Okay, friends. It's time for a presentation intervention. In Power Up, Jen and I write: "We’ve all experienced death by PowerPoint. (They are called bullet points for a reason, right?) Let’s do our part as educators and teach the world about effective presentation design. Few of our students are going to match the polish or hours of practice that professional speakers achieve, but they can still understand the basics of choosing thoughtful images and not filling their slides with text" (150). A logical place for us to start is by modeling what effective presentations look like every time we fire up the LCD projector and cue up our slides. But, where do we start? With research, of course! I've been doing a lot of reading lately from Rich Mayer's Handbook of Multimedia Learning, (which is a tome if I've ever seen one. It clocks in at some 900+ pages!) and from Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen Design, and have synthesized five key take-aways that any teacher (or any presenter, really) can use to avoid Death by PowerPoint. Check it out:
I’ve been thinking a lot about differences between my students and me lately. I know that most teachers are innately very text savvy, but that our students may not be. I have always preferred text or audio explanations over visual models, and have absolutely been the student who would skip over a chart in her high school chem textbook, or blaze past a timeline in history, looking for the paragraph that would tell me what it all was supposed to mean. My students, on the other hand? They live for charts and pictures (maybe because it means less reading . . . more on that in another post). So where does that leave me? I can certainly appreciate that visuospatial maps, organizers, etc. can be helpful for my students -- especially my visual learners. I can also appreciate that there are better ways for me to represent my content area than an outline (Robinson & Kiewra 1995).
So often in English Language Arts and in History, we cling to outlines as a way of distilling many pages of text, and of checking that students slogged through the information, waded through the boldface words, latched onto the headings and subheadings, and somehow made sense of the reading. I have known for a while that this is not the most useful way to help students make sense of their reading, but haven’t had a better plan beyond the Cornell Notes and key point outlines (or, better yet, cloze note outlines!). Robinson and Kiewra suggest using a visual display that gets at the relationships between elements, and support coordinate, within-concept relations, rather than relying on a linear relationship for all learning (which is what we get in an outline). It makes sense, too, to use a relationship-based organizer for prewriting. My whole department relies on outlines for getting students ready to write essays. I wonder what would happen if we moved to having students create visual maps and models instead of a simple, linear outline.
What I'm reading:
My 10th grade American Lit students just started reading a new novel, and many of them in the opening chapters have expressed frustration that they just don’t “see” the same things in the text that I do. One kid -- just a couple of days ago -- said, “I wish you could just show us how you read it.” Meanwhile, I was reading the articles on worked examples, wondering what it would look like to provide a worked example of READING -- the ultimate “ill-defined” and “less structured” task. So, as a bit of an experiment (totally unstructured, untested, and unofficial), I modeled and recorded a read-aloud of a chapter, and stopped to model my thinking as a reader. Students worked independently on that today, and many commented on how much they enjoyed it and learned from it (for whatever that’s worth).
My thoughts: I was fascinated to learn about the effects of worked examples, and the impact of modeling on novice learners, especially in reducing the toll learning takes on the working memory. I hadn’t thought about this before! It seems that as tasks become less definitive and structured in nature, the expertise reversal effect is less of a problem (Nievelstein, et al., 2012). In my work as a teacher in the humanities, this is actually really good news. Very little of learning to read, think critically, and write clearly is a cut and dried task. Like the example of law students learning to reason cases, my students have a myriad of possibilities for which direction they should take a paper, through which lens they should read a passage, or which evidence to use in support of their arguments. I could see the value of providing a worked example for two different ways to take an argument, or a few different ways to interpret a passage. Much of what I read reinforces the need for adept differentiation within the classroom -- matching instruction with skill level and mastery. I’ve been re-reading Carol Ann Tomlinson’s (1999, 2010) work in this area, and recommend her books to any of you who are in the classroom and are looking for strategies.
What I'm reading: