We’ve had our quarterly planning meeting at JISC infoNet. I wasn’t that involved in preparations for it but was absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of the video – called ‘The J Factor’ – that the Operations Team put together. Truly an inspiration to us all in terms of how something as potentially tedious as transferring files from one location to another can be made so engaging! 😀
Before the first day of the planning meeting some of us met to present on a topic of our choice. I’ve explained the ins and outs of this in #uppingyourpresentation (including video of me delivering a presentation on dandelions!) :-p
The mobile and wireless technologies review I’m undertaking for the JISC e-Learning team is going to inform a publication in 2011. I was down in Birmingham on Thursday to discuss the latter publication with a range of people involved. It was an extremely positive meeting and I’m excited about the potential of the final result!
I took a day’s annual leave to look after Ben on Friday as Hannah was at work and my mother is visiting my father in the United Arab Emirates. He started school nursery this week, so it was my first time dropping him off and picking him off from the morning sessions he does. Excited doesn’t even begin to cover it – he loves it! I really enjoyed spending the afternoon with him in park, wrestling and playing games. In fact, I’ve got him all weekend as Hannah’s off visiting university friends! 🙂
This post has been a long time coming, but there’s three specific short-term causes to it appearing now:
I’ve seen some fantastic content and ideas be let down by woeful presentations recently.
Before next week’s JISC infoNet planning meeting, I’ve been asked to give some advice to my colleagues about presenting effectively.
My Dad had an interview for a promotion last week and I helped him with his presentation.
Every awesome presentation has the following. Yes, every single one.
A call to action
One or more ‘hooks’
Little on-screen text
How to plan the ultimate presentation
Start with your ‘call to action’. What do you want people to go away and do/think/say? Put that in the middle of a large piece of paper, or – better yet – a large whiteboard.
Around it, write down everything that you want to say on the topic. Spatial location indicates relatedness (i.e. the close it is to another point the more related it is to it). Draw a circle around every point. You’ve just created a Rico Cluster!
Next, identify your key points. They’re the points within circles that give your presentation its structure, those that would be noticeable if absent.
Finally, think about the order of your presentation. It goes something like this:
Hook –> Challenge –> Story –> Call to action
Designing the visual element of your presentation
You should by now know what the start and the end of your presentation is going to entail. You should have an idea of how you’re going to ‘hook’ the audience’s interest and then provide a ‘call to action’ at the conclusion.
Notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about the length of your presentation yet. That’s because it doesn’t really matter whether you presentation is 5 minutes or over an hour, the principles are the same! All that changes with the length of your presentation is the amount of content you need to prepare, and strategies for dealing with the wandering concentration of your audience. More of the latter in a moment.
I’m going to outsource the rest of this section to two wonderful resources I’ve come across recently. The first is mis-titled in my opinion: The Top 7 PowerPoint Slide Designs is actually about the structure and design of your presentation as a whole, rather than PowerPoint. It’s always good to have examples up your sleeve to broaden your repetoire.
The second is embeddable. I just love the focus on passion and significance coupled with practical advice!
Of course, you don’t have to use slides! For my Director of E-Learning interview, I made up a hashtag on Twitter and put that on the screen whilst I blu-tacked A4 sheets of paper to several walls… :-p
Kicking-ass when delivering the presentation
We’ve dealt now with the hook, the call to action, and having little on-screen text. This final section, then, deals with pace and imagery. A grasp of the appropriate use of pace is one reason why very good teachers are almost always very good presenters: they know when to speed things up and when to slow them down.
For example, if you’re letting people know about this amazing, exciting new thing then you’ll talk really quickly with lots of enthusiasm in your voice. If you’re emphasising a key point, on the other hand, you may want to take your time. Either way, it’s very important to practice. Use a video camera. Failing that, talk into the mirror. As a last resort, talk to a chair in the corner of the room. Seriously.
It’s obvious, but seemingly not understood by many. Your presentation is not the slides! Your presentation is the sum total of the experience people get when watching and listening to you present. That’s why imagery is extremely important. It’s more than appropriate and good-looking pictures on a screen. It’s about being evocative. It’s about using metaphors. It’s about conjuring up a world where people can’t help but respond to your call for action.
I’d love to help people present better. I’m not perfect myself – no-one is – but having a commitment to getting better at something means you’re half-way there to being better at it. And yes, these things can take huge amounts of time to do properly. One recent presentation of mine took, altogether, one hour for every minute I spent presenting! But, as Yoda famously says in Star Wars:
I was asked to help put together the agenda for our upcoming quarterly planning meeting. This will be my first experience of the two-day events. I’ve proposed session titles including really bad puns – e.g. ‘Getting JISC-y with it’ and ‘Plone Ranger’ (Plone powers our website…)
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. A friend of a friend, Ben Mawhinney, came to give us some training on Google Analytics at my invitation on Friday. It was really kind of him to share what he knows and help us to better focus on our core audience!
Making the most of my flexi-time
With the sunny weather and spending all week in the office, I’ve been leaving at 15.30 and using up some of my flexi-time. What. A. Great. System!
Getting the go-ahead
My proposal for a review of mobile and wireless technologies was accepted, so I’ll be spending from next week until about the end of October on a review which will inform an upcoming JISC publication.
