Learning ADIDS - Digital Security Trainings for Grownups

Learning ADIDS - Digital Security Trainings for Grownups

I thought it was a brand of athletic shoes, but apparently I was wrong.

I was recently at a training-of-trainers with some of the best digital security experts in the business. We’re working with a crop of young trainers from around the world eager to improve their skills in teaching others the critical - and timely - topics of safety and privacy online.

We’re not children anymore. (I, at least, am nowhere close.) That means, in part, that we don’t learn in the same way that children do - and a lot of the teaching methodologies we’re brought up on don’t work well for adults. We are building out a set of digital security training materials and in the process I’ve been learning about a pedagogical approach called ADIDS. I’ve also been learning how to pronounce “pedagogical.”

ADIDS stands for Activity, Discussion, Inputs, Deepening, Synthesis. It’s a proven approach based on experimental results and sound learning principles - and entirely new to me. This may explain much of my academic career. In any case, by taking a topic and approaching it through these five lenses, one gives a broad audience of adult learners the best chance possible to absorb new, complex information.

People don’t learn everything all at once. It’s a frequent sin in digital security trainings to blast through a complicated topic, say “any questions?,” nod in satisfaction, and move on confident that the information has been absorbed and will be faithfully lived from that day forward.

With ADIDS, you’d go through a series of stages on a given topic. It also makes Death by Powerpoint refreshingly implausible.

Activty
This first stage of a new concept is something engaging and often hands-on - for example, in my favorite activty here so far, literally drawing your day - and the security risks involved. I have a gift for sketching cartoon hotels, as it turns out. This introduces an idea and gets folks involved.

Discussion
Using the initial activity as a base, the facilitator opens a conversation about the topic. In our case, we discussed what surprised us about our day. This becomes an opportunity to explore, take in different perspectives, and engage the learners.

Input
This is the time for a classic lecture on the topic. This is a great chance for whiteboarding - it combines the visual with text and audio. It also forces a presenter to slow down enought that they can be well understood. OK, Powerpoint, if you want to you can come in now - but please, learn to behave? This is also a chance to walk through software or web sites on a computer in a preview of what your attentive audience will soon be doing.

Deepening
After listening to the concepts, it’s time for your trainees to get their hands dirty again. In digital security trainings, this would be the opportunity for everyone to fire up their computers and try out the tools or techniques being discussed. Meanwhile, facilitators wander around and assist - and keep people focused. Encourage the participants to help each other as the speedy ones finish.

Synthesis
In this wrapup section, a trainer can remind the now-rapt pupils of the arc of what has been learned and connect it back to broader topics, and give an opportunity for a well-informed question-and-answer session.

This sort of comprehensive learning is particularly important for the sort of international training we often do. Whether working through translation or in a second language for either the audience or the instructor, it’s important to try and convey a concept in multiple ways. ADIDS is a great framework; I am looking forward to putting into practice. 

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