Different Podcasts, Different Voices

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/14476927585
 
Someone recently asked me which educational podcasts I listen to. It got me thinking about the different podcasts and what makes them each unique. Although they all focus on education and so often incorporate some element of technology and pedagogy. What makes them each unique in my view is the voice in which they provide. By ‘voice’ I not only mean the perspective grasped, but also the means in which it is presented. I feel that the best way to represent these differences is through different forms of refreshments and the context created through each one.
 

RU Connected

I am not sure if it is my habit of listening to the podcast at school early in the morning or it is the style of conversation, but I always feel as if I am sitting at a cafe with +Jenny Ashby and +Lois Smethurst drinking a coffee and having a chat. Wandering from one subject to the next, each different episode seems to flow into one. What I like most is that it is a celebration of learning with an effervescent joy.
 

2 Regular Teachers

A little bit like RU Connected, +Rick Kayler-Thomson and +Adam Lavars podcast is a open discussion about education from the chalkface. It is an open and honest discussion of what is happening in and out of their classroom, as well as some musing about how things could be different. Whether this is due to the two duelling personalities or the common nature of the topics discussed, but listening feels like sitting at a bar and just having a few casual beers.
 

Teachers’ Education Review

Unlike the subjective approaches to education provided by RU Connected and 2 Regular Teachers, the +TER Podcast attempts to provide a more serious platform for the deeper discussion of anything and everything relating to education. Although +Cameron Malcher and +Corinne Campbell will share examples of their own experiences, it is often to dig deeper into a particular issue in the news. What is also a little different is that the podcast often provides a platform for experts to dig deeper into a wide range of topics impacting schools all over Australia. To me this is a more complex mix and I think that with its length, it is something that you dedicate a certain amount of time to. It is a serious drink.
 

Ed Tech Crew

I think that the +Ed Tech Crew Podcast is a bit of an enigma to explain. One week it will be casual chat between +Tony Richards and +Darrel Branson about tips and tricks collected via social media, another week there might be guest interviews, whilst other times they will open things up to a panel of people. In the end, I think that the podcast is best thought of as a night around at a mates sitting around drinking home brew where everyone is welcome. Although the process has been somewhat perfected overtime, you still never quite know what you are going to get each time you listen. There is no promise of anything in particular, just a few guys who love technology and education.
 
 
So these are some of the local educational podcasts I listen to, what about you? Are there any that I have missed that should be added to my playlist? If so, what is it about them that you like and keeps you listening. Feel free to share below.
 
NOTE: I must apologies for using the drinking analogies, however I couldn’t think of anything better to differentiate. 

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Making Connections … Online

Google+ photo by DeAnn DeVille


In a previous post ‘Connections Start with People‘ I explored my first step on the journey to becoming a more connected educator, which involved physically connecting with other teachers outside of my usual circles – stepping away from the familiar and embracing the uncanny. The second marker to becoming more a more connected was making these connections online, in particular, through Twitter.

 
I’m not sure what actually led me to joining Twitter. Maybe my work at ATC21C? A desire to learn something new? A different audience? Frustrations with other social media platforms, such as Facebook? All those years of attending the ICTEV conferences and feeling that I was missing out on the real conversation. Whatever it was, sometime in September of 2011 I signed up.
 
Initially my focus with Twitter was in understanding it as a medium of communication compared with a blog or a wiki. At the time I had started teaching Multimedia and this included exploring different facets of digital literacies. I was therefore intrigued about such mediums as tweets and blogs and what they meant for traditional notions of literacy. Ironically, I had little interest in the beginning with actually ‘connecting’ with anyone. In hindsight this almost seems farcical, but like so many others, I lurked.
 
In addition to this, I have always been interested in finding new means for responding. This led me to the idea of restricting responses to 140 characters. I had always used different activities as a part of my teaching that involved students making decisions on key words or ideas and then justifying these choices. I therefore thought tweets could be an extension of this, an interesting and creative way of responding to texts. Something epitomized by the book Twitterature.
 
