Wherefore Art Thou, Salteo?

John Salt, the IT Training Doctor, seems to have disappeared. The blog is gone; he hasn't responded to emails. What's worse, the Internet Archive doesn't have a decent copy of his fine work, including "Harry Potter and the Trainer of Dire". That's a shame, because it was easily one of the best blog posts of 2006. So John Salt, I'ma callin' you out! Since the archive didn't have any copyright notice, I am reproducing the original post here in reverent homage to you until you tell me to take it down.

Harry Potter and the Trainer of Dire


What follows is a true story, illustrated through the use of Lego.

The story illustrates the difference between traditional training and ROLF training (constructivist-based, reality focused). The training happens to be "soft skills" - if you can call defence against the undead a soft-skill - rather than IT training. There's two reasons for that. First, I believe that the IT aspect of IT training is largely irrelevant; we use the ROLF model for all types of training. But second, and the real reason, is because I didn't want to create lots of little Lego-sized computers.


Was it Shakespeare or Chaucer who wrote,
"It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark.
Under the moonlight you see a sight that almost stops your heart"?
Either way it's an apt description of what happens to our poor Dobby, the house elf. Dobby has just popped out for some mushrooms when he realises that he is being followed by a skeleton. Scary? Indeed, Dobby wets his little hessian pants. Fortunately he makes a narrow escape.

The day after and Dobby enrols on a 1 day course at Hogwarts, to help him defend against any future evils of the night.

Dobby is given a choice of attending either Snape's course or Harry Potter's; both are running at the same time. As much as Dobby loves Harry Potter, Dobby decides to attend Snape's, since Snape is the official Defence Against the Dark Arts trainer.

Snape's Training

Dobby attends Snape's course, which is called Undead defence - Introduction.

Once all the delegates have arrived, Snape launches almost straight into writing up on the flipchart that by the end of the course, the delegates will be able to:
  • Explain the history of the damned
  • State the four categories of undead
  • Practice assertive behaviour
  • Practice undead defence techniques: Rijak; Fall up; and Smith; and
  • Explain ethics of undead defence.
Then he proceeds to cover each topic over the course of the day. To achieve that Snape (1) introduces a topic, (2) explains and demonstrates how to behave, and then (3) has the learners repeat back to him the same information / behaviours. He gives feedback - eg "legs more apart boy!" and when the delegates finally appear to have "got it" - he moves on.

At the end of the course is a test. Snape asks a series of questions - some to be answered verbally, some to be written - and sets a few tasks. Because the learners are able to repeat back to him the correct answers and demonstrate the correct behaviours, he knows that the training has been a success. He magics up a certificate for each of the delegates, hands out a happy sheet, and off the learners go.

One month later

One month later and Dobby is again out in the middle of the night, trying to buy a replacement USB cable. This time he discovers to his horror that he is being hunted by a zombie! (What's with the world these days?)

Dobby remembers that they covered something about zombies in the course, but for the life of him - literally - he can't remember what it was. Dobby falls to the floor, knowing he will soon be mauled by the zombie's rotting hands, when he hears the clatter of a 'time-turner' falling out of his pocket (he "borrowed it" from Hermione). He turns it...

And finds himself back at Hogwarts, nearly a month ago. It's daylight and he can see himself at the reception desk, enrolling for Snape's class. Watching his 'first self' go into Snape's class, he then runs up to the reception desk, says "I've changed my mind!", and runs into Harry Potter's class.

Harry Potter's training

Harry's training course is called Defending against the undead. Harry begins by drawing out of each learner what they hope to achieve, and he makes a note of such on the flipchart. For his part Dobby explains that his duties often require him to go out at night but that he's now scared of doing so, given that he's already been followed by a skeleton at midnight and has sort-of been attacked by a zombie, and he's worried this will affect his productivity.

