No more than 3 points in your presentation!

February 28, 2013

Interesting video from Ethos3, a company that works on presentations and helping others make better presentations.

Um, no, I don’t think they aim at teachers and educators — it’s a for-profit group, not a charity.

That’s also one of my concerns.  Here’s one of a series of short videos Ethos3 prepared, to help you with your next presentation or, you hope, the woman or man who will be making that presentation you have to watch next Wednesday morning at Rotary Club, or at Scout leader training next Saturday, or kicking off the budget planning exercise next Monday (at 7:00 — coffee provided so don’t be late!):

98 views

Generally, I’d agree.

But what about teachers, who have to slog through 150 specific items for the state test?

Observations:

365 Project - Day 29 - I *hate* Powerpoint

Borrowed caption: “365 Project – Day 29 – I *hate* Powerpoint (Photo credit: mike_zellers)”

  1. Teachers could benefit greatly from learning presentation secrets, and making their in-class presentations much more effective.
  2. No school district in America, public, charter, parochial, or homeschool, will give you time to put together such an effective presentation.
  3. Most teachers get no coaching on presentation effectiveness, and their students lose out.
  4. Just because the administrators won’t cut you slack to do it, doesn’t mean a teacher shouldn’t learn about effective presentation techniques, and use them.

In a world of bad bosses, it’s almost impossible to get a really great principal at a school.  Teachers gotta slog on anyway.

You won’t have the time to do the presentation your students deserve, but you should try, anyway.

Dreaming for a minute:  I wish I could get a team like this to help out with designing a curriculum, figuring out where presentation work, how to give them real punch, and where not to use them at all.

What do you think?  Can you tell your story in just three points?  Can you reduce a lecture to three key points that would be memorable, and that spurs students to learn what they need to learn?

More:


Watch my presentation or I’ll shoot this dog . . .

May 20, 2010

National Lampoon once ran a cover of a nice, spotted mutt, tongue out, looking sideways at a pistol pointing at its head.  There was a sort of a caption:  “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”

That’s one way to try to boost circulation!  I first saw the magazine on the rack in a small pharmacy in Colorado Springs, across the street from Colorado College, between rounds of the Colorado College Invitational Debate Tournament.  Being short of cash and in sore need of eye drops, I looked at the magazine but put it back on the rack.  The woman at the cash register watched me carefully.  When I got to the register, she said, “You know, they’ll do it, too!  They’re just the sort of people who will kill that poor dog!”

(I imagine that woman has led Colorado Springs’ dramatic move to the right in politics.)

The publishers got that woman’s attention, didn’t they?

Cartoon by Mark Goetz, on the failure to heed Edward Tufte

Comes an article in The Scientist, “Pimp your PowerPoint.” It’s a news story based on a book by Michael Alley.

In the middle of the 19th century blackboards were all the rage. According to Pennsylvania State University engineering communication professor Michael Alley, it was common for universities and research institutions to proudly advertise that they had the only slate writing board in a 100-mile radius. Scientific lectures became more engaging than they’d ever been.

More than 150 years later, there’s still room for improvement. “People are not anywhere close to tapping the potential that a PowerPoint presentation offers,” Alley says. “We have a tool that can do an incredible amount, and people just waste it.” Who hasn’t been lulled into a somnolent state by some well-intentioned scientist presenting his research to a captive audience by reading a seemingly endless stream of bullet points?

Any media, done well, can be wonderful.  P. Z. Myers’ paean to Prof. Snider and his color chalk artworks reminds us that even a chalkboard can be a place of art, in the eye and hands of someone who gives thought to the work and practices the skills necessary to communicate well.  Looking around my classroom today, I note that better than half the whiteboard space features paper maps held to the board with magnets (which the kids like to steal).

Sometimes a flipchart is all you have, and sometimes a flipchart is all you really need — again, with thought to the ideas to be presented and a bit of polishing of the skills.

The piece in The Scientist relates useful ideas to help somebody who wants to make a better, less sleep-inducing, communicative PowerPoint (or better, maybe, KeyNote) presentation.

Unplug, think, and write
According to Galloway, using PowerPoint to make a great presentation starts with powering down the laptops and writing out an outline on index cards or a legal pad. “People have to shut off their computer and go away as they’re writing their PowerPoint presentation,” he says.

Establish your assertion
Alley says that he starts planning each slide by writing down a single sentence stating the idea he wants the audience to take away. “You have defined what it is you need to support that statement,” he says. “That’s where it starts.” Alley adds that the sentence should only take one or two lines, should consist of only 8–14 words, and should appear in 28-point font when inserted in the final PowerPoint presentation.

Assemble the visual evidence
Let the assertion sentence for each slide guide your decision as to which visuals should accompany it. Use “explanatory images”—not decorative or descriptive images—to support each assertion, says Joanna Garner, assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University. When describing the context or methods of your research, photos and movies are ideal pieces of evidence; when presenting your results, elements like graphs, tables, or charts (appropriately highlighted to emphasize key points) will do the trick.

Read more: Pimp your PowerPoint – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/templates/trackable/display/article1.jsp?type=article&o_url=article/display/57186&id=57186#ixzz0oSXiXCT6

Two things you gotta have first:  Something to say, and a desire to say it well.

Resources:

The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid, by Michael Alley, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2003. $39.95.

Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations, by Garr Reynolds, New Riders Publishing, 2010. $31.49.

slide:ology, by Nancy Duarte, O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol, Calif., 2008. $34.99. (She’s got a blog, too.)

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte, Graphics Press, Cheshire, Conn., 1983. $40.00.


Great news for biology teachers: Neil Shubin released illustrations from Inner Fish for your classroom use

December 25, 2009

Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish reads well, and it reveals evolution as easy to understand from a morphological view of life as revealed by fossils and modern animals.

Cover of Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin

Shubin released the illustrations from the book for teachers to use — a rather rare and great contribution to evolution.

Here’s where you can download the slides, at the Tiktaalik roseae website: Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion Year History of the Human Body – Teaching Tools.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula, “Teaching Your Inner Fish.


PowerPoint templates for students

June 18, 2007

I really don’t like assignments to “do a PowerPoint presentation” for kids who are not expert at all on their subjects — there is too much room for too much unintentional mischief when people who know little about a topic are to use a tool designed for people who know too much about a topic.

Among other things, kids who have never had to do a five-page report, nor an outline of a report, do not have the experience to stick to five bullets of less than five words per slide. And don’t get me going on “fireworks” animation of letters to explain things like the death of Medgar Evers, or the evils of child labor.

But if you want some ideas, the Paducah, Kentucky, school system offers some templates for student reports, and a few presentations teachers could use as foundations, here at “Connecting Teachers and Students.” There is advice, too. *

Use these as starting points, please. If you can’t improve on them, you’re not trying (no offense, Paducah — I hope).

A good exercise for you would be to spend an hour reading suggestions from Presentation Zen, and then edit a couple of those presentations from Paducah to make them more, um, zen reflective.

Remember, “template” is just a part of “contemplate.”

(I hope I don’t regret having pointed out that Paducah site to you.)

Update, November 24, 2007: Take a look at the video included in this post to see an effective use of a presentation tool like PowerPoint — though this one was done with Apple’s Keynote. Check the links in the post, too.
Update March 8, 2008:  Paducah’s school district archived the PowerPoint stuff.  I have changed the links above to link to the archive sites.  I replaced “www” with “old” in the URL.

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