A Trip to Wonderland

Aug 13, 11 A Trip to Wonderland

Posted by in Featured, Thoughts/Ideas

It took me days to get started on this post. I simply felt I had so much to say and no inspiration of putting this experience into words that would do it justice. A lot has happened lately – not necessarily so much on the outside, but on the inside of me. I fell like I’ve just gone through a storm of amazing insights prompted by a host of diverse experiences I’ve had in the past few weeks. Today I’ll just stop and write about one such experience that marked me in more ways than one. It’s a trip I’ve taken last week, to a place in the middle of the mountains, a hidden haven at the heart of Romania, one that I had never visited before in any of my trips. The place is called Plaiul Foii and it’s a real Wonderland, a sunny clearing surrounded by fir trees and emerald grass. How did I get there? I was invited by my friends in CROS (Centrul de Resurse pentru Organizatii Studentesti) – an organization run by some of the most passionate people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. This handful of young people have dedicated all their creativity, time and energy to one goal – changing the education system in Romania. Their ultimate goal is to create the first alternative university in the country. In the meantime, they run a yearly alternative education program for members of student organizations, where every participant has the chance to choose, autonomously, among a variety of educational resources and options. It’s a self-directed learning program where CROS creates the learning framework and the participants decide how to navigate it. Every year, CROS kick off their education program in a week-long camp, where all participants, old and new, along with mentors from the business and NGO world gather for a Relating, Learning, Playing, Sharing and Planning/Dreaming marathon, where every day is dedicated to one of these 5 themes. This year, for the second time, Plaiul Foii was...

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Traditional Learning is Dead. Long Live Brain-Friendly Learning!

The idea for this post came to me after a recent discussion with a group of participants in one of my workshops. It all happened last week, when I facilitated a “Communication Skills” workshop for a group of professionals in the financial field. The course was a mixture of behavioral science, sales techniques and presentation skills, aimed at giving attendants the tools and techniques to successfully sell their ideas to a group of  clients. I quickly found that my participants were  particularly concerned  with the “presentation skills” part of the seminar, because speaking in public and getting their message across to a group of potentially reluctant customers was a major source of worry for them. They all had sat through too many mind-numbing presentations in their lifetime, and the last thing they wanted was to take the place of those nightmarish presenters that had wasted countless precious hours of their time and whose ideas they had forgotten 5 minutes after the presentation  finished. Together, we tried to answer a few thorny questions: How do you get people’s attention? Even more importantly, how do you keep that attention? And, to top it off, how do you get them to remember your message and differentiate yourself from a host of other presenters whose messages compete with yours to get a prime spot in your clients’ memories? These questions led us to a very interesting discussion about how our brains process information and how far most presenters, public speakers and teachers are from delivering brain-friendly presentations that we may enjoy, remember and act on afterward. The principles by which our brain processes information are wonderfully synthesized  by John Medina in his book, “Brain Rules“, where he talks about discoveries that have started to revolutionize the way we teach or present our ideas to others. To mention just a few: The brain likes to learn through stories and metaphors rather than abstract concepts Our brains like stories more than anything. It’s not by chance that, as children, we...

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