One of the differences that I found early on between platforms like Facebook and Google+, where you can build walls around content, was that Twitter as a platform is designed to be open. Although you can lock down your profile and tweets on Twitter, it seems to defeat the purpose. +Steve Wheeler sums this up best in a video about blogs, suggesting that, “having a private blog is like going to a party with a paper bag over your head.” Really, Twitter is an application that revolves around sharing, without other people’s content there is nothing.
 
I initially started out on Twitter not so much hiding behind a wall, but hiding behind an identity. Although I had been using ‘mrkrndvs’ elsewhere for years (my name without vowels in case you were wondering), my initial moniker was an acronym based around my initials – ‘MAD’. Associated with this, my profile picture was a QR Code which simply went to my Twitter handle, while my profile was a quote from Michel Foucault stating: “Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write.” For me, I wanted to be known for my ideas, not who I was or wasn’t.
 
It is interesting to read about how different people start out. Often people cite the desire to connect with supposed celebrities. However, for me it was about following interesting educational thinkers in regards to media and technology, such as the handles associated with such individuals and organisations as Danah Boyd and Wired magazine. A little bit like the Pringles jingle though that ‘once you pop you just can’t stop’. I found that once you follow one, you start finding others to add. In regards to my presence, I simply posted the odd quote, made the random observation, posed some questions, but didn’t really do much.
 
What is strange in looking back is that even though I had no real intention to get involved, to answer questions, get involved in chats, I still somehow thought that people would participate, that they might retweet something I wrote, respond to a quote I posted or answer a question. During those formative months I simply stumbled around, finding my voice and unintentionally developing my online identity.
 
A significant shift occurred when I actually got a response to a question that I posed in regards to Google Apps for Education. As I have described elsewhere, I had introduced Google Drive into my school. However, I was interested in the difference between Google Drive and Google Apps with an eye to introducing GAFE into the school. +Tony Richards responded by not only explaining the differences, but also providing me a range of resources.
 
What is even more significant than my ongoing connection with Tony since then is that I have shared the advice and details that he shared with me with several other people. Often they were in the same situation as me, unknown and putting the call out, waiting and hoping for someone to respond. 
 
To me, this is what being connected is all about. Joining with others, sharing ideas and gaining a wider perspective on the world (although never a complete perspective). Basically, just being a part of a wider village. However, sometimes it takes one person to help you understand that to really be a part of a village you need to give back.
 
So how are you sharing? What are you doing to give back to your community and who are the significant individuals that have helped you out along the way? I would love to know.

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22 Questions …

I have been sent two separate challenges in regards to the 11 question meme, one from +Ian Guest and the other from +Steve Brophy. Although I have already engaged with this meme elsewhere, I just could not help but respond. So instead of choosing one set of questions over the other, I have decided to simply answer all 22 questions. Therefore, some of my answers may be shorter than you or I would like. However, I am always here to continue the conversation some other time …
 

1. What teacher had the most influence on you and why?

I would have to say Karl Trsek, my Year 12 English/History teacher. Not only did he have a breadth of knowledge, about history and the world – demonstrated by the fact that he wrote his own texts – but he also challenged the way I thought.

2. During your career, which student (without naming them!) most sticks in your mind and for what reason?

I think that it is the student that doesn’t necessarily fit in with the status quo, not necessarily academically, rather socially, those students who need a little extra help and support. Students at the margins. I think that I was much like that at school. I remember reading a quote a few years ago from Mark Haddon, the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. He basically said that some children are like gazelles running across the savannah, growing up is easy, no hassle, while on the flip side there are those students who find every day a struggle. In the end, it comes down to my belief that we are there to help make a difference and that is not just academically.

3. What was your most abiding memory of school dinners?

What is a ‘school dinner’? Enough said.

4. Two Harry Potter inspired questions now. If you had Harry’s cloak of invisibility, what educational event would you like to unobtrusively observe and why?

I think that it would be a ministerial meeting involving the heads of the different regions and the minister for education. I would just love to know what they do and do not talk about. I always wonder whether such people are administrative or if they are truly driven and innovative.

