Whitney talks with Anne Williams and Eric Brown about innovations in education.
They delve into these important topics: such as:
-Early explorations of online education, podcasting, and the World Massage Conference
-Why instructional design and educational theory matter in education?
-New frontiers in the publishing of digital textbooks
…and much more.

Resources mentioned

Sponsor Offers: 

About Whitney Lowe  |  About Til Luchau  |  Email Us: info@thethinkingpractitioner.com

(The Thinking Practitioner Podcast is intended for professional practitioners of manual and movement therapies: bodywork, massage therapy, structural integration, chiropractic, myofascial and myotherapy, orthopedic, sports massage, physical therapy, osteopathy, yoga, strength and conditioning, and similar professions. It is not medical or treatment advice.)

Your Hosts:

Til Luchau Advanced-Trainings        whitney lowe
Til Luchau                          Whitney Lowe

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Your Hosts:

Til Luchau Advanced-Trainings
Til Luchau

whitney lowe
Whitney Lowe

Thanks for listening and subscribing to the podcast! Make sure to connect with us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on all of the latest! Show your support for the show by leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts!

Full Transcript (click me!)

Whitney Lowe:

Hi, this is Whitney Lowe and welcome to the Thinking Practitioner podcast. This episode is sponsored by our wonderful friends at Handspring Publishing. Their catalog has emerged as one of the leading collections of professional level books written especially for body workers, movement teachers, and all professionals who use movement or touch to help their patients achieve wellness. Handspring's move to learn webinars are free 45 minute broadcasts featuring their authors, including one with Til. Head on over to their website at handspringpublishing.com to check those out. And be sure to use the code TTP at checkout for discount. And thanks again so much Handspring. Til is off again this week. And I have a great opportunity to hang out with a couple of great friends of mine. I'm very happy to welcome Anne Williams and Eric Brown to the Thinking Practitioner podcast. So hello again, you're being the Colorado substitute for Til this week.

Anne Williams:

That's right. We just live down the road from him.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, I know. All right. Sounds good. Well, for those of us our audience who haven't had a chance to meet you guys yet, can you tell me a little bit about your backgrounds and what your positions are doing in the massage world these days? Anne, I'll go ahead and start with you first.

Anne Williams:

Okay. My background is I have a degree in theater, which meant that I was very good at waitressing. And like many people in massage, massage was the second career for me. I had a fall off a horse and had a lot of injury, and then was introduced to massage through my recovery. And I became a massage therapist working in Washington State. And then very quickly after that, a massage instructor. My mom is a curriculum designer. I think curriculum design and education is a little bit in my blood. From there, after working at the massage school for five years as a teacher, I became the director of education.

Anne Williams:

And this is at Ashmead College School of Massage in Tacoma, Washington. And then I met the lovely people at ABMP, Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. And I was hired as their director of education from 2006 until 2019. Enjoyed that job and that group very much. But wanted to break off and work in the publishing field. I've always loved publishing. I've always loved books. And so Eric Brown and I started our company. We're married so we had to do something together because our interests otherwise are very different. We founded Massage Mastery Online in 2019. And we produce digital multimedia textbooks and continuing education on our online platform.

Whitney Lowe:

All right. That sounds great. I didn't realize this, Anne, I had episode the last around with Nikki Monk talking about massage research, and she also a theater background. And we were talking about the few other people, Ruth Warner and Amber Kennedy I think that also had theater background. So maybe this is a trend we have going here.

Anne Williams:

Yeah, Drew Biel has a theater background. So yeah, there's lots of us who couldn't make it in acting.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, that's right.

Eric Brown:

But it makes you a great presenter. She makes the audience laugh a little, cry a little.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. Eric, did you have any theater or just dance in your background?

Eric Brown:

Yeah, no, I can't act my way out of a paper bag. But I have a background in classical ballet, so that was my career.

Whitney Lowe:

That's right. I remembered that, yeah. Tell me a little bit more about yourself as well.

Eric Brown:

Yeah. First career is in classical ballet. It's very hard on your body. You don't make a lot of money on it, even though I was working. Still, you're not going to get rich doing ballet. So I decided to go into medicine. I did my prerequisites for medical school and realized I didn't have any marketable skills, I could get a job to support myself through school so I thought I'll do a massage program because they do an accelerated program. I'll do that first. I'll get some skills and then I will continue on with medical school. And then I just got stuck in massage there. This was in the late '80s, the profession was going through massive period of growth. And there were lots of opportunities to keep me excited and interested. And I stuck with massage. I don't know if you want me to outline a little bit about my massage career.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. Tell us a little bit, because what our topic today I wanted to focus on was educational innovations. And you guys have both done some really innovative things throughout your careers, so I'd like for people to get a sense of where your background came from to aim that trajectory. So yeah, tell us a little bit about the BodyworkBiz and the other things that you've been doing.

Eric Brown:

Okay. Like Anne, I've always been interested in education. One of my first summer jobs in high school was teaching English as a second language to Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants in Northern Canada. I'm Canadian. When I went into dance, initially I planned to be a dance teacher until I decided I can't stand working with little kids and decided to go into performance instead. And that's the way I learn. I learn by explaining things to others. It helps it stick in my head. It's just the way my brain works. I need to outline it out loud in some way. When I graduated from massage school, I'm not sure where to start. I started teaching right away within months after graduating.

