Thursday, March 02, 2006

Acting like a serious academic

Today I was speaking at a Teaching and Learning Through Technology event at the University. I was speaking on the subject: Wikis, Podcasts and Blogs: collaborative learning in education. I wanted a more frivolous title, but obviously someone felt that a more serious, academic title was required and changed it when I wasn't paying attention.

Mirror Mirror
Mirror Mirror,
originally uploaded by Anakha.
I hope Ewan believes that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery because, inspired by what he did recently at Jordanhill, I shamelessly ripped him off. I have already admitted to borrowing his digital vox pop idea, but I borrowed other elements too.

I liked the way Ewan talked about teaching aims and then linked them to blogs, podcasts and wikis. I looked for stuff on the aims of Higher Education, and quoted from Dearing, two or three other sources and finished with Seven Principles for Good Practice. However, I spoke too long and didn't have time to demonstrate the tools, talk about what they were or how they could be used. It would probably have been better to pick one quote and make clearer links to why the Web 2.0 tools would help deliver.

The final thing I borrowed was the style of presentation. I've been toying with the idea of doing a Lessig style presentation for a while, but I'm not convinced that it's good if students want to take notes on what I'm talking about. Also, Lessig style slides make little sense on their own - making them available for the students without an audio commentary is not much use and I would rarely have time to add audio. I was going to wait for a conference to try Lessig style, but today's TLTT event seemed like a good excuse.

The two examples of Lessig style presentations that I've seen on the web (Lessig's Free Culture and Dick Hardt's Identity 2.0 ) both use very stark, black and white text and backgrounds (as did Ewan in his presentation). I did mine in black and white at first, but then struck a blow for individuality - I went for grey and white! There are other elements of the Lessig style I didn't get. For example, I kept wanting to add a heading (eventually I took them out of most slides). Also more big pictures rather than text and graphic would have been better. Finally I spent too long talking around most of the slides - I didn't get the hang of the rapid delivery Lessig style.

The Lessig thing wasn't a disaster, but I'm unsure if I'd try it again.

Perhaps this post is a bit self-indulgent, especially since you haven't seen what I did. However I wanted to explain what I tried and what I thought went wrong to clear the decks for my next post. In it I'll talk about what I said, and perhaps more importantly, what I missed out.

Oh, and I'll post my presentation next time too.

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Duncan__ said...

I have long been a fan of the "less is more" approach to PowerPoint, and immediately appreciated Ewan's Jordanhill presentation (without ever having heard of Lessig).
I have also been striving (unsuccessfully) to "think outside the box", while teaching presentation software to S2 classes (who are already conditioned to using Microsoft-supplied templates and ideas).
I think we could learn a lot from (the more sophisticated) advertisers, who are used to reducing and simplifying their message into an uncluttered (and ideally striking) billboard image.
(Thanks for the Lessig links -- I shall certainly follow them up.)

Ewan McIntosh said...

You've got to try thing out to see if it works. I probably rehearsed 20 or 25 times the first time I did these kind of presentations. If you can face presenting to a mirror then you can get away with it better in front of an audience. I can also recommend Guy Kawasaki's blog (Google him) for presenting and pitching tips.

Less is more - defo.

John said...

Sort of connected to the less is more idea:
YouTube - Microsoft iPod
My primary six last year teased me mercilessly for being excited about iPod packaging.

David said...

Hello Duncan

Yes, you should cut to the minimum... but no further. The problem is simplifying too much could lead to sound-bite education.

Hello Ewan

Yes, I was surprised at how hard I found it to go at the pace the Lessig style needs. I tend to ramble a bit and go off at tangents (if you're one of my students, feel free to disagree!). I think you probably have to be much more scripted which is not my usual style. Rehersal is important.

Hello John

Welcome back from your foreign trip. Brilliant video! Unfortunately, when it comes to presentations, I suspect I tend towards the Microsoft style. :-(

Chris Lott said...

Lessig-style presentations are great, but they really are about presentation not education. With practice, they build great rhetorical force, but of the generalized and abstracted sort-- great for a keynote, not so great for a tutorial, panel, classroom, etc. At least that's they feel to me (and I am a big fan of Lessig's presentations).

David said...

Hello Chris

That was my conclusion. I can see Lessig as a great way to introduce something, or to grab attention, but I'm not sure it is good for classroom/lecture uses. However, that begs at least two questions. Firstly, is a "normal" Powerpoint presentation "good for classroom/lecture use"? And secondly, if the YALP (Yet Another Lessig-style Presentation) effect kicks in as you highlight in your blog, maybe the attention grabbing effect of Lessig-style will diminish.