When Should We Vote With Two Feet?



I love Edcamps. I think the biggest strength of the Edcamp model is choice: you choose to attend, and you choose which sessions to attend. And, while you’re in a session, you choose whether or not to stay. It’s called voting with two feet:

Edcampers are encouraged to leave sessions that do not meet their needs. This provides a uniquely effective way of “weeding out” sessions that are not based on appropriate research or not delivered in an engaging format.

Stepping outside of the Edcamp realm, most of the time I hear people present, I choose to hear them present. In the last year alone, I’ve been lucky enough to hear from Ken Shelton, Diane Main, Alice Keeler, Jon Corippo, Rushton Hurley, Jim Sill, James Sanders, Mark Hammons, Wendy Gorton, and even Patrick Pichette. Oh yeah, that would be Google’s CFO.

So yeah, I’ve been around some #eduawesome presentations. Few teachers have the opportunity to hear from this caliber of presenter. Most of us regularly suffer through Death By PowerPoint. In fact, most of us expect it. I even tested it out once. At the beginning of my presentation Video Killed the PowerPoint Star, I started off with a joke–the first slide shows an outline, and I ask the audience to read it. Bullet point by bullet point, they respectfully and diligently read it. Here’s what kills me:

People are willing to sit through bad presentations.

Heck, they even expect it. Indiscernible graphs, bullet points, cheesy clip art, and tiny text are the norm. And these make us worse teachers. We actually become less effective after sitting through these slides. The bar is lowered, and expectations drop. The result? Our students get less–less engagement during our own presentations, less passion.

The answer? Surround yourself with quality. At conferences, only sit through eduawesome talks, and leave during bad ones. This is easy at Edcamps. I challenge you, though, to leave during bad presentations at other conferences. At some point, your spirit will require it. The biggest challenge, though, will arise when you are forced to sit through a presentation. It will come in the form of a staff meeting or district-mandated professional development (I use that term loosely). So what do we do in those cases? I’d like to think that you should leave. Realistically, I will probably stay. The last time I checked, though, we are professional educators. If a presentation is harming your professional life, you owe it to yourself to act. I’m not sure what that looks like, but I don’t like the idea of just sucking it up and sitting through bad sessions/meetings/presentations/PD.