It’s been quiet on the Arcade blog lately. We’re a little behind on the podcast too! (Hoping to catch up this week!)
Between our recent record-breaking travel week (7,000 miles in one week – 14,000 if you’re counting person-miles traveled, since it was two of us!) and getting our kids through Halloween costume engineering (yesterday) and our daughter’s opening night of her first high school play (tomorrow) our work and family lives have been crazy. During times like these, we feel like we really get to put all of our time management techniques to the test!
We traveled to Boca Raton, Florida, where it was surprisingly warm and balmy for October (though we didn’t get to experience much of it, we were in and out so fast!), then to Icicle Village in Leavenworth, Washington, where it was quaint, Bavarian themed and chilly (especially the night I agreed, like a crazy person, to go swimming with the kids in the ‘seasonally enclosed’ pool, then had to run back through the outdoor paths to our room, dripping and freezing.)
The truth is, as much as I love the change of clime and seeing all of the interesting sights that every new place has to offer, that’s not the best part of traveling. The best part is always the new people you get to meet, and there were plenty on this trip.
We taught an abbreviated version of our popular On Point Time Management session in Boca Raton for the Mechanical Service Contractors of America’s CONNECT 2017 conference, and we saw some familiar faces and spoke with a lot of people at organizations we haven’t worked with yet. Then, at Icicle Village, we worked with Associated Builders and Contractors’ Rising Stars, at their Leadership Retreat, and really got to know some really promising rising leaders, again, some of them from companies we know well, others from organizations that were totally new to us.
When we’re traveling, and we talk to new people, there’s one question that always comes up – ‘Do we offer remote / webinar type sessions?’ and the short answer is, ‘No.‘ It’s a little controversial. After all, we live very much by the ideal that we have to embrace all of the up-sides of technology, since we get to live with so many of the down-sides whether we like it or not, and the truth is that distance learning through all of the plethora of tools the internet offers is becoming more popular all the time. Why not make use of that?
So, I wanted to write this post to break down our thoughts on the matter.
First and foremost, let me lead with this. The internet is one of the greatest tools humanity has ever built for access to learning. Having just come out of Halloween season, where I helped the kids with their costumes, when it comes to DIY projects, you can find out how to do literally anything on YouTube. You can learn software very effectively on sites like Lynda.com and Udemy.com. I have leaned heavily, in my IT education, on forum sites like Stack Overflow where developers help one another solve problems. While I did not feel like online learning in the university setting was as valuable for me as in class learning, when I went back to school in 2014, I didn’t want to retake Calculus 1, but I’d last taken it more than ten years ago and wasn’t sure I was ready to jump right into Calc 2 as my first class. No problem, Khan Academy saved the day. I have to tell you that I started the first day of Calc 2 unsure of whether I was really prepared, and Sal Khan did not lead me astray – I knew everything I needed to know.
That being said, I feel like internet learning is good for a very specific subset of subject matter. If I know what I need to know, I can reach out for that material and access it immediately. That’s an incredible asset and tool, but when it comes to ‘bigger picture’ learning, I feel very strongly like there’s a whole other set of factors that we lose, when we use the internet for learning.
We learn better together. Even if we don’t have group projects, there is a communal aspect to a class. Sitting next to other people, wanting to help someone find an answer, not wanting to sound like your question is a stupid one (spoiler alert – it’s not!) we are interacting in a thousand tiny ways when we attend a class together. When I went to Calc 2, I found that my understanding of the material was so much deeper and more comfortable, even though if we’re being completely honest, I think Sal Khan is probably a better mathematician and teacher than my in-person Professor. Helping other people find the answer to a tricky problem, catching the Professor’s mistake on the board and helping her to find where it went wrong, those are all things that didn’t happen in the online course.
Engagement is key. In a characteristic move, I left my Khan Academy course until the last minute. It’s easy to do, when there’s no time you’re expected to be in class, no instructor waiting for you with tapping foot, annoyed when you show up late. I knew that Calc 2 was bearing down on me, and that if I didn’t finish online Calc 1, I would be sorry. But real life was calling. I took the online courses at home, and sometimes I had to pause the video to go and help the kids with whatever they needed, other times I had support at home (i.e. Jason) and could focus, but when I heard someone panicking about a missing school folder, or bickering break out between the kids, even though I didn’t need to deal with it, I’d realize I hadn’t heard the last 5 minutes of course material. I was at home with kids, and you might be thinking of taking a course at work, but the truth is that the distraction level is the same. There will be fires to put out, there will be the low level noise of other people, whether it’s just knowing they’re there, or the actual literal noise of the office setting. Learning new stuff is hard, and if you don’t have your whole head in the game, you’re at a disadvantage from the beginning. When I started Calc 2, I went to class. That meant my phone was off, I was in a physical room where nothing but Calculus was happening. It did wonders for my ability to crank through those equations. While the stuff we teach isn’t quite as intense as Calc, it requires focus, and if our clients pay us to offer it, we feel strongly like every learner deserves the best shot at the level of focus that a real classroom offers.
Change is hard. Finally, much of what we teach isn’t just access to information. If you need to know how to recolor a photo in Adobe Photoshop, you can pull up the directions online, recolor your photo, and you’re off to the races. However, what we teach is less informational, and more coaching. We are encouraging change – in your processes, in your day to day management, in your whole organization. Change is really hard. I won’t go into it here (perhaps it’s worthy of another post at some point) but the truth is that we generally avoid change at that level at all costs. It takes a major impact to cause a person to decide to even try to make a change, and anyone who has ever had a New Year’s Resolution knows that resolving to make a change is only the first step. We feel that if we are only faces on a screen, with no classmates around you, we cannot have the impact necessary to catalyze the change we’re trying to help you to make.
We love to travel, and will visit you at your location and offer whatever courses you like, but hopefully now it makes a little more sense why we don’t offer distance sessions. This was a very careful and intentional decision on our part, as we could absolutely offer it, and would make more money as a result of doing so, at what we feel would be a disadvantage to our clients. Sometimes, we can offset the cost of a travel engagement by holding sessions at other businesses that are local to you, or by offering classes at a local branch of a trade organization like ABC. Want to learn more about setting up an Arcade session in your neck of the woods? Give us a call today!