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Posts Tagged ‘seminar

Talks are the least effectiveness way to effect change, but they are a necessary evil because people still organise them and the talks can have extensive reach.

But when I conduct talks, seminars, or keynotes, I ensure that I interact with my audience richly in a few ways.

Why do this? Most speakers will use an “e” word like engagement or even entertainment. I do not play these games because I know my participants are smarter than to fall for that.

I use tools to interact so that my audience (listeners) become participants (thinkers, doers). I do not wish to merely engage, I want to participants to take ownership of learning and responsibility of action.

Beth Kanter shared some ideas last week. I am weighing in on my own and I suggest free tools combined with basic principles of educational psychology.

BACKCHANNEL
A backchannel is an online space for participants to comment, discuss, and ask questions while I am speaking or after I have asked them to consider an issue.

My favourite backchannel tools are Twitter and TodaysMeet.

Twitter is great when an organiser already has one or more event #hashtags that participants can use. This presumes that a sizeable number of participants already use Twitter or are willing to get on it quickly.

Twitter backchannel.

TodaysMeet is better when participants have not committed to any particular platform. If they can text or SMS, then can use TodaysMeet.

With my own free TodaysMeet account, I can create an online text-based interaction space and define how long it will be open for. I then invite participants to it by sharing the access URL. (Pro tip: Create a custom URL with bit.ly and a QR code with this generator.)

One of the most recent versions of Google Slides lets you invite questions from the audience. The URL for participants to submit questions appears at the top of your slides and they can vote up the best questions. (Read my review of Google Slides audience tool.)

Audience Tool URL as overlay.

This is not quite a backchannel because it is not designed for chatter. It favours focused queries. This tool might be better for less adventurous participants who are not used to switching quickly between tasks.

Whatever the backchannel tool, its use must be guided by sound educational principles. You might want to provide participants with a space to be heard immediately instead of waiting till the end, or you want to monitor their thoughts, sense their doubts, or get feedback.

VISUALISATIONS
The visualisations I am referring to are not images and videos. These are show-and-tell elements which are attempts to engage, but have little to do with interacting with participants.

My most common strategy of participative visualisation is to incorporate data collecting and collating tools like Google Forms and AnswerGarden.

Both these tools require user inputs that can be visualised. For example, I could ask the room which major phone platform they are on: Android, iOS, other in a Google Form.

The data they provide is collated in a Google Sheet and can be visualised in a pie chart or bar graph. The relative proportions are more obvious to see than asking the participants to raise their hands.

There are many tools that do what Google Forms and Sheets do, possibly a bit quicker and slicker. But these normally come at a premium. The GSuite is free.

One way to visualise a group’s grasp of concepts is to use a word cloud. For example, I am fond of asking participants what they consider the most important 21st century competencies.

AnswerGarden word cloud.

I invite them to share words or short phrases in an AnswerGarden in brainstorming mode. The most commonly cited concepts appear large while the less common ones become small.

The purpose of such illustrations is not just to leverage on the fact that we are visual creatures and the visuals make an immediate impact. I want participants to get involved in real time and this helps also me illustrate how the technology enables more current forms of learning and work.

TOPIC CHOICE AND FOCUS
One of the worst things I could do as a speaker is talk about something that the audience has no interest in. As it is, some or most of the people there might be present as an obligation and not by choice. So I try to find out what they might want to learn.

I often use Google Forms to find out beforehand and present the popular suggested topics in the form of a chart.

With smaller seminars, I might use Dotstorming to determine which direction to take midway through the event. I ask participants to suggest areas to explore and they vote on topics each others topics.

Dotstorming is similar to Padlet in that users input ideas on online stickies. However, Dotstorming allows me to let them vote on the best ideas and arrange the notes by popularity.

Dotstorming example.

The idea here is to give the participant a say in what gets covered or uncovered. It is about providing and fulfilling user choice instead of focusing on a potentially irrelevant curriculum or plan.

QUIZZING
My perennial favourite for quick-quizzing participants is Flubaroo, an add-on to Google Forms for auto-grading quizzes as well as providing feedback and answers to my learners.

Google Forms has since upped its game to offer quiz-like functions, but it still lags behind the leader, Flubaroo in some ways. This site provides a detailed breakdown of a Forms quiz vs a Flubaroo one.

Quiz is coming!

The point of quizzing is not just to keep participants on their toes. Some might be driven by such a challenge, but all benefit from evaluating themselves in terms of learning. The results can also be an indicator of how much my talk was understood.

