslexia, which takes many forms.  Actually, the disability comes from the environment, a failure to adapt the learning programme and our attitudes, rather than the condition itself. 

I thought it might be useful to share two key learning points from my experience.  I make no claims to expertise and I am definitely still learning about how to more effectively make learning accessible to all.

My first learning point, came from very early in my time in training – it definitely was training then!   I think it was only about the third or fourth programme that I had been involved in delivering and I’ve never forgotten it. We were working with an external client on a two day programme.   To our surprise one of the participants in the programme was blind and we hadn’t known that until we turned up.  I remember feeling so embarrassed that we hadn’t known in advance and also feeling that we had been dropped in it by the client.   When we reflected afterwards, myself and my co-trainer, realised that actually we had never asked about whether any of the participants had any particular needs.  We had just assumed that they wouldn’t.

So we changed our practice and from then on always asked as part of the commissioning and identification of learning needs. 

I think it is worth building this kind of prompt into our processes and practices – so I ask this when I am talking with stakeholders or I might build it into an application form or discussion with individual learners.   I think this sits alongside asking about dietary requirements and in an ideal world shouldn’t really be any more difficult to ask and answer than that.  I know that not everyone wants to share this information – I think by including it in, we start to build an environment in which it is OK to be open and explicit about our individual needs.   

I know I am influenced in this by my personal experiences of disability – for example since I became diabetic, dietary requirements and specific needs go hand in hand.  As a child measles damaged my hearing, which in turn affected my schooling for a short while, until I was able to have some treatment.  I am comfortable with being open about this – but then I work for myself.  And I know that there are many disabilities that are perceived far more negatively than diabetes.

So my first piece of learning is  to ask the question.

My second piece of learning is that when it comes to making adaptations to enable an individual with a disability to participate in a learning experience, it is always worth speaking with that person and asking for their advice.  Don’t make assumptions or work from generalisations.   Many disabilities impact on people very differently.  In my experience, it is always worth talking to the individual directly - they are an expert on their needs and have usually discovered what works for them best.

I was once tasked with organising an induction/initial training programme for an individual joining one of our regional teams, in an office at some distance from where I was based.  Normally, their manager would have had this responsibility, but they had just moved onto to a new role outside of the organisation themselves.   The challenge was that we had severe budget restrictions at the time, so I had no money to travel in person to the location and this was so long ago that there was no online way of communicating in our organisation (hard to imagine now!) and so I needed to mostly work with her over the phone.  And she was deaf.  So, I contacted her before she formally started and asked her advice.  She was able to suggest the type of modified phone that would best suit her, where to order in from and how to get funding to do this!  I asked her what else would help her induction and she made a number of other practical suggestions including on office layout, as she used lip-reading and so it was important that she could easily see her work colleagues when they were speaking together.  I was so glad I asked her advice!!

So, my second piece of learning is to ask the individual concerned for their advice.   In fact, I find I increasingly ask the question of all the people I work with ‘What can I do to make this learning experience work better for you?’

Most L&D professionals I come into contact with are keen for learning to be accessible for all.  I suspect as a profession that we have not done as much as we could to make this a reality.  Time for a change.

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.