Now that Harry understands what each person wants to achieve, he proposes an order for the course, which he says are based around the "real world tasks":
  • Defending when it's night against fast-moving undead, inc. skeletons, vampires and werewolves
  • Defending when it's night against slow-moving undead, inc. zombies and dementors
  • Defending when it's daytime
  • Reporting the incident to the authorities
(As it happens, Harry actually uses this same order pretty much each time, but the learners now feel as though the course has been constructed around them).

Harry introduces the first topic - Defending when it's dark against fast-moving undead - and as a group they discuss the "lifecycle" of what might happen, from first becoming aware of a problem through to having somehow defended against it. Potter relates the discussion to each of the individual learners' motivations and examples, such as Dobby's incident with the skeleton.

Once they've finished discussing what might happen and what might they do, with Potter introducing various snippets of key information - for example about the importance of assertive behaviour and the ethics of dealing with the undead - Harry sets the group a problem.

Harry explains that he wants them to deal with a problem that is a specific example of the entire real world task: so from identifying the type of undead they're dealing with, all the way through to saving their own skins. Harry explains that they will have to do this without help from him, because in real life, there won't be a trainer around to help.

Harry says a few words and whooosh!! It turns to night outside, and what appears to be a cave entrance appears in the room. Out of it step two grotesque undead creatures, which the group quickly identify to be "aaarrgh - zombie!!" and "eeeeeehh - skeleton!!":

The learners scream and run around a bit at first. They keep expecting Potter to save them, but when they realise that he's not going to (Harry appears to be barely paying attention) the learners start to collaborate, shouting out suggestions to each other. They decide to counter-attack using the Rijak method that Potter briefly introduced in the discussion.

Unfortunately that doesn't work - and indeed the mistake leads to Dobby being caught in the zombie's grip - but eventually Dobby squirms out of the grip (albeit battered and bruised) and this time they each try the Fall-Up manoeuvre. This gives them some success.

The battle continues for nearly twenty minutes, but finally the undead are vanquished.

Potter calls the exercise to a close. And then he does a review:

"So, it was night and you saw creatures coming out of a cave. What was the first thing that you did? ... And then what did you do? ... And in retrospect would you do anything differently there Fred? Dobby, any thoughts on how you might have got out of the zombie's grip faster? Okay, let me show you this technique... So, Fred, can you see how what we've just covered is moving you towards your objectives for this course? Dobby, how does this help you given your objectives? ... How did you deal with the ethical consideration that a person's soul might still be trapped inside the zombie?"

And so on.

And so the course continues, with the learners discussing the lifecycle of the real-world task and with Potter introducing new information as part of that; and then with the learners trying to solve specific examples of that real-world task without help from Harry.

By the end of the course the learners are exhausted... but happy and confident!

One month later ... again

Dobby falls to the floor, scrabbling to get away from the zombie's grip. He hears the clatter of the time-turner falling out of his pocket. He grabs it, tries to turn it... but nothing happens. The zombies hands close around his neck, squeezing the life out of him. Dobby reacts: he twists into the ITIL position and flips himself using the Fall-Up move. He flips up over the zombie's head and as he starts to come down, Thwack! Dobby kicks off the zombie's head.

Dobby lands, checks round for other danger and finding none, proceeds to say the words that will help put the zombie's soul to rest. Ethics, you see.

Yes. Dobby is glad that he attended Harry Potter's training.



What's your conclusion?

What did Potter do differently to Snape, and why does it matter? Is your IT training more akin to Snape than to Potter, and if so what needs to be done about it?

Related Post: Crash Course in Learning from Harry Potter

posted by Mike at 5:36 AM


Blogger Salt said...

Fantastic! I thought this long lost: many thanks for keeping and posting a copy Mike.

All the best and hope you're well,
John Salt (formerly the IT Training Doctor).

3:00 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Hi John,

I couldn't let this disappear...it's just too good. Hope you're doing well, would love to hear more from you.


7:42 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

At this time it sounds like Movable Type is the preferred blogging platform out there right now. (From what I've read) Is that what you're using in your blog?
Mobile apps for university

6:11 AM  

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