Eric Brown:

And I'll just keep this short. I started private practice, and I opened up some multi therapist clinics in Toronto. And I met David Palmer and was really strongly pulled by his vision of making touch a positive social value. And David Palmer, of course is the father of chair massage. So I went all in on chair massage, opened a school to teach exclusively chair massage because I was selling to corporations. I've worked in pretty much every major financial institution in Canada, every major law firm, companies like IBM, Dell, Kellogg, Levi Straus. And massage therapists just didn't want to do the work because in Canada, we're trained more along the lines of physiotherapists. It's very rehab focus. So I didn't want to do just back rubs. So I had to train people to do it. So I opened up a massage school.

Eric Brown:

I realized that a lot of these people were going out and doing it on their own, so I realized I needed marketing help and business has always been an interest for me. So I started teaching business classes and then I expanded that to massage therapists. It wasn't BodyworkBiz at the time, but doing workshops, marketing workshops across Canada. And when my son was born in '99, I thought I want to spend time with him as he grows up. I thought I'll put all this stuff online, all the stuff I'm doing. And the browser was only invented and it only came out of 95, so this is pretty early in internet terms. So I thought I'll put this stuff online as courses and eventually enough people will be on this internet thing that I can sell something, maybe make some money. Well, it just took right off. Of course that really excited me. And that was my entry point into online learning.

Whitney Lowe:

And what year was that again? This is late '90s, you said?

Eric Brown:

Yeah, this was 1999 when I opened up BodyworkBiz with Ecourses. And we just didn't have the technology to do things the way we can today. It was pioneering. And just followed technology trends. I got together with a group of therapists in Canada, and we just formed a mastermind group just to discuss issues in the massage profession, like you're doing with Til. And it was just private between us with teleconferencing. And then we thought, wouldn't it be great to be able to speak with other people around the world and other thought leaders? So we started a podcast in 2006, I believe. Again, podcasting was new. Nobody had ever heard of podcasting, so we called it Massage Therapy Radio so people would know something you listen to.

Eric Brown:

And the technology evolved to the point where we could actually stream audio and images together in a video presentation. And we thought, let's expand this into ... Scott Dartnall and I had a crazy conversation and said, "Let's do an international conference online." So we launched the World Massage Conference that first year in 2008. We had 60 presenters live through the week from around the world. Russia, Italy, everywhere around the world. And that started the World Massage Conference, which has been one of the biggest online conferences for about a decade until ABMP picked it up. And that's a bit about my background.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. Well, it's fascinating to see you're stepping into a lot of these new things right when they were new. Getting involved with the online education stuff in the late '90s when it was really in its infancy. And with the Massage Therapy Radio, did you have, I'm assuming all the podcasting platforms weren't around at that time. Is this just being delivered through a website? Is that how you were getting that out there?

Eric Brown:

Yeah. All that early podcasting was just done through blogs.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Eric Brown:

Yeah. And then of course, we moved into, I think earlier on, like 2013, then ABMP schools issues forum, I did a presentation on education revolution talking about blended curriculum, which is, I know something that you're very interested in.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Eric Brown:

And finally, we've got to actualize this dream of creating digital multimedia textbooks for schools to get us closer to that goal.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. I want to delve into that a little bit later when we get down the road, I want to look at a few other things here too. Anne I had some questions I wanted to ask because we have talked about this so many times, a number of times in the past, but during your long tenure at ABMP, in my opinion, just you totally revolutionized the education department there. And the things that you did with outreach to schools, to organizations, to individuals was just really highly impactful. And I was curious if you had like a mission or an idea that you had for what you wanted to accomplish when you looked down the road for what's coming up ahead in education or what helped you to chart the course for what you wanted to accomplish there.

Anne Williams:

Yeah. And I would say at ABMP one of the things I'm really grateful for is they're not afraid of a big idea. And they got behind me on a lot of big ideas that were multi-year projects that required a lot of resources and a lot of time. And I'm seriously grateful for that because the game changer ideas take a lot of time. As you know it's just, they're very labor intensive. So thanks to ABMP for that. And I think that very early on, especially my mission was completely aligned with Bob Benson's mission. And he was the president at the time. And now he's the chairman and Les Sweeney is the president. And I would say I'm very aligned with Bob and mostly aligned with Les, but they came to me and said, well, I sat down with Bob at a lunch at FSMTB meeting, one of the first FSMTB meetings.

Anne Williams:

And he said, "If you had all the money and all the time necessary, what would you do for massage education?" And I said, "Oh, well, let me tell you." And I rattled off a list of the 13 years worth of things that I did at ABMP and when I got home from that conference, an email was waiting for me and Bob flew out and met me at the school a week later and offered me my position. And I am so grateful for that. But I think that my mission has always been driven by what I saw on the ground as a teacher and as a director of ed at a large massage goal, we had, this is a course during the golden age of massage education. We were graduating around 400 students a year from our massage program. And what I saw was students coming to education with negative education history, with a feeling that they couldn't learn and a real misunderstanding that it wasn't them who had failed knowledge, it was knowledge that had failed them.

