Saturday, April 21, 2012

Presentation Skills

I was afraid of speeches and public speaking while in middle and high school.  It gave me an exhilarating shot of adrenaline like (I would assume) running with the bulls in Pamplona would do.  For the most part, I'm still fearful of public speaking, but it's not nearly as bad.  In fact, I think I have learned to use this adrenaline to my advantage. 

After realizing I had to present often (and not just to students) within my career choice, I thought that it would be prudent to investigate "best practices" in regards to presenting.  As I searched the Internet for information, there were several websites and more importantly several tips for presenters.

One suggestion by Jerry Weissman that stood out for me was to never ask, "does that make sense?"  Even if it doesn't make sense, people automatically just answer yes.  This was a question I used to ask all the time.  Now, I try to have the students apply the concept and demonstrate an understanding of the concept.

Alexei Kapterev, authored Death to by Power Point, detailed some great points on developing unified presentations.  He argues against the listy-style associated with Power Point slides and mind-numbing facts.  At this link Alexei provides three 3 guiding principles rather than following lists of presentation rules.
  1. Focus
  2. Contrast 
  3. Unity
Click the above link to find out what Alexei meant with each principle.  

Additionally, there was a book that I read several years ago kept showing up in my searches.  I never thought of Brain Rules by John Medina as a guide for presenters because I read it with a different mindset.  I was thinking merely as a teacher.  Even though I promote student-centered pedagogy, we, teachers, are really presenters, and we need to learn to keep our audience engaged for brief periods of time.  I don't know why, but it was only recently that I began to compile information on effective/engaging presentations.


My Suggestions

Use images that relate to the presentation.  Don't just put in generic images that are unrelated to the presentations main focus.  Instead, make connections for the audience members.  They will be more likely to recall a few main points.

Unify the presentation with a story or metaphor. Tell a story but also make a point.  Stories are easier to recall than unconnected facts and statistics. 

Change or switch the medium.  Connect to the Internet, watch a short video, and/or bring up a readable infographic.  It could cause problems with linear need for some presentations; however, I like switching to various media.  Hypermedia is becoming a norm and presentations can become more connected to more than one resource. 

Involve the audience.  I hate sitting in the audience without being involved.  As a teacher, this is a must for students and it should be the cause for adults also.  Ask questions and allow people to discuss the answers with their neighbors.  Provide the audience with an activity.  Ask the audience to share.  Encourage questioning.  (HINT: Before doing this give the audience their cue to focus attention back on the speaker.  Little cues or a keyword/key phrase)

Follow whatever rules work for you.  There are several rules out there for your slideshows design and layout.  There are also several rules being suggested for your presentations.  I think everyone needs to develop their own style and reflect on what worked and what didn't.    The rule of six (no more than 6 lines and no more than 6 words per line) shows up a lot.

All in all, find out what works through experimenting.  Sometimes all the tips and suggestions in the world won't help.  Planning for a run with the bulls will only someone so far. 



The following list of resources provides information on Of course, all these resources aren't inspirational, but I found many to be at least slightly informative.

Effective Presentation Example

Now, I want to share a great presentation.  I think Ken Robinson is an outstanding presenter, and his TED talk.  Watch his presentation and see if you agree with me.  It definitely isn't perfect but it is unified with an overarching goal.

The next video doesn't show facial expressions or body language, but Taylor Mali's presentation of the poem What Teachers Make demonstrates his passion.  In my opinion, he presents the poem well and I get a little scared that he is going to punch me in the face.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Flipped Classroom Sounds Like One of Them There Fancy Teaching Words

The term flipped classroom sounds so hoity-toity, right?  Well, maybe not really, but it is a term that reminds me of hybrid courses taught within many universities.  Hybrid courses are a mixture of traditional class time and online (distance) learning. A blending of face-to-face and online instruction.  It is considered flipped because homework (applying skills) is performed within the classroom, while lecture (content) is taught outside of the classroom, which is a much more effective model.

Who knows the content better the teacher or the parents?  I don't mean to offend anyone, but I have gotten notes, emails, and phone calls from confused parents.  "If you don't use it, you lose it."  When you are dealing with a certain concept every year, it is easy to think that content is the most important thing for students to learn.  But, the focus is on teaching the content and not the students.  When the classroom is flipped, it is easy to focus classroom attention on student-needs.  Their misconceptions can be seen through their active participation in the learning process.  Rather than asking "Does this make sense," a teacher can witness a student's understanding.

The first step is to figure out how to create or find video lessons.  Next, the videos will need to be shared for each lesson.  I would start by looking at Educreations app for the iPad or Screecast-O-Matic for you computer.  A regular video camera could also work, but the "talking head" model in online learning isn't engaging or effective.  For already made videos, search YouTube, Vimeo, or Khan Academy.  If you haven't already, check out the Khan Academy website.  There are thousands of instructional videos there for free.

So, research this teaching concept and attempt to use technology to benefit your instruction.
  • Content reviewed at home 
  • Application in the classroom. 
Here is a video and infographic to help explain the concept behind flipped-classrooms.  This web-based content will probably do a better job than my blog post.  This teaching strategy would work well within 1:1 schools.  For students without the Internet at home, I can see issues with this strategy. 

After viewing the content below, what do you think of this concept?  How have you flipped your classroom?  How will you flip your classroom?

Flipped Classroom
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media