Learning is a Lifelong Journey

Educating the Adult Learner

Experiential Learning
Experiential learning is a preferred method for the adult learner. We need to consider this as we prepare presentations, lectures, and curriculum for our organizations. Engaging your audiences over a period of an hour presentation (or longer) can be challenging, but if you think outside the box, you can  generate new ideas and methods to disseminate vital educational facts and information to your target audiences in the industry.

Learning with Dig Safely New York, Inc. 
In March 2018, Dig Safely New York facilitated its annual Excavator Safety Seminars series, which are nine (9) full-day educational events for industry professionals. In 2018, more than 3,200 attendees went through the program. For the last several years, the Dig Safely New York’s Promotion & Education staff have been reformatting their presentation portion of the seminars to include elements that invoke emotion, humor, and engagement. Using research on TED Talks, participation and engagement, education for the adult learner, and analysis on damage statics and causes, each year’s presentation on New York State’s business law Code Rule 753 and the safe digging best practices, focus on key problem areas and aspects that need to be addressed in detail.

Education Empowers and Protects 
Nationally, we can see that unsafe digging practices within the Tolerance Zone are the number one (1) cause of damages, and in New York it is no different. When the team met with this information, we brainstormed new, innovative, and creative ways to teach our audiences about the Tolerance Zone and further engagement during the presentation. The following are two (2) methods Dig Safely New York used this year.   

Bullseye – Tolerance Zone Education 
Dig Safely New York’s presenters used a dart board example to teach audience’s about the Tolerance Zone. The presenter asked the audience for a volunteer, but more specifically an above average dart player. The person was introduced and asked to throw a dart on the count of five (5) at the balloon on the dart board. Once the volunteer successfully hit the balloon and popped it, the person was asked to place on a blindfold. The presenter spun the volunteer around and stopped the person facing the audience. With the blindfold on and facing the audience, the volunteer was asked to again throw a dart on the count of five (5). Before the presenter got to five (5), the volunteer was asked to take off the blindfold and view the audience/direction the dart would have went had they thrown it.  

Next the presenter asked for a second volunteer, specifically, someone good at standing around. After someone was selected and introduced, this person was asked to stand right next to the dart board. The presenter asked the first volunteer how comfortable they felt about throwing the dart and hitting the target with the second volunteer standing right next to it. The second volunteer was also asked. Before allowing the volunteer to throw the dart, the presenter took out a measuring tape and measured two(2)-feet from the target, asking the standing volunteer to move to the new location. The first volunteer was then instructed again to throw the dart on a count and the audience participation was over.

The presenter then addressed the audience with this message. “Some of you may be wondering what the point of this whole exercise was? What do darts have to do with excavation safety? The truth is that, this is the same situation you all face every day in the excavation industry. Just like (volunteer one (1) name) was a skilled dart thrower, all of you are qualified, skilled excavators; but every time you decide not to contact Dig Safely New York, not to get utilities marked out, you’re putting on that blindfold. Not one person here today was comfortable with (volunteer one (1) name) throwing that dart without knowing where his target was, so why would any of us be comfortable starting an excavation project with no idea of what we’re aiming at? Even with the blindfold removed and a good idea of the target location, you would have to be crazy to feel good about (volunteer one (1) name) throwing the second dart knowing that (volunteer two (2) name) was so close. The margin of error was too small. A small miss left or right, up or down and it wouldn’t be a very good day for (volunteer two (2) name). So why would we be willing to work with that small of a margin of error when we’re excavating? It happens all of the time, in fact 52% of reported damages are due to excavators “taking the blindfold off” but then “throwing that dart with no margin of error. In this industry we call that margin of error the Tolerance Zone.”

The goal of this exercise was to relate something familiar and new to the Tolerance Zone teaching. Connecting the dots when you are using an exercise like this is vital. Following this exercise and explanation, the Tolerance Zone was addressed in detail.

REVIEW – Tolerance Zone Education
At the 2018 seminars, we kept the audience engaged throughout the hour by asking them to listen for a key word. For three (3) years, Dig Safely New York has been teaching the acronym REVIEW. 

R – review the ticket information

E – evaluate the job site

V – validate the markings

I – identify the Tolerance Zone

E – excavate using hand tools

W – work carefully on the job site

At the beginning of the presentation, the presenter asked audiences’ to listen for the key word. Each time the word was said, attendees were to raise their hand or stand up and they were tossed a stress ball with the acronym and the Dig Safely New York logo printed on the ball. Dig Safely New York created this acronym and incorporate it into educational outreach, as mnemonic phrases are known to assist people in remembering vital information.  By reinforcing the term and asking attendees to listen for it, over 3,200 people were educated and empowered, able to walk away remembering REVIEW. 


Certified Excavator Program
For more information and/or to register for a class, please visit www.DigSafelyNewYork.com/CEP.             

For more information on Dig Safely New York’s free learning management system, please visit www.DigSafelyNewYork.com/learning.