REFLECTION AND TAKEAWAYS
I am fond of using Padlet and Google Forms for pitstops and one-minute papers.

Pitstops are pauses in my sessions for participants to collect their thoughts and think of questions. They are an opportunity for them to see if they can link the negotiated outcomes with their current state of learning, and to see where they still need to go.
 

 
A takeaway or “dabao” (in local vernacular) is a terminal activity in which I ask participants to tell me their biggest learning outcome from the session.

In both I find that there is an even mix of planned and unplanned learning outcomes. This is a good thing because the internalisation and ownership of learning is important, not just the blind reception of information.

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
I do not only like to connect with participants before and during a talk, but also after it. I do so a few ways.

I leave my social media information in one of the final slides.

Contact me.

If I use a backchannel, participants can contact me indefinitely on Twitter and up to several days or weeks after on TodaysMeet.

I also use my blog to reflect on the events and to answer questions I might not have been able to address during the session.

I am scheduling this entry to coincide with the end of my talk in the Philippines this morning.

My Google Slides deck is available online.

Keynote cover slide.

First, some background.

I was approached to deliver this talk two weeks ago. By the time the contract document was finalised, I had just six days to prepare the slide deck.

This was a very short runway because I normally work with partners who contact me three to six months, or even a year, in advance. I can recall only one other similar late request. In both these cases, I either knew someone well or had worked with the organiser before.

I wrote earlier that I prefer the “stewing” method of preparation. This gives me time and space to make changes based on more current information I find. I agreed to help even though this was an “instant noodle” request only because I had delivered similar talks before.

Despite the short runway, I decided to challenge myself by using my own visual design approach, refreshing old content, and incorporating new information. This meant very quick and intense work, but very little rehearsal.

As with all talks, I struggled during preparation to decide how much content to include. I decided to remove three of four broad topics, but left the content in the slide deck just in case they came up during the Q&A.

Now, a bit of history. This is the fourth year in a row that I have been invited by a group in the Philippines.

  • 2013: Keynote for Philippine eLearning Society
  • 2014: Plenary for Policy Governance and Capacity Building Conference
  • 2015: Keynote for De La Salle University
  • 2016: GenYo Innovation Summit by DIWA, Philippines (partner of Marshall Cavendish, Singapore)

None of these visits were by my design. They were a result of doing good work, making connections, and maintaining a constant online presence.

Finally, a strategy. I share as openly as I can. If there is a contract, I ask that the resources I prepare be shared under a Creative Commons license. I stipulate this in every proposal document I prepare.
 
CC information in my slides.
 
This practice does at least two important things. It keeps my resources searchable and accessible online, and it encourages my partners to rethink their closed practices. It is my small way of promoting open-minded and open-practised changes in educational technology.

Every seminar I design and deliver has a few key messages. Here is one of them: If your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.
 

If your only #tool is a #hammer, then every #problem looks like a #nail. CC photo: https://flic.kr/p/96VdSv

A post shared by Dr Ashley Tan (@drashleytan) on

 
It might seem unusual to remind people of this since the seminar is an introduction to personal learning networks.

It might make sense if you realise that I am encouraging people to have more than one tool in their belt.

In the example above, the nail was actually a screw. A screw is threaded and needs to be rotated; it resists being forced straight down. The proper tool to use should have been a screwdriver. The hammer bludgeoned the screw and ruined both the screw and the wood.

I am telling my audience that blunt tools like lectures and training are the common default. However, this does not make them suitable for the professional development of people.

Some might need mentoring, coaching, or remediation. Others might need self-study, the opportunity to observe, or time to reflect. Bludgeon with a blunt tool and everybody loses.

Social service meets social media-based learning

I am putting the finishing touches on the keynote that I deliver this week.

To create an interactive seminar — I am told it is called a masterclass — I have asked participants to complete an online poll (Google Form), install a QR code reader on their phones, suggest ideas in an AnswerGarden, and watch a YouTube video. They need to do this before we meet.

During the keynote, I will get the audience to participate in a TodaysMeet backchannel, another AnswerGarden, and a Padlet exit ticket Google Form quiz. They have the option of getting to these resources and my Google Slides via their QR code readers. I will also share some data from the poll and AnswerGarden to help them visualise their learning.

In terms of content, I aim to help participants uncover just two things: 1) three core 21st century competencies (unlearning, relearning, and learning), and 2) using social media to create personal learning networks (PLNs).

I believe that the core focus and PLNs will help the social service sector overcome problems like a lack of resources (by using what they already have) and addressing a diversity of learning needs (by connecting with communities).

