Peter Durand

A Golden Torch & The Zen of Hula Hooping

In Journal on January 31, 2012 at 5:36 pm
One day, while hunched over my computer keyboard, I received a surprising phone call from the local chapter of the American Society for Training & Development (or ASTD as it is known).

Our online course in graphic recording, Become a Rockstar Scribe at School or Work, had been nominated for an award for excellence.

My wife and I were encouraged to attend the evening event, complete with fancy dresses and a red carpet.

We were told to be on time and to prepare an acceptance speech in the event we received the award.

Unlike the other award-winners and audience members, we are not instructional designers, ontological coaches or pedagogy experts. Our acceptance speech included six index cards with hand-drawn icons and a hula hoop.

When the presenters got to the Innovation category, Diane and I sat nervously in the dark theater, hoping for our names to be called.

When we heard the winners announced, we felt mixed emotions of sadness (we did not receive the Innovation Award) and relief (we wouldn't have to go through with our crazy speech).

Just as we started to relax and sink into the soft theater seats, we were surprised to hear our names called as the winners for the next award: Innovation in Technology.

Technology?!

We doodle for a living! And making marks with inanimate objects like sticks and stones is one of the oldest forms of technology around.

(Thanks to companies like Neuland, those objects have become much more beautiful and easier to use!)

Turns out, our online course on the basics of scribing with markers was nominated for the Golden Torch Award by the President of the local ASTD chapter, who is also a student in the Rockstar Course.

This person directs onsite and online training for banking products and services. Yet she saw our little experiment in online facilitation as groundbreaking. (I'm talking about you, Erin. Thanks!)

Although I am proud of our team, I am not writing this to celebrate our success. Instead, this indicates a sea change in the field of training and education.

Specifically, this points to the confluence of online learning, streaming video, mobile devices (especially iPads and tablets) have transformed the expectations for how and when people learn.

And, the secret sauce is visual storytelling.

Key players have disseminated and democratized the concept of scribing: in particular, the popular online math and science tutorials created by Khan Academy and the thoroughly magical time-lapse scribing videos developed by Cognitive Media.

Talented author/designers Edward Tufte (Visual Display of Quantitative Information), Nancy Duarte (Slide:logy) and Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen) inspired a generation of presenters taking the stage at  groundbreaking conferences such as TED, PopTech, and the constellation of O'Reilly tech conferences.

Collectively, these folks and their high-quality presentation videos have raised the bar for presentation design and storytelling skills.

More important, the expectations of audiences around the world have risen; we expect both high quality images AND highly authentic voices.

In creating our Rockstar Scribe course, we simply built upon these concepts and played with new digital tools like Brushes, GarageBand for musically composition, Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro for video editing, and WordPress — all available to anyone with a laptop and iPad.

So, what inspired the nice folks who gave us the award for Technology? It must be that we used that technology to transmit the EXPERIENCE of people drawing together and telling stories.

It is a core belief of ours that people learn from watching other people tell stories and make pictures. We are mesmerized by the human hand creating something–anything!–on a blank canvas.

More and more, people are rebelling not just against existing political and economic systems, but against staid, typical meetings and presentations.

Like most awards ceremonies, we ran out of time to thank everyone and share all the things we intended, although we did manage to hula hoop.

What was our message?

Whatever you do, when working with other people, take some risks, try something new, leave them with something memorable, and, for your audience's sake… don't be boring!

========================================

PS. As a side note, thanks Hooparama in East Nashville, we now hula hoop once or twice a day, alone and in pairs, which has elevate the daily dose of laughter and energy of the team. When we were leaving the theater after the awards ceremony, people were coming in with… hula hoops! Turns out that, unbeknownst to us, there was a screening of a documentary on Hooparama airing that night. Synchronicity!

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