5. What aspect of education or the classroom would you most like to wave your wand over and why? Educatio revisiorum!

I think that it would be the teacher at the heart of the classroom. With so many different means of providing instruction and giving feedback in today’s day and age, I dream of the day when students become empowered and engaged in their own learning.

6. For any historical figure of your choice, what might they have tweeted at a significant moment for them?

Maybe Jesus tweeting “It is finished #crucified”. Short and sharp. Geting his message out there. Other than that, maybe Moses looking out across the River Jordan before he died. Reckon that he would have had some interesting things to say. Maybe a few well wishes for Joshua and the rest of the tribes:

Sad I can’t be there today w/ my ppl as they cross into the promised land HT @Joshua #finally #regret — מֹשֶׁה (@moses)
Also reckon @laotzu would have had some interesting stuff to say back in his day.

7. What’s your favourite online video (for any reason) and why? (A link would be good)

Any time I am asked about ‘favourite’ this or that, I feel that it is so subjective, often dictated by time. If I answer this question next year I will probably give a different answer. I am therefore going to go with my favourite video right now, which is an episode from Beat This where Four Tet creates a track from Michael Jackson’s album Thriller in just 10 minutes. Both inspiring and intimidating at the same time.
 
 

8. In Horizon report style, which technology-enabled educational activity is likely to be becoming more mainstream in 3-ish years?

After reading +George Couros‘ post ‘5 Reasons Your Portfolio Should Be Online‘, I think maybe student digital portfolios that are sector blind and self-managed will be something that becomes more mainstream.

 

9. Which fictional character would you most like as a work colleague and why?

I think maybe Jay Gatsby, an eternal positivist who once he believes in an idea will let nothing get in his way. Need more of that passion in teaching sometimes.

10. What educational movement or initiative, currently in its infancy, will endure and why?

I think that one initiative that will endure is blended learning, especially as technology becomes more and more prevalent. Online mediums will be used to not only supplement ‘in class’ learning, but also add to it by providing additional resources to support students to go further.

11. Which educator (dead or alive, real or fictional, famous or not) would you most like to interview or enjoy the drink of your choice with and what would you be chatting about?

I think that I would have a chat with +Tony Richards. With a dearth of experiences, he always has that knack to some up a situation and provide a dearth of ideas and solutions to support the discussion. If Tony wasn’t free then Sir Ken Robinson, +Alec Couros or +Peter DeWitt would do.

12. If you had the power to make one rule in your school that every teacher would follow, what would you your rule be and why?

I think that it would be to share everything. So often I have seen people answer this question by saying ‘develop a PLN’. I think that we all already have a PLN, we just don’t all recognise it. One of the important ingredients though of a PLN is sharing. I believe that if people learn to actively share ‘good ideas’ when they come upon them then PLNs will follow.

13. What is your learning process?

Although I have posted elsewhere about how I consume digital information, I think that it kind of misses the point to restrict learning to a simple ‘process’. If anything I would say that my process is to follow up on thoughts and threads of inquiry that arise in day to day life.

14. Where do you see education in ten years?

Asking where education will be in ten years always makes me wonder how much it has changed in the last ten years. I think that we won’t even question the use of technology, that it will be a given. Associated with this, learning will be more individualised. However, I still think that we will be dreaming of different and more flexible learning spaces. I just can’t see governments around the world investing in new buildings and I am not yet convinced of private/public partnerships.

15. Why are you a teacher?

First and foremost I am a learner and that is why I am a teacher. In addition to this, I am passionate about making a difference to the lives of others, whether staff or students, and supporting them with their passions. I have spoken about this elsewhere in regards to leadership.

16. How should a technical team support teachers?

I think that the most important thing that a technical team can do is be active and transparent about what they are doing. Like so many rolls in a school, such as the timetabler and daily organiser, you often don’t think about them until something goes wrong. Therefore, it is important to engage with staff when things are right.

17. If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?

I am not exactly sure what I’d be, but it would probably be something that involves supporting others in an active roll. This would also most likely involve problem solving and technology.

18. What is the hardest learning experience you have ever had?

I think that hardest learning experience has been that no matter how passionate you are or how much energy you put in, real change involves a team. I actually think that this lesson is a bit of an ongoing experience. 