Anne Williams:

And I really wanted to create resources, first for students to help them over come their learning challenges, and then for teachers to make their jobs easier. And then for administrators who were trying to support their instructors, and then just for the whole school system, if massage schools don't thrive, our profession can't thrive. And we already know that our profession is in a state of contractor. It's contracting. We are seeing less students go through massage school and not enough therapists being available for the jobs that are available to them.

Anne Williams:

Now you could say maybe those jobs need to pay a little bit more. Maybe those jobs need to offer some flexibility that's not being offered right now, but there's a shortage of therapists right now. There's not enough for the consumer demand. And a lot of that falls on the shoulders of education. And I think we can shift that in some way. My goal is to help make learning acquisition easier. That's it. In a nutshell, yeah. I want to help those challenge students and get them through so that they can pass the Amex on the first try, enter our profession and have a fantastic career and a sense of lifelong learning. Like if I would say that's the other thing I would want to, my other mission is to make learning so accessible and so much fun that people do it for the rest of their lives.

Whitney Lowe:

Anne, I wanted to get back to something you were just saying here a moment ago too, because I smile when I think about this, you and I are two of the few you people that I know that can sit around and enthusiastically geek out on instructional design theory. And we've done that a number of times and you just don't find that many people who think that's really that fascinating or engaging. And I know you mentioned that your mom was involved with curriculum design. I can see where that's come through you, but I love when I see you do your presentations, then I can see it done well and see those kinds of things done really well. You and I have talked about this a number of times, what is it that you think is so important that needs to be emphasized in this area? That I think we don't do enough in terms of emphasizing some of these concepts of teaching teachers how to teach with instructional design. What are some of your thoughts on where we could move ahead in these directions and why that's so important?

Anne Williams:

Well, it's interesting. I think about this a lot, Whitney, because I initiate and then ran the instructor on the front lines workshops and we had different instructors who taught them Taffy Lewis was amazing, Cindy Williams, Kristen Cowley. One of the things that I realized is you have to really want to learn instructional design to learn it and it's not ... And structure is just so insanely important. And I think we are in a profession where people feel like spontaneity is more important than structure. And a lot of times when I'm working with teachers, they'll say to me no, to be authentic, I need to just come from the heart and do it off the top of my head. And they need to just see it in action and they can see everything that they need to see or they'll pick up the right stuff.

Anne Williams:

It's almost like a magical thinking that students will just absorb you when you're the teacher, but that's absolutely not the case. It needs to be highly orchestrated, highly structured. True spontaneity only happens in the midst of extreme structure. That was the number one lesson that my mom taught me. My mom in front of an audience or in a classroom, seems like the most spontaneous person on the face of the planet. They don't understand that there are hours and hours of prep that she does to be prepared enough to bring that kind of structure, to bring that kind of spontaneity and that joy. And that's what I find too, when I'm highly prepared, I am joyful. I am in my joy place and that's the place I want to teach from.

Anne Williams:

It's first of all convincing teachers that what they saw as a student from their own teacher was enough, that there's this higher level of teaching skill. And to be skilled as a teacher is just as important to be as being skilled as a massage therapist. It's breaking that down then, what does that mean? How do you teach a concept? Because there are about 2,500 massage therapy concepts that learners have to absorb during the course of a foundational training program. Like how do you do that and how do you structure a hands on demonstration so that they don't just walk away with the first two techniques you showed, that they actually can absorb more than that. There are very specific skills.

Anne Williams:

There is a very specific formula you can follow to structure your content effectively. It's not that hard, except that it is that hard. Like I get out my little checklist and I use it every time I create a presentation. And it's interesting. I just recently did a presentation where I didn't use it. And I spent a lot of work on that presentation and I was unhappy with it at the end. I didn't love the way that it flowed. I didn't love the way that it worked. I felt like ultimately for the learner, it didn't work well. And now I'm back with my little checklist, checklist right in front of me saying, did you do this? Did you do this? Did you do this? And if you didn't do these things, go back and do them now.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. I saw an interesting piece that was written in an article a number of years ago that was talking about the teabag model of education, which so many people ascribe to the idea that if you just steep yourself in content or time for a certain period of time, you're going to get it and absorb it. And that really is such a mistake, I think. And it gets back to you're saying about the planned instruction processes and the methods of really getting people to get things in, just because the teacher set up in front of the classroom and said something certainly doesn't mean that people got it and can do something with it.

Anne Williams:

And you might know this too Whitney, I struggle with when I teach aromatherapy, I really struggle. And the reason is I'm an absolute expert in aromatherapy. I think everything's important. And lots of massage therapists are experts in their area. And there's a whole book written what the best teachers do. And it talks about the fact that one of your worst teachers is an expert. And you're much better to actually study with somebody who's not an expert on a topic, but proficient. You can't have somebody who's basic, who's just one step in ahead of you. But you want somebody who's maybe two steps ahead of you and who can remember how they got to where they are. I think about that a lot when I teach aromatherapy, if you weren't an expert, would you think that this is important? And usually I go, yeah. And then I go, no, no one cares about this. No one, only you, maybe Whitney Lowe, but nobody else.