This is my reflection on the second seminar I conducted on flipping, 3 Mistakes, 3 Dimensions, 3 Wisdoms of Flipped Learning, almost two weeks ago.

I tweeted a few snapshots of the event.

I always wish that I could step out of myself and take more photos and videos of the sessions. Reflections like these might be a way stepping out of myself.

I have also toyed with the idea of using Periscope.tv to ‘live’ stream my sessions. However, I do not think this is fair to the organizations that pay for my services. I might try to wriggle it in should I have a free session that I can share more openly.

This second seminar left me with a greater-than-usual buzz. I could feel the energy before, during, and after the event.

It helped that the event was attended by folks who had an interest and some experience in flipping their classrooms or attempting to flip learning. There were a few who were nominated to attend, but that is par for course.

It makes a big difference when people want to be there or have a stake in the topic. I have been part of events where I cannot change the organizer’s plan of making people sit through a session they have little idea of or desire for.
 

Buzzed by dburka, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  dburka 

 
After my session was over, I decided to decompress at a coffee place on campus. I spent about an hour responding to the queries and comments on the online platforms I used. I also used a new strategy of collating responses in an online community space in my bid to encourage on-going conversations.

While I was doing this, two faculty members who attended my talk asked if they could discuss some ideas and concerns with me. We covered quite a bit of ground and they were appreciative of the insights I provided.

But I was more thankful that they bothered to take time off their schedules to pursue what was important to them. It indicated that the topic mattered.

So this is what I have been reflecting on for a while: It is not enough to focus on content. It must be shared or experienced in context. Manage these two elements well and you might create a connection with your audience.

I ask participants of my seminars and workshops to complete quick exit tickets before they leave in order to find out what they are taking away from the sessions.
 

currywurst by thevince, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  thevince 

 
If I do not ask participants what they learnt, they might not ask themselves that question and therefore walk away empty from the session.

I like providing open platforms and asking simple open-ended questions instead of using overly protected spaces and rating scales.

The open platforms make learning visible and shared. This allows each person to see what others have learnt and puts some positive pressure on them to illustrate their own takeaways clearly and concisely.

Open-ended questions like “What did you learn?” instead of “What did you learn about A? How about B? Now how about C?” remove constraints from replies. If patterns start to emerge from open responses, I know that I have hit some nails on the head.

For example, here were four representative exit tickets from the seminar I conducted yesterday on flipped learning. (Click on each screencapture in the tweet to see it in entirety.)

I include only four partly because that the maximum number of images I can attach to a tweet and partly because that is all I need.

My main objective was to help teachers realize there was a difference between a flipped classroom and flipped learning. Most of the audience members who completed their exit tickets did. A bonus finding was the openness of a few to want to try something new.

How about outliers or the unexpected? I share some thoughts on those tomorrow.

This month I am conducting two seminars on flipped learning. One is with a major edtech vendor and the other is for an institute of higher learning.

Here are some insights into my preparation for the first one.

The seminar runs today, but the official paperwork was only confirmed a week before. I do not normally take such tight deadlines, but having done a quick run on a different topic with another group before, I decided to challenge myself.

I am familiar with the content, but I do not believe in blindly copying and pasting. I fine tune every slide deck and activity to the expectations and context of each new event. So my modus operandi is to meet with the organizers in person and then poll the participants with Google Forms. Collectively their inputs help me determine what to focus on.

My go-to tools are Google Slides (presentation), TodaysMeet (backchannel), QR apps (for quick access to resources), and Padlet (exit ticket: reflection and feedback).

But since I had just a week to collate and create content as well as prepare the platforms, I opted to use a slide template by SlidesCarnival. I had previously used one of the free templates for a presentation on social media-based PLNs. (Full disclosure: SlidesCarnival does not sponsor me.)

I chose the Oberon template because it is simple and clean. Its backgrounds are bold colours and serve as visual shifts for different segments and concepts. For example, here is one of my main WHAT slides.

It differs in background colour of my self introduction, content-oriented, and thank-you slides.

The use of colour as a visual cue to trigger cognitive processes is something I understood as a teacher and it was reinforced when I did a Masters in instructional design over 15 years ago. This was something I used to teach informally to student teachers in Singapore and formally to college students in the US who took my course on web design. It is something I apply to this day.

I find that a little thought goes a long way in making a presentation effective. Audience members might not be able to articulate why they “got it” more easily, but I do and that is very satisfying.


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