19. What three books changed your life?

This is such a nostalgic questions. Three books which have had a significant influence on my perspective on things are Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, Stanley Fish’s Is There a Text in This Class? and Paul Carter’s The Road to Botany Bay.

20. Who inspires you?

I think that inspiration is a mindset. I will therefore say that my PLN inspires me. Everyday I read something that challenges me, makes me thing differently, forces me to reflect upon my own practises.

21. What strategies do you use to bounce back from the tough days in teaching?

Whether it be spending time with family or connecting online, I make sure that I get out of that bad space.

22. What is right with education in 2014?

I think the push to place the student at the heart of the classroom is right. Whether this be about involving them in the planning or developing better strategies in regards to differentiating for each and every student, I think that this can only be a good thing.
 

Opening Up the Challenge

So there are my 22 questions answered. Some with more detail than others, but answered non the less. To build upon +Peter DeWitt‘s break with tradition, I have two questions for anyone who is willing answer: “What inspired you the most last year” and “What are you excited about this year?”
I look forward to your response.

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If You Could Give One Piece of Advice, What Would It Be …

 

A few weeks ago, I had the great opportunity to be a part of Google Hangout for +Ed Tech Crew Episode 238. The big question being addressed was: If you were only able to give one piece of advice to a new ICT Co-ordinator in a school, what advice would you give them. Although I have had a go at outlining my thoughts elsewhere, here are the gems offered by the wider team …
 
+Ashley Proud – Be relentless with whatever you do.
+Mick Prest – Make sure that you are connected to a wider community.
+Mel Cashen – Have both short and long term goals, don’t just think about right here, right now.
+Lois Smethurst – Narrow your field of focus to something that you believe is going to make a difference with.
+Darren Murphy – Go and listen to people, get teachers and leadership on board
+Aaron Davis – Create a team and develop a collaborative plan.
+Roland Gesthuizen – Coach the kind of learning that you want to be happening and be disruptive, facilitate the learning rather than mandate it.
+Tony Richards – Just have a go at doing something, this includes modelling the behaviours that you want people to have.
+Darrel Branson – Develop relationships in and out of the school.
What are your thoughts? Is there something that has been missed that you would add? Keep the conversation going either below or on Twitter.

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I Was Just Appointed ICT Co-ordinator, Now What?

