I have been many things in my life - from fruit-picker, through postman, delivery driver, barman, professional actor, Office Manager, Trainer, IT Learning Manager and latterly, Head of Technology Assisted Learning in a global corporate. Now an independent consultant, speaker, tweeter & blogger, I have learned, and now know, 'a little about a lot, and a lot about very little'. I hope this blog will be of interest and stimulate some further conversations amongst us all.
I've been reflecting on a fun learning experience I had a few weeks ago. I spent a weekend in a learning environment where most of the time I was up to my waist in murky water (see pic. I'm the guy with the male pattern baldness, back to the camera). Yes, after 21 years living in Hove, I finally decided to have some windsurfing lessons, and spent a Saturday and a Sunday morning in a Beginners' group of six at the Hove Lagoon.
Now that we are experiencing 'proper' Autumnal weather, it seems remarkable that on that weekend we had temperatures of 24 degrees in Hove, and the water in the lagoon was actually tepid. Downside of the fantastic heat was that there was hardly any wind, which kinda took the 'wind' out of 'windsurfing', but that didn't stop us learning, developing a new skill and having fun in the process.
What I loved about the experience was how immediate it was - how quickly we went from theory to practice - and practice - and practice again. Our instructor, Helen, had us in the water, our boards rigged, within 15 minutes and within an hour, I was able to stand up for more than 5 minutes at a time with the 'boom' in my hands and the sail and the board pointing in the right direction. After 3½ hours, I had mastered the basics and stopped falling in, although I frequently found myself steering inexorably into the far bank of the pond, rather than managing to turn round (or 'tack' as those of us in the know now call it) back from whence I had come.
On day 2, I managed to sail across the wind, upwind, downwind, tack, jibe, avoid other lagoon-users in dinghies, paddle-boards and other sail-boards and self-rescue if I had to. More theory, knowledge-checking and voila, I had my Royal Yachting Association 'Start Windsurfing' Certificate - my first new qualification for several years!
And what else did I learn, apart from basic windsurfing? Well, I hadn't realised how much sailing language has come to be embedded in our day-to-day language and conversation - "Changing tack", "Sailing close to the wind", "Niall, what ARE you doing?", etc. As an L&D Manager and Trainer, I also got the following: hook your learners in early and let them experience quick results; make it fun; allow them to make mistakes; praise and reward them; incentivise them to come back for more...
Oh, and don't rub sunblock and salt water into your eye if you want to be able to see for the rest of the day!