What does travel teach us about learning?
I’ve recently returned from a trip to Greece and thought it would be fun to reflect on what I’ve learned from travel that I could apply to training or learning.
Don’t rely solely on technology
We had the worst GPS experiences on this trip. Our GPS sent us up the side of mountains where the word road could only be loosely applied and down narrow side streets that added unnecessary stress to a drive and may have saved a second or two in the journey. It also frequently got confused and would “replan” in the middle of a journey. When we were up the mountain, we used a brochure with a rudimentary map and a goat herder to “reposition” ourselves and turnaround for a treacherous journey downhill to our actual destination. After awhile of the silly side streets, we ignored the commands from the GPS and trusted our instincts or road signs. We also tried to outwit the GPS by entering in stages of a journey rather than the whole thing. It worked a bit better. For future reference, we’ll be taking a good old fashioned map along for the ride and verifying the GPS with another source, even the goat herders. The roads were still a challenge – much like this author describes (http://bigfatgreekodyssey.com/blog/?p=1726) but the scenery was pretty spectacular.
Lesson: It’s very easy to be seduced into the convenience of technology, but there are times that we need to engage the brains and not just follow the instructions. When considering the use of technology in learning solutions, we should really be wary of what might make things so easy but really not helpful in the long run. If we hadn’t shut off the GPS and asked the goat herder, we might have ended up in the gorge where the Spartans used to toss their lame babies or hundreds of kilometers away from our destination (and mostly UP). We need to be careful that we don’t lull ourselves into a false sense of security where mindless employees can’t respond to problems or adjust their plan because they don’t have the device that tells them.
A story goes a long way
We were a bit underwhelmed at some of the museums we went into, the descriptions of the items were mostly interesting, but after awhile there were only so many columns and statues that we could take. Some attempted to provide a bit of background, but the things that were the most interesting were the stories that the museum displayed told. Putting a date on something only gets you so far. “wow, this one is from 439 BC…. oh wait, this one is even older”. That actually gets a bit boring. Unless you are museum curator or hard core history buff, this won’t really enhance your experience. We actually enjoyed the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil. It told stories about the evolution of the olive and the influence it has on the region. Fascinating. Plus they added some cool features: a recipe printing station (we printed and cooked at least one, very yum), a video about how soap is made, working machinery and miniature replicas of factories. But mostly the stories were what kept us engaged. The sexy new Acropolis Museum was very good as well (also told more stories than just displayed stuff).
Lesson: When considering how to engage someone in your facts or content, a story can be a much more compelling way to do so. Provide some context and put your facts (or objects) into that context. Otherwise it’s just stuff, even if it is interesting.
OK, so you can imagine that Greek is not an easy language to learn, but what made it harder to navigate around (for me) was the various spelling of places. We spent a couple of days in Nafplion, also spelled: Nafplio, Anapli, Nauplie, Nauplio, Nauplion. We had the same problem in Kardimyli. We hoped as we entered one spelling into the GPS that she’d understand and also used the road signs to verify and hoped that they at least sounded similar in pronunciation when we asked for help or directions!
Lesson: when you are putting together training, your audience is like the foreign tourists who don’t understand the jargon that is used by experts in your country. Try to keep it simple! Feeling lost and a bit foolish doesn’t help anyone learn.
Travel is great for gaining perspective and experiencing things you don’t normally get a chance to in your usual environment. Every trip provides you with insights, hopefully great memories and if you are lucky some new friends.
What have your travels taught you? I’ve enjoyed Julian Stodd’s recent articles on this, and not just because my next trip is to NYC…