Browsing Tag Presentation

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I Presented at a Conference Without Slides

I presented at TeachMeet Nashville via Skype. I couldn’t share my webcam and your screen, so I decided to present without slides. No PowerPoint. No Keynote. No Prezi. No Google Presentation. I simply shared my webcam so that my audience could see me. Here’s why…

A presentation is about you presenting to them. I was presenting from Los Angeles to a room full of educators in Nashville (that’s in Tennessee). Listening to a presenter that is 2000 miles away is difficult enough. Never showing your face is worse. I would imagine it would be like visiting the wizard in Emerald City–you hear someone talking, it looks neat, but there isn’t a connection.

The goal is to keep the focus on you, not your visuals, when you present. Don’t turn off all the lights so they can see the screen better. It’s called a talk, not a watch. If lights are off, they can’t see you, and you (not PowerPoint) are the one giving the talk. Again, the goal is to communicate, not stare at a projector.

As educators, we know it’s about making a connection, yet we become deer staring at headlights, er, screens. If you wouldn’t talk to your students sitting in the corner of the classroom with all the light off, then you shouldn’t do it at a conference.

This speaks to the larger issue of really bad slideware. Somehow, bullet point-ridden slideshows have become not only commonplace, but an expectation. I suppose the good news is that any talk (lecture, presentation, whatever) that involves minimal text and maximum engagement is a home run.

Even though I second guessed the choice to present without slideware, the feedback I received was that the audience 2000 miles away felt engaged. And I, as the presenter, felt more of a connection with the audience. I look forward to the day when this experience becomes the rule, and not the exception. In the future, I will create a Google presentation, and run the slideshow on my iPad while I present. The audience can follow along on their devices, while the projector displays my webcam video. It will be the best of both worlds.

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Things That Suck: an Epic #EdCamp Session

History of Suck

Things That Suck is a staple session at most EdCamps (an EdCamp is a participant-driven professional development gathering). I was introduced to Things That Suck at EdCampOC by Dan Callahan. I was in a different session, but read so many tweets about Things That Suck, that I ran over to that room. It turns out, Things That Suck is a debate, a discussion, a conversation. Dan announced a controversial educational topic, and people moved to one side of the room if that topic sucks or to the other side of the room if that topic rocks  (see topics below).

Dan led discussions about why people felt strongly one way or the other. Initially, I was surprised by how polarizing most of the topics are. More than once, I thought I would be in the minority, but wasn’t. Most teachers at EdCampOC believed that homework sucks–it’s a waste of time for teachers, parents, and students.

Teachers love this session because it gives them a voice. Most conferences follow the Sage on the Stage model–they talk, you listen. This creates an environment where discussion is the session.

Dan has traveled to dozens of EdCamps across the U.S. leading Things That Suck sessions. Like any good franchise, Things That Suck has taken on a life of its own (Dan bequeathed Things That Suck to me at EdCampSFBay). If you’re at an unconference like EdCamp and someone isn’t leading Things That Suck, run the session yourself!

How to Run a Session

Ideally, two people lead Things That Suck: an impartial moderator, and a person timing It’s important to have another person keeping track of time. The first time I led it, Dan was my timer/wingman and always gave me a one minute warning. Each topic should last 5-7 minutes. When time is up, cut off the conversation, and move on. Begin by announcing the topic, then walk to one side of room and hear their thoughts. Stay impartial, and always hear from both sides. Keep the tone respectful, and have fun.

Eventually, you will notice a gradation of beliefs. People will stay towards the middle if they’re undecided, and will move as arguments persuade them in one direction.

Play the Things That Suck session for immediately after lunch. It’s a great time to keep people moving and talking. Don’t run this session early in the morning.

Suggested Topics

A good topic is one that elicits different views. Here’s a list to get you started:

  1. Homework
  2. Network filters
  3. Student Teachers
  4. Computer Labs
  5. Scantrons
  6. Cell phones in the classroom
  7. Report cards
  8. Uniforms for Students
  9. Interactive whiteboards
  10. Merit pay
  11. State standards
  12. Tenure
  13. Textbooks
  14. Parent Conferences
  15. iPads in the classroom
  16. Schools organized by districts
  17. Back to School Night
  18. Open House
  19. Holiday Programs
  20. Facebook with students
  21. Testing, especially high stakes
  22. BYOD (bring your own device)
  23. Control

Template

I created a Keynote version of Things That Suck for when I led the session on my own. Each topic has its own slide with a timer set to five minutes. Download the Keynote template here.

View the Google Presentation template. There aren’t timers on it, though.

Use the embedded Google Presentation:

Apply it to the Classroom

My wife has modified this to use with her high school senior government class. She calls it Awesome or Lame. She announces an historical topic and asks them to walk towards a side of the room (“That’s awesome!” or “That’s lame!”). Surprisingly, many students stayed in the middle at first. She took this as an opportunity to teach them more about the topic. Rather than lecturing to bored students, she explained the intricacies of the topic so students could make a more informed decision. They were eager, not bored, to learn more. If you apply Bloom’s Taxonomy to your lesson, this makes perfect sense. This lesson requires students to evaluate, and defend their position. This is a higher-ordered thinking activity, far more useful in assessing student understanding than a scantron test.

If you have led a Things That Suck session and used different topics that rocked, please add them to the comments below.