The success of TikTok in particular is obviously down to several things, including: love of music, dance, lip synching and sea shanties….but also the ability to convey a message in an incredibly short space of time – something that advertising agencies have been trying to get right for years.  I have been told several amazing facts/great recipes/philosophical ideas by my children and the answer when I ask them what the source is, it will always be, “YouTube/TikTok”!  They have remembered learning presented in a quick sound bite, with visuals and music.
Obviously, the entire content of our schemes of work can’t be taught in this way, but there must be a place for this kind of presentation, surely?  It all boils down to the main messages of the learning – what are the 4 things you absolutely need the learners to remember?  What are the other pieces of the jigsaw that might take longer to process?  Which elements are actually fairly irrelevant once we really take a hard look?

Why are we trying to prescribe outdated methods of learning and re-train learners’ brains all of the time?  Perhaps there could be a happy medium.  Certainly, learners need to learn to concentrate for set periods of time to complete a task, sit an exam or read materials for a course, but not every piece of learning needs to be delivered in the same way.  

Our brains change all of the time – rewiring and creating new connections.  When we scroll through social media apps, we are searching for a hit of dopamine, the neurotransmitter released by the brain that produces feelings of pleasure.  There is no evidence that this scrolling will have any long term effects on our attention span – but of course, it’s good for everyone’s mental health to have a break from it.

Nano-learning is a targeted learning method designed to help learners develop their understanding of a topic through small inputs in short time frames.  It has come from the idea of micro-learning but nano-learning differs in that it focuses on a single learning objective.  The learning will not last more than 2-3 minutes to achieve this single objective. 

This very short presentation is intended to be multi-media.  It could contain: audio, infographics, pictures, captions, video.  It could be used at the beginning of a day’s learning or part of the way through to summarise the learning.  It could be shared with learners on a social media platform with everyone being encouraged to view pre or post course as appropriate.

Existing training materials could be reused as components of nano-learning – this would just highlight the most effective parts of those materials and use them to their best advantage.  It’s always good practice to revisit existing materials regularly – what can we filter out?  What can we present differently?  What can stay the same as it’s absolutely working well as it is?

So, to summarise, nano-learning is:
  • Two to three minutes long
  • Highly targeted – covers a single objective
  • Small pieces of information
  • Viewable on a range of devices
  • Easy to find
  • Multimedia
Could this work for you and your learners as an element of teaching/training?  It may well be the one piece of learning that really sticks from the topic or course.  It is always great practice to drill down into the core of the learning – what is the take-home message?  Nano-learning might just help with this.