Tip #141: Accelerated Learning in Croatia #2

Accelerated learning techniques include involving as many senses as possible for whole brain learning and to meet the needs of different learning styles. Color, music, touch, movement, visual stimulation, and the use of metaphor and story are all very important ingredients in an accelerated learning classroom.

After my first trip to Croatia to train trainers for the small business development centers in 1998, I returned four more times in March and July of 2000 and March and September of 2001 to work with the School of Economics at JJ Strossmeyer University in Osijek.. My assignment was to help them design the first European student-centered MBA program in Entrepreneurship and train the faculty there. My son Seth accompanied me on this return trip and one other trip, becoming a world traveler at the ripe old age of 10!

It was gratifying to learn that that the small business center in Osijek, just started two years ago, when they feared that no one would make use of their training and small business counseling services (entrepreneurism is a very new concept there), now had over 44 clients and could not handle all of the course and counseling demands!

Thanks to Sanja, an associate professor at the School of Economics, University of Osijek, we were kept very busy: I spent the first week alternately meeting with Sanja to develop a 20 hour Creativity and Innovation course and with Ljerka to develop a 20 hour Presentation Skills course, both to begin April 13-15 with the inception of the masters degree program in Entrepreneurism there.

The second week, I met with a different professor each morning for four hours to help with their second or third semester course, then taught a train-the trainer from 2-6 for all professors who will be involved in this masters program. The emphasis was on having them use interactive instructional methods rather than 90 minutes of straight lecture. The group was open, enthusiastic, and very appreciative. I also learned a lot, myself, as they each had to explain their area of expertise (intelligent systems, statistics, economic finance, etc.) to me before I could help them.

Amazingly, almost everyone spoke English, with a broader vocabulary than most Americans. And each apologized for their English, which left me even more apologetic about my complete lack of facility in their language!

On the last afternoon of training, Ljerka presented a 45 minute segment of a lesson we had co-created in Presentation Skills the previous week, using all sorts of interactive methods and audiovisual aids. She did a brilliant job, modeling what we expected of each professor and establishing a very high benchmark.

Ljerka and I actually managed to design all 20 hours of her course, primarily due to her great facility with the English language (she teaches it, with a beautiful British accent), her quick and perceptive adoption of the techniques, and her amazing energy and enthusiasm. Sanja and I were able to design over 12 hours of her 20 hour course.

The exciting thing was that I knew I would be going back in July to audit all four of the courses that would be nearing completion in the first semester (two are being designed with professors at St. Louis University), as well as to work more intensively with the professors who would be conducting the second and third semester courses. So, I would actually be able to watch the designs in full fruition!

Of course, I brought 20 pounds of candy (as opposed to the 85 pounds two years previous, when I had trained five days in Osijek and five in Dubrovnik, along the Adriatic). And koosh balls, which they loved and which I left with them. I also showed my cartoons, but didn’t choose wisely. There was a cute one about a wife using a football analogy to get her husband to take out the garbage- but football in Croatia means soccer!

While I was working, Seth spent the entire day with Jadranka and her three children with Danijel, who was a veterinarian: Tomi (turned 14 while we were there, and spoke and understood English), Denis (10, who understood it a bit, but didn’t speak English), and Ivana (8, who didn’t speak or understand it). Since the children had only four hours of school a day, one or the other two were always home for Seth to play with. Jadranka, who works for the School of Agriculture, took time off from her work for the duration of our stay so that she could entertain Seth. When I found out about this, I felt very guilty about such an extreme imposition on her time and income- however, she assured me that, as academic staff, she could make up the time later- and she saw this visit as an investment in her future- her children.

This beautiful, vibrant, loving woman took Seth and her children to all kinds of parks, bicycling, playing outside, to the city pool (which is new and puts Madison to absolute shame!), to the zoo, feeding Seth lunches, and overseeing his getting his huge amount of homework done (he is very conscientious and worked continually to complete it, which he did before we returned to Madison). Seth also went to give a talk in Tomi’s class about America, using postcards and books of America and Wisconsin that we brought- and was such a huge hit (the children privately asked him questions, such as whether or not he had a girlfriend!), that they invited him to return the next day to visit the zoo with them. Jadranka also sewed up his left shoe when their small and protective dog (who was in a cage) took a healthy bite (of Seth’s sock, but not his foot, which was in both, thank goodness!) when Seth inadvertently walked too near the dog’s enclosure.

It was a wonderful trip, which ended in Osijek with all of the professors, Jadranka, Danijel, their children, and Seth and I sharing a lovely dinner at a very nice restaurant. A lovely and generous send off.

The world is an increasingly small place- and the warmth and generosity of people we met gave us a true feeling of connection. It would be wonderful if all children could travel to at least one other country and live with the people there. Once you have been in another country, it is impossible not to care about the health and well being of the people there. It would be a true investment in a peaceful world future.

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