The other day I received an invite from +Darrel Branson to participate in an episode of the +Ed Tech Crew . The question up for discussion is: what advice would you give a new teacher just appointed as an ICT coordinator? I know that the medium is more about the meeting of the minds, I decided to clarify my own thoughts on the matter. I am sure that there are things that I may have missed, but here is my start to the discussion …
  • There is No ‘I’ in Team. The first thing that any co-ordinator in any position should do is to build a team. I am of the belief that one person has the power to bring about change, swapping one thing for another, it is through the power of a team that evolution occurs. Develop your team by engaging with those people who have some skills and expertise, find out who has some passion that you can utilise. This may not be a formal group that say meets at 8:00am every Thursday morning, rather it needs to be thought of as a group of people who you consult with, discuss key issues with, utilise to drive change forward. Ideally, this group should include representatives from all the key areas: parents, teachers, administration, technicians, even students. One of the most essential ingredients to all this is the ability to listen. There is no point at all having a heap of members in your team if you are not going to give them an authentic voice.
  • Times Spent in Reconnaissance is Time Well Spent. It is so important to develop a plan, both for yourself and the organisation as a whole. Define what you think that role encompasses. Find out what leadership expect from your you. Don’t just assume who will do what work and that everyone knows what is trying to be achieved. Your plan should not only include an overarching vision for role and the department, but some steps involved in turning this from an ideal into a reality.
  • There is No Such Things As Bad Publicity. Once you have a team with a clear vision, you need to share this with the rest of the school. A game plan is useless if the wider team is not privy to it and on-board. Whether it be sending out short emails. Asking for some time during staff meetings. Presenting to Year Level or KLA Teams. Maintaining a blog. Celebrating achievements, however small they may be. Stamping out myths and misconceptions by clarifying any confusion early. Use any means possible to spruik your message again and again and again. As the saying goes, “there is no such thing as bad publicity”. Just remember to use a bit of humour and creativity when doing it, the worst thing to do is to lose your audience before you’ve even started.
  • Spread the Load. The worst thing that you can do when trying to bring about change is feel that you have to do everything by yourself. Fine there is always someone who does a bit of bullocking work when it comes to setting things up, whether this be creating users for a new program or managing the installation of various applications. However, for these things to take action in class, you really need to get everyone on board. You can’t teach every student, if as a co-ordinator you get the opportunity to teach at all, so at some point you really need to focus on training the trainer. A part of this comes back to not only introducing new applications and tools, but also providing a clear justification why you have introduced it. In reality, your success and failure as a co-ordinator often has little to do with your ability to do something, rather it often comes down to your ability to convince others to join the cause.
  • Be a Problem Solver. Although you may have a plan about what you are trying to get done, about what vision you are trying to instil, unless you respond to the day-to-day requests you are not going to get anywhere. It is integral to make sure that you leave time and space for random requests. Being flexible not only allows you to identify various issues staff may be facing, but also encourages others to listen to you if you are willing to listen to them. In addition to this, it is often through the requests made by staff that you find out what the real issues are. This information usually has a flow on effect and helps when revising various plans and goals.
  • Your Association Needs You. Find out what your local ICT Association is and join up. This will often provide you not only with a list of possible professional development that you can be a part of, but also thoughts and ideas from other educators to help spur you on. The reality is that without members, associations are meaningless. Sadly, you often don’t realise how important they are until they are not there.
  • Connections, Connections, Connections. You will never have all the solutions, if you do, then you do not know all the problems. Whether in person at conferences or online through various social media forums, such as Twitter and Google+, actively develop your own PLN. If it is not a personal network, then find one that already exists and join up. Take +Mel Cashen‘s great initiative for example for all Victorian educators on Google+ – ‘Vic Educators‘. Having a wide range of connections in and out of school is so important. Not only for the spread of information and ideas, but just for perspective. One of the challenges though with being a part of any PLN is being seen to not only take, but also give back in return. If you wish others to answer your questions or share their ideas, you also need to be willing answer their questions and share a few ideas of your own.
  • Do as I Do, Not as I Say. Whether it be authentically engaging with different applications and devices, like Twitter or using an iPad, or simply developing a positive presence online, it is important to be a model user for others to follow. Don’t just be a leader, be a lead learner as +Joe Mazza would have it. Know what it means to be on the other side of things, be a learner first. A part of this is discovering new ideas that you do not know and embracing them, engaging with them, experiment with them.
I am sure that there is something that I have missed. Is there anything that you would add? Is there anything that you do not agree with? I would love your thoughts in the comments.

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Not Right or Wrong, Just Different

Wrong All The Time

In a post, by +Seth Godin, he spoke about how he dismissed the Internet as, “slower, harder to use and without a business model.” The lesson that he learnt out of this was that there are, “two elements of successful leadership: a willingness to be wrong and an eagerness to admit it.”
 
Godin’s discussion of being wrong got me thinking. What does it mean to be ‘right’ and ‘wrong’? And how does this fit with education? Does it actually achieve anything to constantly come back to idea of their being a correct answer?
 
It is not that I disagree with Godin’s reflection, but I feel that notions of right or wrong are often left for historians reflecting on the past and even that is questionable. The terms almost feel empty and slightly trivial at times. A spoil often left to the victor. What is achieved in being right or wrong? Often being wrong does not change a thing as it is only after the moment has past that we realise this. At its heart, it is not very useful when discussing lifelong learning. At the very least, it carries with it a negative connotation. What is important, is the way you respond to being ‘wrong’. What aspects that you would change for the future. In some ways the challenge is to be wrong all the time for what do we really learn in being right?
 
I feel that a better solution to supporting lifelong learning is to focus on choice and consequence, considering how we respond to each situation. This includes unpacking how you came to your particular choice, were there any other options and why did your choice work for your situation? One of the difficulties with being right and wrong is that it is often past tense. Being conscious of some of the choices we make every day allows for reflection in the present tense.

