Talk to me pod…

Put your hands up if you love learning!

Yes, we all love learning something new, especially when we do it in a just-in-time manner. I’m talking mainly about learning that provides practical instructions for everyday tasks. The ‘show me’ and ‘tell me’ kind of learning. The type of learning you wouldn’t necessarily sign up to a class for, but could very well need at some point in your day to day life or work.

So I ask, how many of you have actually sat through Microsoft PowerPoint’s help wizard function to learn ways of enhancing presentations? Not many, I’m sure. I learnt to use PowerPoint back in high school, with the luxury of spending a whole class session learning how to make various types of animated presentations. But what if time is of the essence? Reassuringly, I now know I have alternatives and discovered ‘smarter’ ways to feed myself with condensed and practical information in a timely manner. Most importantly, these alternatives offer a learning experience I actually enjoy and appreciate. In my case, I have Apple to thank – the iPod has jazzed up my learning.

My iPod Classic (which runs both audio and video files) can virtually teach me, inspire me or at least provide me with tips on anything that my heart desires. How, you ask? Well, through the various podcasts, videocasts and audio books I have downloaded onto my pod. For example, I have been learning how to be a better sales professional by downloading weekly advanced selling techniques casts. I’m sure some of you are silently saying ‘why would you do such a thing – surely it must be mind numbingly boring?’ Simple, I appreciate the value of it to my everyday life!

It’s this immediate and tailored value and the ability to access it wherever and whenever I want to that makes this kind of mobile learning perfect for me, allowing me to absorb the information precisely when I choose to or when I need it. These particular casts are humorous, light hearted and (I stress) to the point, making them ideal to listen to – not only are they informative but I actually enjoy listening to them and look forward to downloading the latest weekly cast. Furthermore, the ‘pain’ of learning is eliminated: I don’t need to read paragraphs of boring sales spiel all I hear are practical day to day examples of certain methods which have worked. It’s more like a friend or a colleague sharing their advice than a formal learning intervention. In my experience, if you appreciate the learning, then the likelihood is you will retain the information relayed and even feel motivated to put it into practice.

Another (more risky) example: if I dared to, I could even learn how to cut my own hair by following professional hair cutting demonstrations shown in a number of video casts. Or, amazingly, I could learn how to create a free website from scratch. Sites like /let you download, share and subscribe to all kinds of ‘how to’ videos – the categories range from sharing photo tips all the way through to programming tips; the varieties are endless. offers a similar service, where you can also browse through a number of ‘how to’ Wiki guides.

This type of learning works in a more business focused context, too. A financial company recently piloted an audio learning programme, passing out iPods to about 300 employees and creating digital audio training programmes that employees could download and listen to at the gym, at home or during commutes. The pilot feedback was incredible: more than 87% of participating employees said their iPod based training was a worthwhile investment of their time. Now all 32,000 employees download training programmes and podcasts of company related speeches and employee forums.

During last year’s Learning Technologies show, I was exchanging ideas with the Ministry of Defence’s development adviser, and was interested to hear that they were providing simple just-in-time language training to troops out in Iraq. Troops were given iPods loaded with the simple icons to depict certain functional objects or commands along with the Arabic characters and the words written phonetically. Users would scroll through to pick and choose the relevant icons necessary for their communication. Simple and practical! Imagine how this could support foreign aid volunteer workers sent out to various countries on short notice (and that’s just one example of many).

I could go on and on about all the infinite possibilities and ideas for enhancing learning. But for now, there’s a whole host of content out there which can be accessed and downloaded onto your iPods and mp3 players. If you are a business manager and would like to provide refreshing ways of providing learning, training, or simple reference material to your employees, then my advice is this:

  •  Keep it to the point (only include what is necessary)
  • Think of creative ways of delivering the content (is it going to be funny, chatty, scenario based, conversational style etc.?)
  • Ask yourself if the medium of delivery is the most appropriate (how long is it, how much information does it contain, should you be considering an alternative medium?)

One thing is for certain – these possibilities offered by my iPod have made me reconsider my view of ‘traditional’ learning principles.

For those of you who would like to learn how to create your own podcast, you can view a video post on YouTube which provides you with step by step instructions for creating and publishing your very own podcast/casts.