Llewellyn Falco (http://llewellynfalco.blogspot.com/) helped Asynchrony host an “Afterhours” party during StrangeLoop 2015 (September 2015) highlighting new and emerging methods to enable learning – the following is summary of what the 55+ in attendance learned from Llewellyn.
A Demonstration – Context Matters For Learning
Right off the back, Llewellyn began with a lightning talk – lightning talks are short talks (typically 5-7 minutes) on a specific topic. Llewellyn’s talk began with several broad generalized statements summarized by words on slides which left many “confused” as to what he was actually presenting. He then paused and added the background graphics to support the statements and topic he was presenting (flying a kite). Immediately, everyone went from being confused to being “crystal clear” on the information being shared. Context matters for everything we do and ensures that we establish a frame upon which we can communicate & learn effectively. Think about this the next time you are giving a presentation and you throw together some quick slides with words to summarize what you are presenting – have you adequately established the context of what you are presenting for people to be able to understand and learn?
Next Llewellyn shared a short presentation on “Quantum Computing” during which he mentioned Amazon is investing in Quantum technology to enable greater compute capacity in their future Cloud (PaaS – Platform as a Service) offerings. Quantum computers have significantly more cores than a standard computer to allow for faster complex problem solving and advanced logarithmic processing. Llewellyn used a manual demonstration of computing Prime Factors to show how the power of Quantum Computing will allow for faster computation in the future and will surely impact areas of computing where processing still limits the speed at which an answer/solution can be obtained, image/signal processing, etc. For a flavor of what Llewellyn allowed us to learn about Quantum Computing check out: http://www.slideshare.net/llewellynfalco/quantum-computing – for some ideas about what Amazon is working on with Quantum computing development check out: https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/introducing-qc2-the-quantum-compute-cloud/
Fast Group Learning with Sparrow Decks
When was the last time you and more than 55 other people established a common understanding of something (aka got on the same page) in about 4 minutes??? Llewellyn used “Sparrow Decks” to demonstrate a technique by which we can rapidly retrain the subconscious parts of our brain to establish this kind of common understanding across a large group. He began by asking who in the group (more than 55 people) knew the differences between “House” Sparrows and “Song” Sparrows (different types of birds) – the majority of those present had “no” idea what he was talking about. Llewellyn then ran a timed slide presentation where everyone in attendance called out if they thought the bird shown was a “House” sparrow or “Song” sparrow – each bird was shown for a few seconds or less. Llewellyn gave no instructions or further information about how to identify each type of bird. After ~4 minutes of watching the birds appear, everyone in attendance (55+ people) were able to accurately identify “House” and “Song” sparrows nearly all of the time. All present then created a mind-map (using Post-It Notes) to capture their other observations and identification criteria for “House” and “Song” sparrows – Llewellyn mapped these on the wall. In roughly ~10 minutes, a group of 55+ people most of whom knew nothing about the different types of Sparrows had become experts on that subject – that’s the power of group learning. Want to check out what “Sparrow Decks” look like – you can download them from one of Llewellyn’s Tweets on the topic – https://twitter.com/llewellynfalco/status/631363670942085120
Learning via #MobProgramming
If you follow Llewellyn on Twitter (https://twitter.com/llewellynfalco), you’ve probably seen him mention #MobProgramming as one of the best ways to promote fast learning on software development teams. MobProgramming is the practice of all team members working together on a single workstation, looking at the same code at the same time, and providing guidance to the driver (the person with the keyboard) as to what to test or code next. The Driver listens to other team members and codes based upon the instructions provided – ideally the driver does not think, but rather codes based upon what they hear. Llewellyn provided a demonstration of this powerful learning technique not using coding, but using DragonBox (http://www.dragonboxapp.com/), an app that uses symbolic patterns to teach kids algebra. Llewellyn found 4 volunteers who had never used the game before and asked them to form a mob playing on a single iPad. Llewellyn had one team member serve as the guide, and tell the driver what to do to solve the puzzle. Once the puzzle was solved, Llewellyn coached the driver to state to the rest of the team what they learned. After the puzzle was solved, the driver shared what they learned, the team rotated so there was a new driver and guide. As the demonstration progressed, others on the team (in addition to just the guide) started to provide insights to the driver, and those observing watched as the team was able to solve problems of increased difficult in less time. Yes, some of us watching (who follow #NOESTIMATES) did measure the cycle time of each round of game play so as to support the hypothesis within the #NOESTIMATES community that teams that engage in #MobProgramming can write code faster and have greater throughput than teams that do not use mobbing (collaborative work) techniques. Llewellyn effectively demonstrated how practices for completing collaborative knowledge work, such as mobbing or pairing, enable teams to achieve greater throughput and quality even when completing complex tasks.
A learning party wouldn’t be complete without PowerPoint (PPT) Karaoke, so our evening with Llewellyn wrapped up with 4 bold volunteers that sent us home with a bit of PPT Karaoke. PPT Karaoke is an activity where volunteers pick a topic at random, and then are asked to present about it using a few slides also selected at random. As an example, one of the volunteers selected “Visual Basic” as their topic to present, which was then paired with a sampling of “Agile Manifesto” slides – that combination made for an interesting discussion about what “Visual Basic” was but believe it or not, even included a mention of preference for “things on the left” vs “things on the right” in a Visual Basic context. The idea behind PPT Karaoke is to promote creativity, spontaneous thinking/speaking, and injecting cognitive dissonance into a topic/subject area – think about it, you may just have your next great epiphany about how to write the best Visual Basic code when you are challenged to think about how Visual Basic relates to the Agile Manifesto, and without the randomness of PPT Karaoke that catalyst for creative thought may never occur. Plus it goes without saying that the Karaoke aspect adds a bit of fun (what did you just say about “Visual Basic”). On a more serious note, people have used PPT Karaoke as a “warm-up” for serious brainstorming (like product design sessions), and Llewellyn even shared he’s facilitated PPT Karaoke sessions for “kids” to enable them to start flexing their creative muscles at younger ages. For kids, you’ll want to use something they can relate to like playground / school pictures (hold off on the Agile Manifesto until they are a bit older).
At the end of the “Afterhours” party, all in attendance confirmed that not only did they have a great time attending but they also all learned multiple tips & tricks for how they could go about stimulating more learning activities in their day-to-day life.
Thanks so much to Llewellyn for sharing – hopefully we’ll see you at “StrangeLoop Afterhours 2016”.