Right? Wrong? Different?

We make choices on a daily basis, whether it be what to eat for tea or an opinion on a matter. Sometimes the difficulty lies not so much in making a choice, but in recognising that there was a choice at all. Take the following as some examples of such situations:
 
  • Search Engines: In a recent Guardian Tech Weekly podcast, Bing’s director of search, Dave Coplin, put forward the argument that we only use Google, because it is habit and that Bing offers a better experience.
  • Technology: With the rise of BYOD, the question that often gets asked by students is which device should they buy? I recently had a discussion with some of my senior students who are moving into a BYOD environment next year. Their quandary was which device would be the most ideal for learning. In the end, the discussion came down to a question of taste, personal preferences and what particular students wanted to achieve.
  • Voting: A cornerstone to democracy is the ability to vote for the person and party who we think would best represent us. Often people get lost in arguments about who is right or wrong, when all we ever get is a difference on opinions and even that is questionable at times.
  • Control over Curriculum: In a recent blog, +Jason Markey spoke about moving away from teacher directed learning to providing students with passion the opportunities to design of learning and curriculum 
  • Being Connected: There has been a lot of conjecture as a part of Connected Educator Month about whether we need to be connected or not. +George Couros suggested that being isolated or sharing with the world is a choice that only we can make.
  • Cloud Storage: You just need to put ‘Google Drive’ and ‘Dropbox’ into any search engine for a long list of discussions about which application is better. However, in the end, each application is different and like the discussions about ‘Bing’ and ‘Google’, often comes down to who you wish to use it.
  • Appropriation of Knowledge and Content: Associated with sharing and being connected, is the challenge to properly acknowledge content. +Tony Richards explored this notion in his blog where he focused on the issues with republishing without recognising where things originate.
I could keep on going on and on. However, I think that these examples demonstrate how we can easily get caught up in arguments about what is right and wrong, supposed ‘best practices’, when in fact they are simply choices made by groups and individuals based on what works best for their particular situation. Although we often may have opinions about these matters, such as Google Drive is better than Dropbox as it allows for collaboration. In the end though, that is all they are, neither right nor wrong, just opinions, opinions with associated consequences.

New Ideas, New Beginnings

Choice comes down to one key ingredient, what works best in a particular situation. Often within this process we are faced with options. I often remind my students that they are in fact free to choose whether to work or not, they even have a choice about whether to be in class. However, what they need to realise is that there are consequences if they do not do their work or if they leave the class, consequences that they need to be willing to accept, because they are their consequences and theirs alone. The biggest challenge is being aware that there is a choice in the first place and accepting the associated consequences attached with such decisions.
 
In approaching things from a perspective of choice I feel that we are more open and able to learn and be inspired by others. In recognising why we chose what we chose, it often means that we have considered what we did not choose and why. Sometimes this consideration means that in a future situation we may make a different choice. There are times when being right and wrong gets us locked into a particular position, a position that many around us refuse to release us from.
 
For example, I once used Dropbox as my primary point of sharing. However, I moved over to Google Drive, as I felt that it offered an easier method of sharing and collaborating. It would be stupid to look back on this situation and say I was ‘wrong’, because at the time I may have been ‘right’. Not only does this point out the historical nature of choices, but it also fails to recognise how and why we change.
 
Being open to choice often means that we are more willing to moulding and adapting our ideas, rather than going through a constant state of revolution, where we throw out the old in order to replace with the new. If we approach everything from being right and wrong, we risk living in an echo chamber. Being open to choice is being open to different voices, to different ideas, to new dialogues and new beginnings. +David Truss spoke about the power of PLN’s in a recent blog. He suggested that instead of simply echoing our own thoughts and ideas, being connected offers us a way of breaking out of the echo chamber, finding out new ideas and points of change.

