Monday, 7 June 2010

Learning with Impact

One of my neighbours has a really interesting job. He lost an arm as a young man in a motorcycle accident, and now often does work for Amputees in Action, adding realism to training simulations for the Army, Police and Fire Service. Here is a story about the value he adds.

Imagine a group of soldiers on exercises, on Salisbury plain. They come across a downed helicopter, on fire. Inside they find my neighbour, apparently seriously injured, with a very realistic fake arm lying semi-detached on the floor, and fake blood pumping from a concealed tube. It looks extremely realistic, and my neighbour is a great actor, with a fine line in "resisting aid"! Sometimes the soldiers turn green, sometimes they grit their teeth and carry on, but it gives them a taste of what they may need to deal with in action.

He has also got a wicked streak. Recently he was playing the role of an injured insurgent, fake blood, detached limb and all. The soldiers did a really good job of patching him up and loading him into a helicopter for evacuation. Except one of the soldiers made the mistake of leaning a rifle against the wall of the helicopter cabin. So, still in his insurgent role, he grabbed the rifle and took over the helicopter, causing complete consternation. That soldier will never, ever, make that mistake again! That lesson has been well and truly learned, and maybe one day it will save someone's life..

Why try so hard to make the training realistic? Because that's the best way to learn. We learn by doing, and if we can "do in advance", then so much the better. And its those emotional shocks that can really cement the learning.

So when we are trying to transfer knowledge and learning to an audience, can we turn it into an experience? Not necessarily with fake blood, but something better than PowerPoint? Something they will remember? Something with impact?

(For a YouTube video of Amputees in Action, see here, but be warned, it contains realistic-looking footage)

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