WxTV: Entertainment-Based Learning
Ramping up the green-collar workforce will require a new set of training methods - WxTV picks up where traditional training leaves off.
July 01, 2010
A version of this article appears in the July/August 2010 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
Weatherization training and education has traditionally been offered to contractors and crews in the classroom and lab; at on-the-job, travelling training road shows; and during conferences. All of these methods are generally effective. But when an extremely large number of workers need to be trained in a very short time, the disadvantages of these traditional methods quickly become evident. Traditional training methods are limited by the size of the classroom. They generally do not accommodate rapid-response staff turnover. Due to supply and demand, most training programs are limited to in-house and local expertise and do not have access to the limited number of weatherization and green job experts. Finally, trainings are not offered consistently throughout the United States, and the cost per participant is high.
You’re Learning Without Realizing It
WxTV picks up where traditional training methods leave off. But the great thing is that you may not realize it until you reach your next job site. As you break out your tools to begin work, you suddenly feel compelled to roll out 6 feet of plastic in all directions, and you don’t even know why. It’s as if you learned how to do part of your job without being taught. . . or did you? Is it a coincidence that you just watched the WxTV episode on the fundamentals of lead-safe weatherization and the new renovation, repair, and painting rule? Perhaps it isn’t.
WxTV is a new show highlighting the latest developments in the world of weatherization. It’s like a vitamin-packed training supplement. In 45 minutes or less, the show takes you step-by-step through new rules, techniques, and products, or just about anything else that might be of interest to weatherization professionals. Guided by a weatherization trainer, the show consists of host commentary, videos, and animations that break down complex subject matter into easily digestible chunks. Experts and seasoned crews from around the country have the opportunity to participate by submitting video content, or by visiting the WxTV lab for on-screen interviews and hands-on demonstrations. This interaction gives viewers a chance to learn from veterans in the field, much like an apprenticeship. But make no mistake—WxTV is not just for beginners. There’s something for everybody, and every bit of content focuses on developing the competencies needed to improve the energy efficiency of a home safely and economically.
It’s Entertaining … and Educational
Sound dry? It’s anything but. And this is where WxTV diverges so much from traditional training techniques. You’re not sitting in an uncomfortable seat watching a PowerPoint presentation in some classroom. You may be sitting in your living room, your home office, or even a coffee shop. WxTV is based on the Web, so it is delivered at your convenience—whenever, wherever, and you can always come back for more later. It is a bit like weatherization’s version of an HGTV do-it-yourself show, entertaining and informative, and even more convenient. Little gems of information are inserted throughout each program. Experts share tips and secrets—the kind of information that you’d typically only get on the job. The experts are vetted and chosen from around the country to provide the most up-to-date information and to bring a national feeling to the broadcast.
Weatherization measures differ greatly based on local climate, and WxTV showcases those differences.
Between 30 and 40 episodes are planned for WxTV in the first year. Topics for episodes follow DOE’s core competencies for the Weatherization Assistance program. This list of competencies was created in 2007 and updated in 2009 by a group of trainers who wanted to establish and record the skills needed by each member of the weatherization team. An installer, for example, would need a different skill set than an auditor or a manager. Each episode focuses on one aspect of the core competencies, or one topic that relates directly to the competencies, and distills the most important information out of it into an enjoyable show.
Active Multifaceted Learning
From a weatherization training standpoint, WxTV is going in a new direction. You may be worried that the program diverges too much from standard learning practices. There’s no set schedule; there’s no instructor to ask questions. The creators have addressed these concerns from the onset, and WxTV is certainly not passive learning. Viewers are encouraged to participate by asking questions or posting comments in the real-time blog located below each episode. Often within minutes, the WxTV staff answer questions. The anonymity of using a forum like this inspires even more questions than would typically arise in a standard classroom setting. It creates discussion rather than a simple question-and-answer session. Questions tend to snowball, and once again, viewers and blog users are learning without even realizing it. In fact, this type of critical discussion represents the pinnacle of the learning process.
And the learning does not stop there. You can also follow WxTV on Facebook and Twitter. Social networking is not just for kids texting their friends. Used properly, social networking sites can significantly increase communication and sharing of weatherization techniques, material use, and training follow-up. According to a Harris Poll conducted online between March 31 and April 1, 2009, by Harris Interactive, 74% of Americans aged 18-34 (typical weatherization workforce age range) have Facebook accounts. Networks such as Twitter and Facebook have found their place in professional business and management as well. Tapping into this resource for the younger weatherization workforce is just one more way of ensuring that trainers are meeting the needs of the population we serve, linking people, ideas, and communities.
Ben R. Cichowski is the Montana Weatherization Training Center’s instructional designer and teaches various courses as well. Michael P. Vogel is a professor at Montana State University (MSU) Extension and the director of the Montana Weatherization Training Center based on the MSU campus.
WxTV is the brainchild of Mike Vogel and Ben Cichowski, who serve as the executive producer and writer/host respectively. Sitting in the director/editor’s chair is Vince Cusomato. And finally, Brad Eberspecher completes the team as the show’s production coordinator. All work originates from the Montana Weatherization Training Center in Bozeman, Montana. The Montana Weatherization Training Center is a joint effort of Montana State University Extension and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. Since 1991, its mission has been to train the professionals who are on the ground weatherizing homes every day. Working closely with the Department of Energy, Montana’s Human Resource Development Councils, and tribal associates, the center focuses on safe, efficient, cutting-edge techniques to address the health, safety, and energy efficiency issues present in low-income housing. WxTV is one of nine projects funded through the National Community Action Foundation–ExxonMobil Weatherization Training Partnership, supporting advanced weatherization training models. The training models use creative curricula, innovative partnerships, and innovative technologies to train more skilled workers to meet the U.S. Administration's goal of weatherizing more homes.
For more information:
Get more information on WxTV.
If you are interested in participating in WxTV or have any suggestions for topics to cover, contact Brad Eberspecher at (406)586-0050 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
For all other questions regarding WxTV, contact Ben Cichowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get a list of DOE’s core competencies for the Weatherization Assistance Program.
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