Postscript

One of the things that needs to be noted with any discussion of choice is that there is a hidden element in all of this. For there are some people in the world who do not have the opportunity to make choices, such as which search engine to use or who to vote for. This maybe the only thing that can be considered as being ‘wrong’ in all of this discussion. Often economics is described as the study of choice. Maybe pertinent approach to economics would be better considered as study of those who don’t have a choice at all.

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Takes more than an App to make a Good Presentation

In a recent blog, Corrie Barclay shared his experiences from a recent meeting he attended where Dr. Bill Rankin spoke about presentations. In conclusion, Corrie came up with the following, that:
The creation of a presentation is more than just images and text on a slide. To effectively engage an audience and convey powerful messages, you need to consider those messages and specific design principles that will allow present your information in the most effective manner possible.
I could not agree more that it is more than ‘images and texts’. A presentation is also about more than just an app or a device. I am not saying that apps are not powerful, but in my view having a good app is only one part of the puzzle that is a good presentation. Let me diverge for a moment to explain.
 
At a recent staff meeting, we had Tony Richards come and speak about cyber safety smarts. Not only was I left pondering the consequences of my ongoing digital footprint, but I was also left perplexed as to what made the presentation so compelling. Usually staff are ready to sprint out the door at 4:30, but everyone stayed seated for an extra twenty minutes as proceedings went a little overtime. In conversation the next day, a fellow staff member commented on Tony’s slide transitions and questioned whether I could do that in my presentations. While I knew that his visual presentation was smooth and seamless, a very well-oiled machine, I still felt that it was only part of the magic. In addition to the visuals, I felt that the knowledge and control of the content was impeccable. There were no questions that he was asked that he could not respond to and add to in an instant. Having heard endless cyber-safety presentations before, there was also a sense of honesty about what was said. Supporting this, Tony has the great ability to fluctuate between the serious and the humorous, such as showing a video of what it would be like if we did what we did on Facebook in real life to highlight some of the absurdities of social media, to speaking about particular cases of sexting and child pornography to highlight some of the hidden realities of life in a virtual space. All along, he provided a positive message, even if many of the consequences seem rather gloomy. Lastly, what kept many of the discussions going over following days was the fact that Tony sent through a plethora of resources in support of the ideas that he was talking about, therefore allowing teachers to follow their own trails of thought.
 
I am not saying that Tony’s presentation was the greatest presentation that I have ever witnessed. However, in my view, it was a successful presentation. In my opinion, I think that there are three key ingredients that make for a successful presentation. They are:
1. Having good content and a clear message
2. Delivering the message in a flexible and engaging manner
3. Providing supporting material that builds upon and adds to the delivery of the content
 

I will now build upon each of these things.

Content

Whenever I teach story writing, I always explain to my students that it is the ability to delete material that makes the success of a composition. This is no different when developing a presentation. More often than not, we get caught in a trap where we try to provide too much information. feeling that everything needs to be covered. However, the consequences of this is that so many different (and sometimes contradictory) ideas get bounced around that the original message and purpose for the presentation gets lost in the noise. What is important is to take a step back and unpack each piece of information, questioning whether it adds or hinders the presentation. If it hinders, then often it needs to go (or be provided in the additional material).
 
Associated with having a clear message, is the challenge of what to present in the first place. Sadly, more often than not, the whole content of professional development and presentations is dictated by financial pragmatism or legal imperatives. It is always hard to be passionate about what you present when what you are presenting you have no passion for. (No offence, I have yet to meet anyone in life who is passionate about occupational health and safety.) 
 
This is often the case with staff meetings, where the content provided is dictated by education office or various health and safety guidelines. It was a breath of fresh air at the start of term when my principal had the opportunity to present about something that he was truly passionate about, the history of the Victorian education system. Although there is a requirement to rollout the National Curriculum, he started the meeting by putting the current situation in context with all of the other changes that have occurred over time. Although it may not have been the most interesting of topics, the presentation carried a certain energy that comes when you are passionate about something.
 
