During spring break I visited the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum in Las Vegas. I enjoyed walking around the museum and looking at all the old games. I then took time to play these “old games.” While playing, I began by just dropping in the quarter and playing by reflex. I then took time to review the notices and hints on each machine about how to earn points. As I took this time, I watched my scores go higher – often resulting in earning an “extra ball.” When I just dropped in the quarter, I had a very short pinball game. After reading the notices, hints, and signs on the machine, I was able to take advantage of other opportunities to increase my scores.
After about an hour of playing, I thought of teaching and providing professional development. I determined that a pinball game is a good model for both of these activities. When I just dropped in a quarter and began to play, often the result was a VERY SHORT game because the balls quickly dropped down the center without scoring many points. After I took the time to look over the signs and hints on the game, I discovered and took advantage of new opportunities for scoring. As you see in the video, at one point, there are three balls in play at the same time. Each of these balls earned more points by bumping into the other balls and thereby into point bumpers in the game.
In both teaching and professional development, it is very important to consider all of the ways to connect with our audience. In addition, there are areas that will “score points” with all participants that will help them become more engaged in the learning process. As I played these games, I was reminded to not think that I am “so good” that I do not need to plan and/or prepare. To be a successful instructor, I have found it important to take time to review and highlight my notes, review multimedia shows, check the timing on my presentations, and then consider possible questions that might be asked and how I might answer each one. One thing I regularly do is highlight my materials and put post-it notes in specific locations to help me "not forget" important facts or details.
Think about your most recent Professional Development training. What was done to engage you as a participant (or if you were the leader, what did you do to engage your audience?) If you could change anything, what could or would you change to engage your audience more than was done? After each Professional Development training, I find it helpful to reflect. On a multi-day training, I reflect every evening. This encourages me to think of how I can do a better job in the next training. After this trip, I will be thinking of playing pinball the next time I present. I hope this will remind me that I need to know where I can “score the most points” in helping my audience enjoy and learn the material being covered.
I am interested in hearing what you think of using Pinball as a “metaphor” for training and teaching. Please post your comments below to further this discussion.