Improving Learning

Improving Learning

The growth and acceptance of training aid techniques is gratifying, but there is still a lot to be desired. The showing of a motion picture or the flashing of a slide on a screen is by no means an indication that the firemanstudent is learning by this experience.

Psychologists tell us that if we accept our entire knowledge as representing 100 percent, then we can assume that we acquired 1 percent by taste, 2 percent by touch, 3 percent by smell, 11 percent by. hearing and 83 percent by sight. This, however, does not mean that we retain 83 percent of what we see. Quite the contrary, in fact. It has been said that we retain 20 percent of what we hear, 10 percent of what we read, 30 percent of what we see, 50 percent of what we see and hear, 70 percent of what we say as we talk and 90 percent of what we say as we do.

The result of these percentages can be diagramed as a pyramid representing the relative effectiveness of training aids. This pyramid, known as Dale’s continuum, has a broad base representing the most purposeful experience (the 90 percent saying as we do retention) and at the apex are the more abstract hearing and reading experiences.

The challenge that results from all this is simple: What do you use and how do you acquire it?

The first thing that must be done is to do some soul-searching in the department to determine what talents are hidden there. Basically, we are looking for an artist with some degree of capability, a carpenter, someone with knowledge of electrical circuits and a photographer. By using a little imagination and the skills of these four persons you can develop training aids tailored to your needs.

Several good resource manuals are available from educational organizations that establish criteria for using and developing audio-visual aids. One text, “Audio-Visual Materials, Their Nature and Use,” spells out the relationship between the learning process and the various media. The Eastman Kodak Company publishes a series of booklets on producing slides, film strips, training films, etc.

The Visual Instruction Bureau, Division of Extension, University of Texas, has published a series of pamphlets, “Bridge for Ideas.” These pamphlets not only tell which media to use and how to use it, but when not to use it and how to avoid instructor misapplication. The National Fire Protection Association has “A Reference List for Fire Service Training,” which provides an excellent cross section of printed material that should be investigated for transposing into visual aids. Also, Ira Anderson wrote a book on making visual aids for tabletop fire prevention demonstrations.

Training library

The various fire service magazines are a veritable storehouse of ideas. By researching their pages and filing the articles, you will greatly supplement the amount of background in your training library.

In the hierarchy of training aids, we see that visual is the second level of abstract and is subject to the restriction of the 10 percent retention factor for material that is read. However, every department should have a complete training library Where firemen can borrow books.

Handout materials or reproductions of unpublished works that can be given out are very good. In our department, we periodically reproduce and distribute this material as a serialized training bulletin.

Call the artist in sometime, give him a roll of butcher paper, felt tip pens, some water-based paints, and a staple gun and presto—a flip chart. It can be rolled, stored, modified, or thrown away after it has served its purpose. The finished product represents a minor expense and is especially handy for use in classes that are repetitive in nature and yet warrant mostly the reinforcement of words or ideas.

Three-dimensional aid

A felt board offers three-dimensional reproduction for visual appreciation and has the added attraction of being paced with the instructor’s delivery and easily modified. The construction of the basic unit is so simple as to be ridiculous—a plywood frame, flannel and sandpaper. The illustrative material can be cut from Masonite or cardboard, and in some instances you can even attach the very objects of discussion themselves.

The next level is the radio or recording. For a relatively small amount of money, a portable tape recorder can be bought for your library. Specialized courses, guest speakers and important conferences can be taped. It is not necessary to have an expensive recorder as a $50 unit is more practical. A small portable can be carried around in a vehicle for instant use and the tapes can be transcribed into written material or stored like film.

Flannel board adds visual dimension to hydraulics instruction.Transmission cutaway speeds understanding of gears.House model shows basic features of framing.

The radio has limited value to us. However, to train men to operate a radio or to simulate command situations, a simple two-position receiver and speaker or intercom hookup can be used.

How to use films

Motion pictures have a lot to offer provided they are chosen with discretion and used as intended. Develop preview sheets and questions on a film to help the officer use the film to proper advantage. In the officer training program, a session on the do’s and don’t’s of film delivery can eliminate a lot of wrinkles.

You should beat every bush to acquire films that will dovetail into your program. Agencies that have related problems are abundant and we should strive to establish a working relationship with them. A few obvious ones are the American Red Cross, Factory Mutual, Automatic Sprinkler and Fire Control Association, etc. Less obvious sources are the Merchants and Manufacturing Association, Ethyl Corporation, and the local school district audio-visual library.

Your department photographer can be trained to film evolutions on either 16 or 8 mm film and thus produce training films tailored to your needs. Just having a photographer cover your fires can be an asset, for the films can be used to criticize your men’s work and to re-evaluate techniques.

Not all training films are 16 mm, by the way. The 8 mm and super 8 are used to advantage in constant loop or even with magnetic sound for lowbudget or single-concept films. This film can be used with programmed learning systems and in some ways is vastly superior to 16 mm film. The smaller films are cheap, easily shot and edited, and can be evaluated periodically at little expense. This media is very good for hose lays, ladder evolutions, tools and equipment drills, and even tactics.

Advantages of slides

For flexibility and applicability, however, you can’t beat pictures and slides. What we are actually doing is taking a single frame out of our motion picture film and setting it up for close scrutiny. Many departments have taken to 35 mm slide presentations for a multiplicity of reasons: it is easy to do, it is relatively cheap, the finished product is custom designed and applicable, and control of material content is right where it belongs in the hands of the instructor.

Armed with a shooting script, which is a sort of job analysis converted into pictorial sequence, your photographer can do a reasonably good job with any 35 mm camera.

Every slide presentation needs a script to guide the instructor. However, this script shouldn’t become a monologue. Even the best slides can become boring with a script sounding like a weather report.

Black and white prints, while not as spectacular as slides, can be used to advantage by making the prints of actual fires a part of the discussion of hose lays, tactics, breathing apparatus, ladders, ventilation, etc.

TV is easy to use

Television is a rapidly expanding medium which should be investigated. With a little training, anyone can learn to operate the equipment and have the advantage of instant replay, maximum control editing and even playback over a fire station television set.

Models and mock-ups leave a tremendous opening for imagination and the utilization of the skills of your men. For instance, the intricacies of a transmission are laid bare by simply removing one side of the case. Then again, a simple mock-up of a four-way valve goes a long way in explaining the function of the appliance.

It may sound strange to refer to pre-fire planning sessions and company inspections as training aids, but field trips to the plant being discussed are invaluable in instilling in the men images and details they will be able to use.

Demonstrations of manipulative skills fall into a broad area of our triangle and represent the effectiveness of giving the student an opportunity to witness the live action of a particular function.

Simulating reality

Dramatic experience sounds a bit heavy when referring to training firemen. However, every time you send a crew on to the drill field or into a house-burning drill, you are practicing dramatic experience. It’s nothing more than simulation—doing the task under conditions as close to reality as possible. The width of the dramatic experience implies that the knowledge received will have a more lasting impression on the minds of the participants.

Direct experience is at the base of the media trangle. I am sure that most of us will agree that we probably cannot recall specifically what happened at the drill held August 10, 1969. However, I would almost bet that your memory is full of data on the handling of specific emergencies to which you responded. Witnessing or actually performing a task or making decisions has a way of giving us accumulative knowledge. We may forget what someone said, but we seem to remember what we did.

This article has described some of the ideas and concepts about audiovisual aids. It’s nothing more than words on paper right now. For these to become a part of your capabilities, you must begin using the techniques discussed. If you do this judiciously, I believe you will have a better training program.

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