Another similar example was a recent ICT smorgasbord that I was a part of. Although maybe not as free and open as an un-conference or a teachmeet, staff were given the opportunity to present on the topic of ICT prior to the day, with the rest of the staff then signing up for two different presentations. Not only did this give staff a sense of trust and autonomy in regards to the choice of PD (Peter DeWitt recently wrote about this topic in his recent blog), but it also allowed people to share what they are most passionate about, whatever that maybe. What is most disappointing about both of these scenarios is that they are often few and far between in today’s age of overcrowded meeting schedules.
 

Delivery

Whether I agree with everything he says or not, Jony Ive, the Senior Vice President in Design for Apple, has got the art of delivery all worked out. Although I maybe sceptical about the exaggeration of the content provided, he certainly knows how to use intonation, pitch, pace and pauses to hit home his message. After watching his spiel for the the new iPhone 5c, I was wondering whether it really was the ‘cheaper’ iPhone.
 
Another master of delivery is Bear Grylis, particularly in regards to his post-production narrations. Even though you know fully well that he is not going to die, the tension that he creates through his delivery carries the viewer along.

 
In addition to the manner in which presentations are given, another key element relating to delivery is the ability to adjust to the situation. Coming back to Tony’s presentation, I think that is one of his strengths, to be willing to crack a joke in order to break things up. Associated with this, it is important to be able to adjust to the situation. I remember a few years ago having to listen to a tour guide in Vietnam speaking about the ruins at My Son. It was six in the morning and everyone was barely awake, let alone showing much interest. However, our guide went on and on for near on thirty minutes, as if he was reading from a manual, unwilling to either answer questions or shorten  his spiel. Not only was his delivery dry, but it lacked an authentic sense of voice.
 

Supporting Material

I remember being told an urban legend at university about a presentation given by Simon During, during the heydays of Cultural Studies, where he showed images of supermodels while delivering a presentation on Victorian novels. I think the point was to break up the unquestioned connection between the presenter and their support material. I think that what During’s example shows is that supporting material has a story to tell and is often just as important as the content and delivery of a presentation.
 
There are many programs used to create and support presentations, with the original being Microsoft PowerPoint. However, some other examples that have popped up in recent time include Haiku Deck, Prezi and Google Presentations. Each of these applications offers a suite of tools and tricks, including transitions, animations, effects etc… However, in my view, the greatest trick of all is being able to tell a story in a clear and uncluttered manner.
 
A great practitioner of the ‘clear and uncluttered’ mantra is John Pearce. In all of my conferences and professional development sessions, I have never actually seen John present, but through a range of means, such as Twitter and other people’s blogs, I have viewed many of his presentations. (I think this as much testament to John’s penchant for sharing.) Whether it be focusing on student curation or providing an introduction to Edmodo, John’s presentations are usually not much more than a so-called collection of ‘images and texts’. However, it is his ability to clearly tell a story that makes his presentations so good. This is not only done through the use of clear headings and images, but he also provides various points of commentary along the way. Take the following page as an example:
 
 
On this page, the heading clearly states the purpose of the page, this is then followed with a screenshot from Edmodo showing the aspect in question, while further explanation is provided at the bottom of the page. Although seemingly nothing more than a Google Presentation, the presentation does everything that it needs to do to help carry across the content.
 
In addition to backing up the presentation at hand, supporting materials, whether it be links to various websites or resources, allow the listener to continue their investigation. This may include simply providing examples and materials in support of the content spoken about or even providing a whole book in some cases. Again I come back to Corrie Barclay. For his presentation on integrating iPads at VITTA 2013, he created a eBook full of information that allows the participant to continue their learning long after the actual presentation has finished.

Another way in which supporting materials are important is that they allow the dialogue to continue on. Recently whilst trawling my Twitter feed I read a tweet from Troy Moncur.


What struck me about the tweet is that with the advent of various social media platforms, presentations now have the ability to carry on long after the lights have been turned off. They no longer need to finish, rather they now have the ability to link from one presentation to the next.
 

Conclusion

Coming back to the initial argument, that presentations are more than ‘images and texts’, there is one thing that has been taken for granted and that is what a presentation actually is. In today’s day and age of screencasts, digital presentations and flipped classrooms, the notion of a person presenting to people is already under threat. However, there is one thing that will never change, that is that it will always take more than an app to make a good presentation.

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