Whitney Lowe:

I spent a good deal of time when I was young studying martial arts and the martial arts training model that's used in a lot of martial arts schools where the levels of teaching, there's always a master at the top of the heap, but there's always, you're learning something from the second, the third year students, and they're learning something from the fourth and the fifth year students. And that sort of idea keeps them closer to understanding these are some of the fundamentals that you really have to get to. And that absolutely. I agree with you does take a true gifted educator to understand how to teach to the beginner's mind, that idea of those things that people don't really know a whole lot. And that's a tough one. That's certainly is the mark of a really good educator.

Anne Williams:

The easy entry point. What's the easiest entry point to the content. That's the first question to ask yourself.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. Eric, I want to bounce back to some of what you were talking about too, with the early days of Massage Therapy Radio in the World Massage Conference, I've always watched what you've done with great appreciation for your innovative use of technology. Like we said, oftentimes before it was really around and before a lot of other people were using it and I've certainly run into some of these kinds of things because I'm a techie geek as well. And I've also started getting into online education around the early 2000s or so. And so it was again way before good technology and tools allowed us to be able to really good kinds of things with it. But one of the things that I've always seemed to run up against is a perception that this is such a hands on profession, people don't want to have much to do with technology. And I was wondering, how have you worked through some of those challenges of trying to get and introduced massage therapists in a real manual world to take advantage of some of these things in technology that have produced some great educational innovations, I think.

Eric Brown:

Yeah. And it's true. We are slow adopters in terms of technology, the massage profession. It is a challenge, but once you're introduced to it and well, once you're introduced to good online learning, because there's a whole lot more bad out there, but once you're introduced to good online learning, then you intrinsically understand the benefits.

Whitney Lowe:

Can I interrupt you for a second? I want to ask your take on this because this is something that comes up when I hear discussions about this good bit, what to you makes good online learning versus bad online learning?

Eric Brown:

Well, as you know, it's very multidimensional. There are a lot of elements to it and we can delve into some of those when we talk about Massage Mastery maybe and how that is structured to make for good online learning. For me, starting out in online with BodyworkBiz, it was not a conventional course. It was not an ebook for me, it was important to make a really personal connection with people. The material was all structured as though we were sitting across the table to make it accessible. The language was if we were having a coffee and we're just chatting about business.

Eric Brown:

And people really enjoyed that approach where they felt a connection with me personally. And even when I would send out an email broadcast to, I don't know, 20,000 people. People would write me back as though I was writing to them specifically. I'm sorry, I haven't gotten to that yet. But I will. I promise. Making it more human, I think was very important at that point, because we didn't really have all the bells and whistle that we can add into a platform now. I'm not sure do we want to delve into this later Anne or Whitney in terms of some of the features that-

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. I want to talk a little bit more about the whole Massage Mastery project a little bit down the road here. But I want to lead us up to that to talk sequentially about how those things percolated and grew with both of you through your careers to lead to that point and talking some about the online education facet, clearly a lot of that got pushed very fast and much farther down the road because of the pandemic that many of us felt like we were banging our heads against the wall for many years trying to get people to pay attention to online education as a possibility. But once it became an absolute necessary to do overnight, there was certainly a rush of things to get stuff into that format. And I think, unfortunately it also led to a lot of really bad stuff being done because it had to get done overnight and it's hard to build online stuff fast, good online education things fast as you know.

Anne Williams:

It is.

Eric Brown:

Initially, it's about enticing people really, and it is a slow process. We are slow adopters. Just like I mentioned our podcast, we didn't call them podcasts. We wanted to make it accessible, so we called it Massage Therapy Radio, and people just tune in and listen to the show. And the excitement of something new attracts a certain percentage of the massage population and it spreads.

Whitney Lowe:

Did you ever feel that it was like a lot of hard work trying to open these new doors and things that people weren't accustomed to, people didn't listen to podcasts that much back then, or the whole idea of the when the World Massage Conference first came out, people are like, "Where do we go for this?" This thing is happening so fast. Did you feel like there was a whole lot of having to educate people about what you were about in addition to actually doing the platform in the process itself?

Eric Brown:

Yes, absolutely. Education was so important and it didn't matter how many times we set it on the website, this is a virtual conference that you watch on your computer, on the internet, from your home. And then we get invariably almost every day help requests. This all sounds good, but where is it happening? Where do I go? You didn't even give me the location or hotel details.

Whitney Lowe:

Right.

Eric Brown:

Yes. Certainly it is a lot of education and again, enticing people and giving them easy ins to that world, doing initially lots of free broadcasts so people could just stick their toes in it and see what it was all about.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, absolutely.

Anne Williams:

And I think one of the things you would tell me, Eric, when we would talk about World Massage Conference, one of your missions was just to bring everybody together in a way that didn't cost them a fortune. They didn't have to fly anywhere, they didn't have to travel. They could just sit down and watch it in their pajamas. And this was long before we realized the beauty of Zoom and sitting in your pajamas at a work meeting. I think I remember you talking about how the massage community, wants community, that is so crystal clear and that is driving so much of their adoption from my point of view, their adopting technology because they want to be able to connect with fellow massage therapist around the country and around the world.

