Thursday, April 22, 2010

Classroom handouts / Earth Day 2010

I once was a collector of handouts for training and conference sessions - massive piles of the stuff organized by the event, job or subject. I even had stuff from my Master's thesis in file cabinets, never touched over multiple decades. Sadly in hoarding, I never referenced or used those "assets." I have since recycled what seemed like metric tons of old handouts. Today, I prefer to make notes in a composition book and use downloaded or online presentation materials. These assets are used, better organized and valued.

Last conference I attended was "green," meaning limited paper material for us to tote, handouts were online. Still I heard grumbling about no physical handouts even though the conference provided free and ubiquitous WiFi. Looking at the crowd, many we're my age. Old habits are so hard to break.

When I present or design a course, I think about the handout issue. Is there a better way than just sending reams through the printer? Should the supporting content be online? Should there be only limited material that is strategically chosen? Should we ask the learner about their preference?

In Sunday's NYT supplement EducationLife (yes, we receive and read a physical newspaper daily, old habits), I found an interesting story on debate teams moving from tubs of paper to laptop-based storage and the resulting debate culture change. It's a journey.

Happy Earth Day and consider the environment when printing not only personally but for learning as well.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Does peer pressure imapact innovation?

We knew this or at least sensed this from high school. From the April HBR, innovation is chilled by image risks, that is unfavorable social impressions - the fear falling into disfavor by colleagues disrupting the status quo by offering ideas. Feirong Yuan of the University of Kansas and Richard W. Woodman of Texas A&M conducted the research and found that organizational support for innovation reduces the impact of social riskiness.

Innovation faces other barriers and resistance. This American Life #403 NUMMI tells the story of the recently closed GM and Toyota joint venture auto plant. Resistance to the innovative practices by unions and risk adverse GM management doomed introducing the lessons form the joint venture and doomed the plant.