Returning my Dell Streak
It would appear that for everyone who knows me (however slightly) my decision to return the Dell Streak on Friday after a week was entirely predictable. What can I say? I’m a sucker for well-designed tools that increase my productivity. Like the iPhone 4…
Full disclosure: after mentioning Learning Score in a previous post (and raving about its potential) I was kindly given a free copy of the latest version, courtesy of John Davitt and Tribal. This was done on a no-strings-attached basis and does not influence the positive or negative points I make below.
Lesson planning is a difficult thing to learn to do well; it’s even more difficult to teach others to do effectively. The idea of coming up with learning objectives and success criteria before dealing with specific activities is a difficult one to get used to. And then there’s all of the other things to get right:
The list goes on…
So that’s why I was overjoyed (yes, overjoyed) when I saw Learning Score. It’s described as a multi-media lesson planning and delivery tool and I believe it to be invaluable for:
Planning your own lessons
Sharing your lessons (and associated resources) with others
Modelling good practice
As you can see from the video at the top of this post, it’s extraordinarily intuitive and easy-to-use. The metaphor used is a musical score, a perfectly befitting one as a well-planned and executed lesson is like beautiful music played by a symphony. 🙂
In an improvement from the previous version, you can add up to 6 tracks, meaning that you can rectify the strange situation where ‘props’ are available to be added at the bottom of the screen but, by default, there’s nowhere to put them!
You create your lesson in ‘Edit’ mode and then, when ready for delivery (and after saving, of course) you click ‘Play’ to enter delivery mode. This has a timer function to keep you on track, but to be honest I find that learning goes off at so many tangents sometimes that the lesson plan is merely a statement of intent. The timer’s not that useful to me, but may be to trainee teachers for reassurance.
Double-clicking on the resources in ‘Play’ mode allows you to view/listen/access them within Learning Score. For obvious reasons, the filetypes available are limited. With videos, for example, only SWF and FLV files can be used. If you’re fond of using downloaded YouTube clips, this presents no problem at all. If you’ve got a bank of high-quality MP4 files, on the other hand, you’re going to either have to get transcoding or play them outside of Learning Score.
I love the whole concept of Learning Score: the way that it liberates you from having to use just text, which often can constrain ideas – and therefore creativity. I really like the way that, if you choose, you can package up all of your resources inside Learning Score, ready for delivery. And then, again if you choose, export them, share them with colleagues, or add via SCORM-compliance to your schools’ Learning Platform.
I admire the powerful simplicity of Learning Score, the way in which you can very quickly build up a lesson by focusing on learning rather than just keeping students busy. I find the interface intuitive, fairly lightweight and flexible. I like the ability to add annotations. In short, if a site is created to be able to share the resulting .lsz files (I’ve been told it’s in the works) then I can see Learning Score taking off. Big style. 😀
Areas for development
But Learning Score isn’t perfect. There are still some things I’d like to see improve. For example, although I can customise activities and props after dragging them onto the score, I haven’t figured out a way of adding to them so that they appear by default. And having only 30 characters for the main learning objective is nowhere near enough!
My second problem is the proprietary nature of the file format it produces. To a great extent this is the nature of the beast: it’s a new, fairly revolutionary tool. But the ability to read and write the file formats using (potentially) other applications would be a boon. It would reassure me as an educator that I’ll always be able to access my own lesson planning in future.
And finally, although the whole point of Learning Score is lesson planning and delivery in a very visual and multimedia kind of way, sometimes it’s necessary to print things out. Unfortunately this is what a wonderfully-crafted and visual Learning Score looks like when exported to text format ready for printing. Not pretty.
I highly recommend Learning Score. It’s an application that, had I not very kindly been given a free copy, would definitely have purchased for myself. It not only serves as an awesome way to plan your own lessons (and meetings, projects…) but to demonstrate in a very hands-on, visual way how colleagues and trainee teachers can do likewise!
A couple of people have very kindly been in touch privately to offer their thoughts on my Ed.D. thesis. Both expressed concern that I don’t seem to be up-to-date with my research! Whilst that’s very kind of them, I’d like to reassure both them and everyone else that I (think I) know what I’m doing. 🙂
Here’s my roadmap, if it helps:
As you can see, I’m delaying writing about digital literacy until next summer. Why? Things move fairly quickly in this field. I want to be as up-to-date as possible when I submit!
In addition, I’m in the bizarre position of doing a vocational doctorate in a non-empirical, purely conceptual fashion. How odd. :-s
Further to my previous blog post setting out what I was going to do at interview, I’m delighted to report that I was successful! Many thanks to my Twitter network for their support. As of next academic year (September 2009) I shall be ‘Director of E-Learning’ at Northumberland Church of England Academy.
This is a significant promotion for me and, as the Academy comes into existence as I assume the role, means I’ve got (almost) a blank slate with which to work. Hence the need for me to have a clear and coherent plan as to the E-Learning ecosystem I want to create.
I’m embarking on a series of blog posts over the Easter holiday period which, provisionally, I’m going to title:
Attendance: what are the pros and cons of SIMS, Serco and Phoenix?
Behaviour: what are the e-options for real-time monitoring and tracking of student behaviour?
Communication: which tools are available to enable anyone within an organization be able to appropriately communicate and collaborate with anyone else?
Design: what are the standards upon which pedagogically-sound learning design can be constructed?
Engagement: which technologies lead to confident engagement in learning?
I have perhaps phrased some of the above clumsily so I’d welcome your feedback! 🙂
I’m fairly productive. Not outstandingly so, but reasonably. I try to pick up tips for improving my outputs from websites such as Lifehacker, amongst others. What follows is a brief rundown of seven tips for being more productive as a teacher. 😀