Anne Williams:

And I think the pandemic helped us understand that it was the way we were going to be able to connect. And now it just feels like I want more and more, you just see stuff springing up everywhere because there is an appetite for it. There's an appetite of getting out of your session room and talking with your colleagues. And I think that is the key to driving people online is it doesn't have to be flat, it can be a really rich environment and it can include your colleagues and your peers.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. And I think with some of these virtual events that we've seen, one of the great advantages for example, you can have a wide group of presenters from all kinds of divergent areas come and do an hour long presentation at a virtual event or something like that. And you never, would've been able to afford to fly them all into one place, put them up in hotels and do all the things that would've been necessary to get those people to be able to present to a group. Those cost structures have been a huge advantage of doing that. But at the same time, I think the difficult place that we're at now is learning that we need to get past just the idea of trying to duplicate what we did in the classroom, in the online environment, as the means of a good presentation process, because that's not necessarily the best way to do things sometimes.

Eric Brown:

Exactly. And this is one of my concerns is it's just that there's just a lot of bad education coming online because it's so easy to produce.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Eric Brown:

And doing good online education is different than just the natural thing that everybody did is you just put your book on online the way it is, you just put your class online the way it is. And that's not the most effective way for people to learn online. It has to be structured in a very specific way that's unique to the medium. And people just especially producers still don't quite get that.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. We've still got pretty substantial learning curve there. And also another thing that I hear a good bit is the conversations around well, online education doesn't produce as good of outcomes as what we do in the classroom with people, although that's not supported in the research because the research tends to support the idea that actually it does do a very good job of that in many instances. But the other thing that people don't really take into account a great deal is that we never actually really establish an idea that this method that we were using to teach stuff in the classroom was any gold standard to begin with. When we're comparing things to that, it's like, I don't think we ever really established that was the best way to do it to begin with.

Anne Williams:

I think one of the things that happens to people, I don't know, I wouldn't just say in the massage profession, but I mean, overall in education is there's this polarization that happens around online ed and it's when online education came out, everybody was touting it as the answer to everything. It's going to solve all your problems. And it never lived up to that particular promise. It does many things well, but it can't do everything. There's a place for online education and there's a place for in the classroom education, brick and mortar education. Both of them in massage are necessary. Both of them are a good fit when they're blended. I'm a big fan of the blended curriculum. I don't think everything should move online. I think stuff should move online, but not everything. For example, like when you think about assessment, you're probably the foremost assessment teacher in the country who schools could have access to you. School could have access to the best assessment teacher in the country. Schools could have access to the best chair massage teacher in the country, which is probably Eric.

Anne Williams:

They could also have access to me as the aromatherapy teacher, but they should probably go somewhere else because I'm an expert and I know it and I'm going to feed them all these details they don't need. But my point being when you take the time to produce theory based content at an extremely high level, which I think we're doing, and I think you're doing Whitney, you can't reproduce that easily in the classroom with 3000 teachers. Because number one, those teachers are stretched pretty thin. Number two, they're probably teaching more than just one class a term because they need to make enough money to live. They probably have a massage practice. We are dedicated as you are to creating online content that is vivid. That is rich. That's thought it all through. Do I think that we can do theory based content really super well online if we put our hearts and souls into it and a lot of hours and sweat equity? I do. Do I think that we are the only answer or online education is the only answer? I absolutely don't think that.

Anne Williams:

And I often get the assumption that, well you guys believe everything should be taught online. No I don't. No, I absolutely don't. I think there's a lot of stuff that we can teach online. And the reason why that might be important is because in massage education right now in foundational education, students have a lot of options in terms of programs that they can go to. And when they look at that school, that's teaching four or five days a week, four or five hours in the classroom, they say, I'm going to do this med tech program because I only have to be in the classroom one time a week and I can still raise my kids and take care of my elderly parents and hold down my full-time job. I think we're missing out on people who might want a career in massage because their scheduling isn't flexible enough. And that is true, the greatest value of online ed in so many ways is that people's lives are busy and learning has to fit into the margin of adult learners lives to be realistic.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. I think that's a huge factor Anne and hopefully something that will drive some of those kinds of changes and innovations in the future. Anne, I was thinking back on this as I was doing some preparations for this podcast and trying to remember when we first met and started having some of these discussions and I'm thinking that it was around the time of the teaching massage writing project, the book that ABMP had recorded about trying to teach massage teachers how to teach and that was a really, I thought again, interesting and timely educational innovation at that time.

Whitney Lowe:

I also feel like it never really caught on the way it needed to in terms of use throughout the profession. I would really like to have seen that gotten a whole lot more exposure in a lot of massage schools and a lot more use throughout the profession. But we just touched on something in talking about that we need to do a lot to teach our teachers in this field about teaching, even in the ways that they've been formally exposed to throughout their whole educational lives teaching in the classroom. But we really also need to teach people about how to teach online because it's very different. Either of you have ideas or suggestions about what might be coming in the future for the best ways for us to teach the teachers of the future?

Anne Williams:

Well, I do, I agree there has to be some training that addresses online education, how it's different, how it's similar. I think the key that we need to start working on getting across, like one of the things I think you talked about teaching massage, one of the things that book was widely adopted by schools. Its sales in the first year were around 3000 units. In the first year that it came out, schools bought copies and shared them with their teachers. However, it was also came out at this time where education theory was really in a shift. And we were starting to recognize that maybe some of the theories that we had glommed onto were not really as valuable as we thought. And for me I'm constant reading the research and now I reject a lot of it. I just say that theory doesn't hold up for me. Like learning styles.

