Don't Talk At Me, Talk With Me

Insufficient permission
I had an opportunity to attend the Google Cloud OnBoard ML yesterday in NYC. My expectations were an introduction to the Google Cloud, some Machine Learning, and a bit of a sales pitch. I expected to walk away with some minor new skill in doing a linear regression on Google's Platform. What I walked away with was a clear experience of what education should not be. Even as a theatrical experience it should not be what Google gave us. Large companies would benefit from engaging with life long educators on how to model and connect with other during their events.

On arrival I set myself up at a hightop to do some work. It wasn't long before a Googler was engaging some attendees behind me. Of the three being chatted up there was a vast range of skills sets with their experience in cloud technologies and machine learning. One had no experience, another had played with cloud products and another had run some machine learning with scikit-learn. This was a good snapshot of what I saw the rest of the day; various skill levels with a common interest to learn and know more about machine learning.

The event started in a large ballroom with close to 1000 of us seated at thin tables facing a presenter and two large screens. This was my position for the majority of the day. A brief video was presented on organizing data and machine learning. Then a kickoff by a customer relations manager. All a basic intro with housekeeping format to begin the day. This degraded educationally from here.

ROITraining lead the training elements of the day. The format was a lecture that almost wanted to be socratic but failed in a large room. Followed by a demo that moved so fast if you wanted to follow along on your own terminal you needed to have an understanding of what was being demonstrated before the demonstration. This went on for six modules with lunch and a break in between.

While I soaked up the knowledge of the Google infrastructure and gained a better understanding of how the cloud worked there wasn't an opportunity to try the skills presented or anyone easily accessible to support when stuck. The intention is to "on board" the users to machine learning on the cloud. What I experienced was being talked at for a day.

Teachers capitalize on the basic fact that students show up everyday to learn something. Often not all students want to be in the classroom learning. Large events such as what Google offered provide rare opportunities of a filled space of eager learners. When you have that level of attention on a topic of product every moment counts. Engage the learner, build connections, and develop entry level skills. Avoid a chalk and talk scenario.


  • Provide opportunities for intimate questions or anonymous questions. Have a back channel going. a place for some one to ask that question they don't want to feel stupid for asking publicly or wasting time on. 
  • Setup sections for various levels of support help. Provide the support for that section. 
  • Direct attendees to live help in the moment. You have me in the room now. Don't direct me to an online course. I would stayed at home and done in. 
  • Connect members in similar and diverse fields. Such similarities and diversities can solve more problems when connected than apart. Create the opportunities for connections. 
  • Talk with me, not at me. You have me present engage me. Work with me. Provide opportunities for me to explore and be successful under your guidance. 
  • Give immediate reference resources. Don't assume everyone knows how to begin a demo. provide the lowest level documentation or be clear about prerequisites. 
I've been in many effective classrooms. The most effective for older learners provide autonomy to the learner with direct facilitated support and easily accessible resources. Consider the least skill level in the room and provide ways for them to be successful and grow. 

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