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The New and Improved Trainer Toolbox: Part 1

Monday, July 21, 2014

I recently wrote a blog post on the 10 Ways to Take Your Corporate University Out of Snoozeville. From the responses I received, I believe I hit a hot button—especially with the section on 10 items that every L&D person should know how to do. Trust me, knowing these things will enhance your classroom: 

  1. blog
  2. use Dropbox or Evernote
  3. develop and sustain a PLN
  4. curate and share information
  5. send large files
  6. use a hashtag
  7. manage your online brand
  8. know the variety of different delivery mechanisms
  9. trouble shoot technology
  10. subscribe to and manage Slideshare, YouTube, or other dynamic digital media. 

For many of you, this list is a no brainer. Yet, for others, this may be a scary list—and you may be wondering why these items are important to include in your revised tool box.

In this two-part blog post, I'm going to offer my point of view as to why these items are critical to enhancing your "trainer toolbox."  

#1. Blog

Blogging, in my opinion, is the most important item on this list. There are so many things that a blog can do for you and your learning initiatives. It is important to break down blogging into two parts: blogging for expression, and blogging as a learning tool.   

Blogging for expression allows you to share your thoughts and ideas; it's an extension of yourself. I find blogging to be empowering—like I'm giving myself permission to express my point of view and share my experiences. More important, it's a great way for your learners to get to know about you and feel connected to the learning. Through blog posts, your learners can start to understand your expectations and get a glimpse of your thought process. 

Blogging as a learning tool uses posts to provide pre-work or information about a specific learning session. Some examples include presenting ice breaker activities, linking to or embedding videos, or posting journal entries so leaders to review how the class is progressing. Learners can comment on the topic, enabling you to see whether they understand pivotal concepts. The possibilities are endless.

The #LearnCamp @Learn_camp is a great example of how to conduct a course through blogging. And here is a nice summary about the importance of blogs from Mike Taylors’ Learn Camp including how to set up a free blog on both Wordpress and Blogger.  

#2. Use Dropbox or Evernote

A common question I often hear is how to improve the collaboration process within teams. Well, in my opinion Dropbox and Evernote are the solutions to your collaboration issues. Indeed, I do not know how I got along without either of these collaboration tools. 

Evernote is an add-on to my brain. You can store anything at any time, and Evernote works across devices and is OS agnostic. You simply set up notebooks for a variety of different topics. For example, I have a notebook specifically for my blogs and another one for notes for Learning Rebels. When I was in the corporate world, I had a notebook for meeting notes and others for on-going projects.

You can take meeting notes and send the Evernote link to all participating parties—so no more losing information on email. Download the desk top app, and you don't even have to be online to take notes. Once you are back online, it will automatically sync. Personally, I think it is the best collaboration tool currently on the market. If you want to know other awesome things Evernote can do, check it this post from lifehacker. 

Dropbox is the king of file storage and collaboration. We have all worked on those projects that have a business case, a supporting PPT deck, a budget spreadsheet, a project management spreadsheet, checklists, project updates, and so on. With Dropbox, you can store all those files in one place, where everyone involved in the project can easily access and update the files.


#3. Develop and sustain a #PLN

A PLN is your “Personal Learning Network.” I have spoken in depth about being a curious learner, and building and sustaining a PLN is key to keeping yourself informed and up-to-date on all things related to your niche. My network challenges me, presents me with new information to review, gives me links to courses and webinars to attend, and helps me to vent and share ideas.

Yes, I am connected to most of my network online. If you're on twitter, find someone whose point of view you appreciate and reach out to her. Find out who they follow, and follow those people and interact with them.

And a PLN is not just about gathering contacts, it's about sharing. I enjoy my conversations with these key people, but I also look forward to interactions with new voices—you never know what you may learn. If you want to learn more about the "how and why" of PLNs, check out David Kelly's blog: Why you need a #PLN

#4. Curate and share information

In Show Your Work, author Jane Bozarth asks the key question: If what you are working on is not worth sharing, why are you working on it? Have you ever worked on a project only to find out that someone else just a few doors down was working on the very same project? Probably.

Bottom line: sharing information is key to breaking down silos, and there are tools at your fingertips to help. For example, consider starting a blog detailing a current project. One post may describe how you are planning to gather data on XYZ, and when Sally Sue reads that post, she knows where some information already sits and can send it over to you. You've shown your work, and you’ve benefited. 

Curating information is a bit of a different animal; it focuses on gathering and organizing knowledge. For instance, in an art gallery, works are displayed in a way that is either logical or tells a story. Your process of curating information needs to be equally strategic—not just literal information dump with a search function. Google the phrase, "Ladder Safety Courses,” and you will find some 1,370,000 results. Do you really need to be 1,370,001? No. How about if you curated great information about ladder safety, put in that Ladder Safety blog you are going to write, and boom, you are DONE! Here is an excellent blog post on Putting Curation in Context by Mark Britz. 

#5. Send large files

I just want to scream when someone tells me they are headed down to my office with a USB drive to give me that file that is too big to email. UGH! Do them and yourself a favor and show them how to send large files. One option is to use Dropbox, of course. Some other cool tools for sending large files include:

  • TransferBigFIles.com: you can upload and download files as large as 1 GB for up to five days; files can be password protected if security is a concern.
  • WeTransfer.com: you can send files approximately 2GB (for free) by simply entering your email address and your recipients. 

I hope you see the theme here: all of these tools are linked together. Ultimately, it's about a new way of working. Better yet, it’s a new way to think about working: sharing, curating, and communicating.

The next post will cover using a hashtag, managing your online brand, knowing the variety of different delivery mechanisms, troubleshooting technology, and subscribing to and managing dynamic digital media tools.

Part 2 of this article is now available.

About the Author

As chief learning rebel at Learning Rebels Performance Consultancy, Shannon Tipton works with learning practitioners and organizations to lift learning innovation, knowing that today, social learning, content curation, and team collaboration are the keys to organizational success. Recognized for bringing real-world expertise to the learning field, Shannon uses current technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration, and increase learning connectivity.

As author of Disruptive Learning, Shannon speaks frequently in North America and internationally, spreading the learning rebels’ message. Shannon also ranks as one of the top 100 L&D Influencers on Twitter (@stipton); her blog, “Learning Rebels,” is one of the Top 100 Learning Blogs and can be found at learningrebels.com.

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