Whitney Lowe:

I wrote the chapter on learning styles.

Anne Williams:

I know. And you did the beautiful job.

Whitney Lowe:

And I was like, oh man, we should rewind on that one. That's what growth and moving forward is about.

Eric Brown:

Things change.

Anne Williams:

And you know what? Learning styles is such an interesting dilemma because every teacher loved it. Schools loved learning styles, teachers love learning styles and they just flock to it. And it created this mass market of learning styles assessments no less than 75 models of different groups with their different learning styles assessments that schools could purchase for their students and lots of them did not understanding that it's not learning styles, it's multiple approaches to content. And building a learner's capacity to move outside their comfort zone when approaching the work. And that's the other thing, how you teach an approach to the content, how you teach an approach to the work and moving teachers away from just conveying a concept in their own way and saying, "How do we approach this content students? How are we going to learn about this particular topic? What's going to be our best approach here?"

Anne Williams:

And knowing that changes as the content type changes. I don't know, it's growing and changing so fast. I recently was completely enamored with the idea of microdosing education. And I got all on this microdosing training, the smallest possible bite. It just does not work in practice. It means that your learner is constantly being disrupted. They want a smaller chunk, like a 10 minute, 15 minute chunk. That's a good chunk. A three minute chunk they'll abandon. They'll never get to the end of the chunks they need to get through. It's interesting. It's interesting, you try it out and then you have to be ready to absolutely abandon it and move on if it doesn't deliver.

Eric Brown:

And for me too, I see teachers being interested in instructional design and curriculum development, just like massage, the therapist and practice are interested in marketing. You bring your heart and your hands to your work, you want to share with others, you want to help others and you don't realize there's this whole other part that has to happen before you can do that. You have to actually get people into your office, for example, before you can touch them. That is not the reason why people didn't get into massage because they wanted to get into business and marketing. You have to introduce that information in a way that's accessible fund and easy to take in.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. That's such a wonderful analogy. I haven't ever heard that before, but that really hits home with that idea that yeah nobody really wants to be focusing on business and marketing a whole lot, but if you don't, you're dead and I think the same thing's true if nobody really, well there's a couple of us that are excited.

Eric Brown:

There's two of you in the profession.

Whitney Lowe:

A few of us, but most people really aren't that excited about educational theory, but you don't do it well and it's just going to show up eventually.

Eric Brown:

Yeah. That kind of training has to be again, just made available in a very accessible way. And drift out rather than fire host.

Whitney Lowe:

Right. And this takes us over into what you're talking about here, you got to do it in a way that makes things accessible to people. I want to now talk a little bit about this new project that you guys are on with Massage Mastery, because I think it's a fascinating new venture forward once again. And some things that are really breaking ground in a very different way for producing educational materials for the massage world. Start off, if you will just tell us a little bit about what Massage Mastery Online is and what's your vision for the future of this?

Eric Brown:

I'll give the short version and then I'll let Anne just dive into it. Basically we're creating digital multimedia, rich textbooks for the massage profession. It's a textbook that's better than a textbook. It's not your your grammar's textbook. It's not. And it's not an ebook, it's not a Kindle. It's a more of an immersive, rich, immersive experience as you delve into it.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. I think that's one of the big misunderstandings that I see a lot with these kinds of things is people always apply their understanding based on what they already know. They've seen an ebook, they've seen things on their Kindle and Amazon reader, whatever. Oh yeah, it's a textbook, but I read it on my iPad kind of thing. And that's a very different experience from what you all have created here.

Eric Brown:

Yeah. You're right. That's people's experience of a digital textbook is traditional publishers basically just drop their whole book online as a PDF or similar kind of format and it just doesn't work.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. I heard analogy one time from a teaching group that it said how do you think it would go over if a teacher walked into the classroom with their arms full of a whole bunch of big papers and just dropped them on the desk and then walked out and said, okay, here's your lessons. And essentially, that's what gets done a lot with information dumping in large scale textbooks that just go online and with the idea like, oh, it's going to be easy for people because now they can read it anywhere they are on their device or whatever, but that's not necessarily what makes a book, a good book or a learning experience, a good learning experience. You're trying to push this farther down the road in some new ways, from what I understand.

Eric Brown:

Yeah. We don't want people to have to be disciplined, to sit down and read their books. We want to make it engaging so that they're pulled through it. It's more magnetic rather than having to push somebody to do the work. And to make the technology invisible. You're not concerned about the technology, you're just enjoying having fun, engaging with the material, interacting with material.

Whitney Lowe:

This started out as your textbook. Your massage entry level textbook that was a print book first and then morphed into this project. Is that right?

Anne Williams:

Yeah. In a way, what happened is Eric and I have talked about creating something like Massage Mastery Online for a long time. And I also talked with ABMP about creating it and as you know, there a membership organization, so moving full force into a publishing venture was not necessarily a direction that they wanted to go at the time that we were discussing it. But what Eric and I always wanted to create was something that was immersive, that surrounds you in a beautiful vivid world of content. And I know you and I, Whitney have talked about the fact that a textbook is limited in terms of imagery and charts and graphs because there is a printing cost. There is a hard cost associated with page count. For comparison, my printed version of the book Spa Bodywork and Lippincott boasted about this, boasted 350 images, my digital edition that we just released, it has 1500 images.

Anne Williams:

most textbook publishers are creating video. They're creating ancillaries that go along with their textbooks, but the learner has to go somewhere new to get that, it's not right there with them and it's not easy. What we're doing is creating very integrated experiences and we're using the best practices in online instructional design that are available to us now and throwing out some that don't work and redoing it when we have to. But our goal is that if reading is a challenge for you, there's another way to get the information. You either watch a presentation that's very vivid or you listen along to the audio while you read. If English is your second language, you can translate the entire textbook with two clicks into any language in the world, right there, right now. That's using technology effectively for learning. And obviously students have to take the MBLEx in English or Spanish.

Anne Williams:

So they're going to have to practice in English, even if it's not their first language. But being able to get the concepts first and then going back and doing the English is a big deal for lots of students. And then a real focus on terminology in education like drill and practice has to happen when it comes to terms. They're going to have to know 2,500 terms to be able to sit and pass the MBLEx on the first try. There has to be this focus on terminology and helping students learn the terminology and then a real interest in how a concept is formed in a learner's mind. There's a way that we form content that we form our ideas about concepts. Like if I say my fascia release, you get an image in your head. We have to pair images with important concepts and we have to convey the same authenticity that an image conveys through the text and through the games that we use to play with content because content, it happens.

Anne Williams:

We learn in a certain way. When it comes to theory based content, we listen and we have an initial response to content. And if that response is not, yes, give me more because I'm with you, the learner is out and we've lost them. We have to make sure that we're all always building the content at the appropriate level with an easy entry point and then asking them to apply what they know in new ways and in new situations, because that's level two. And if you don't do that, which means compare and contrast concepts, list concepts from memory, discuss aloud what you know about concepts. If we can't get them working with the concepts, then again, they'll never move on to level three, which is the critical thinking stage where they can use concepts to solve problems. We use a very chunk methodology where there are lessons.

Anne Williams:

We don't call them chapters, because learners have negative associations to that word. We use lessons and we use topics and we break those topics out into 15 minute pieces of content. So a learner can get through a topic. They can check it complete in the system. The system tells them that they've made progress and then they move on to the next topic. There's also a lot of motivational, intrinsic motivational pieces that we can build in using technology to help learners keep going. But the whole thing is for me, multiple approaches, they have to be able to visualize it. So lots of pictures, they have to be able to read it. Some people still love to read. They have to be able to listen to it if they can't read it for some reason or they have to see a presentation on it right there within their textbook, because they will watch a video before. 80% of them will watch a video before they ever read it.

Anne Williams:

And I know you've really worked. You use a lot of problem solving organization Whitney in your online structure, like your very problem solution based. Which is a beautiful format, but like our format is incredibly labor intensive. One of the things that happened, I think with Massage Mastery is, Lippincott stopped selling their massage line. Lots of authors just moved to different publishers. And I just sat on my book, not really knowing what to do with it. And then Eric and I, we put it online and so Massage Mastery, the actual textbook is very simple, but then everything we've built out after that is using our new methodology and we're slowly replacing Massage Mastery with more integrated, innovative vivid content. But it's a long slow process. I can write it quite quickly. I'm a fast writer and I'm a good researcher, but then I have to go back and do all the videos. I might write something in six weeks and then take three months to do the videos.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. I know that game. I have sometimes video apprehension, the thoughts like, oh, I'd rather just deal with technical stuff today than make a video. But it's a rich educational experience and it needs to be done right and done well. So yeah, sometimes those are challenging pieces to bring them all together there. But I was going to ask you all too, in terms of doing this, have you found challenges or difficulties with adoption with people understanding how to use these new platforms most effectively to their benefits or are you seeing a greater level of adoption now from some of these kinds of things? Because again, you're having to teach people something, this is not just your old, your father's textbook anymore, this is something very different.

Eric Brown:

Yeah. It's been interesting because what we found with all the early adopters are almost entirely colleges.

Anne Williams:

Community colleges.

Eric Brown:

Community colleges.

Anne Williams:

They have a background with technology because other programs are already in that space.

Eric Brown:

Yeah. Just for that reason, they're familiar through other programs. It's built into the structure of the community colleges and massage therapists or massage programs have been swept up in that. We're finding that they're really the early adopters because they understand, but we do have some more independent schools, mom and pop operations, very small schools adopting it and certainly seeing the benefits of it for themselves.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. Well, one of the things that I had thought was an opening for those types of schools is that a lot of the community colleges and university programs that did eventually get into offering massage programs because of their financial capabilities, have the ability to have a very robust learning management system at the school that they can put all kinds of stuff through these platforms and distribute it to students. Whereas the small mom and pop schools just don't have a really good structure for disseminating some of those kinds of things. So what you offer them is a really great opportunity to have really high quality educational content also produced in a platform that you don't have to worry about maintaining and managing to that degree.

Anne Williams:

Yeah.

Eric Brown:

Yeah. And at the price point it's cheap to adopt that kind of technology. Well for all schools, but certainly you hear this more from maybe some of the independent schools is they just love the management features the way they can track their students progress, the way they can look at their quiz scores and know where the students at in terms of their retention of the information. Those are really important features for a school owner or administrator or instructors.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Anne Williams:

I do think that we have to do a lot of capacity building and that means that Eric holds their hand until they don't need their handheld anymore. And he's been really great about just meeting schools where they're at, which is how you meet a learner. You meet a learner where their learners at and in this case, many schools are learners. We've said whatever they need, whatever it takes to help them make this next step we're in, we're in for that challenge. And I say, actually Ericson I'm off writing, but he makes them videos that are specific to them. He's very good about learning their unique processes, how they do things.

Anne Williams:

He asks a lot of questions about how their school functions and how the teacher or the administrator needs the program to function, which has led to some innovations for us. The user telling us what they need instead of us telling them what they need. But then Eric just teaches them. He spends an hour or two hours with a school administrator or a group of instructors and he just walks them step by step through the process. Because once you go through it once, you've got it and it's no mystery, but I think Eric's really good at teaching people technology. And that has served us very well.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. I think those pieces are so important to tie together because it can be such an impairment and an inhibition to people jumping onto these kinds of things if they're afraid of the technology. And once they run into a couple problems or challenges, that can be just like, I can't do it, I can't do it. And so that's so helpful I think to have those pieces covered really well and know that you're not going to have to be contacting some Bahama publisher to try to go through their technical support system and somebody who really doesn't care about what you're doing. I just have been so fascinated to watch this process of evolution with what you all have put together. And I think it's a wonderful product. And I would encourage people to take a look at it. How can people learn more about what you're doing now and learn more about the Massage Mastery Online and some of those kinds of things, where can they contact you there?

Anne Williams:

You can always just go to MassageMastery.Online, and then you have three options you can pick that you're a student, a school or a professional, and then there's an information tab. And that gives you the entry point into our website, I would say. And then you just explore, or you go down to the contact us form and you say, I need help or I need Eric to walk me through this. And then Eric contacts you and walks you through it. And hopefully not more than 10 people do that a day.

Whitney Lowe:

Right. Yeah.

Anne Williams:

And we have a number of pieces that they can look at, things that they can have for free so that they can try it out. Yeah. And we'll do whatever it takes to help you figure it out, feel comfortable working in it. See it. Yeah. We're new. And so we're hungry and we'll show up.

Whitney Lowe:

Right.

Eric Brown:

And then besides textbooks too, we do have a professional tab on our page, people can have a similar learning experience as a massage professional through CE courses. And again, there's just a lot of really bad CE that exists in the market unfortunately and then hopefully you won't find that on MassageMastery.Online.

Whitney Lowe:

All right. Yeah. Okay, good. Leading the charge once again for producing good educational content for the future. I'm always inspired to see what you all are up to and talk about the things that you're doing. And I want to thank you for sharing some time today with the Thinking Practitioner audience about that. Any last minute thoughts or things that you'd want to make sure people know or get out to people on this whole topic of educational innovations?

Anne Williams:

Never stop learning.

Whitney Lowe:

I like that. Yeah.

Eric Brown:

Yes. Excellent. And thank you so much for this opportunity. Your fantastic podcast, looking at some really interesting issues. So thanks for all the two of you do for the profession.

Whitney Lowe:

I appreciate it.

Anne Williams:

Thank you for supporting us in our vision and thank you for also being an innovator in our field and for leading the charge for online education, you laid a lot of great groundwork for us. So thanks for that.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. All right. Well, I'm at that point too of starting to look behind me, like, where's that person that I'm passing the torch to coming up because I just hit 60 this past year. I was like I see, there's a lot of things I'm probably not going to get that I really had hoped would happen before I hang the cleats up. But anyway, I'll still kick around for a little while.

Anne Williams:

Yeah.

Whitney Lowe:

Well, thank you both again so much for joining us here today. I would like to also thank Books of Discovery. Who's been a part of massage therapy education for over 20 years. Thousands of schools around the world teach with their textbooks, eTextbooks and digital resources. And in these trying times, this beloved publisher is dedicated to helping educators with online friendly, digital resources that make instruction easier and more effective in the classroom or virtually. Books of Discovery likes to say learning adventures start here. And they see that same spirit here on the Thinking Practitioner podcast. And they're proud to support our work knowing we share the mission to bring the massage and body work community in livening content that advances our profession. Check out their collection of eTextbooks and digital learning resources for pathology, kinesiology, anatomy and physiology at booksofdiscovery.com where Thinking Practitioner listeners can save 15% by entering thinking at checkout.

Whitney Lowe:

Again, we like to thank all the listeners for hanging out with us here today, and also thanks to all of our sponsors of the show. You can stop by our site for show notes, transcripts and extras. You can find that on my site at academyofclinical.com and also over on Til site at advanced-trainings.com. Questions or things you'd like to hear us talk about, please email us at info@thethinkingpractitioner.com or look for us on social media, under our names Til Luchau and also with me at Whitney Lowe. You can rate us on Apple Podcast as it does help other people find the show, and you can hear us on Spotify, Stitcher, Google podcast, or wherever else you happen to listen. Please do share the word and do tell a friend. And of course, if you're unable to find us in any of those locations, you can always aim your proton powered telescope at Hall's comment. And you'll hear us there in the vapor trail. Thanks again so much for everybody hanging out today. And we'll talk to you again soon.

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