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Posts Tagged ‘strategies

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.

Yesterday I shared some visual design considerations I take for my talks. Today I focus on interaction design.

My latest effort is a step down from what I normally do. I am designing for lower grade interaction by leaving out a backchannel throughout the session and one-minute paper at the end.

I am doing this because I understand my overseas audience. It is a place I have been invited to every year since 2013 and the mobile connection is unpredictable. It is not that they are unresponsive; they just cannot reliably connect to the Internet.

That said, I am still relying on two online tools that require low bandwidth from the participants.

My go-to presentation platform is Google Slides because it is free, flexible, and online. I can edit the content up to the last minute and share the slides with my audience.


Video source

In terms of interaction, I intend to try Google Slide’s “new” Q&A tool since I am not relying on my preferred tool, TodaysMeet. The audience can participate by suggesting and ranking questions.

I will also use Google Form’s quiz and auto-grading feature (similar to Flubaroo). I will create this experience for my participant as an introduction to being information literate and to establish the themes of my session.

Mobile access to online quiz and themes of my session.

I anticipate that most participants will be armed with their own phones and this will also be message about leveraging on BYOD and personal forms of learning.

Most talks seem to focus on the talk. I plan mine with lessons from educational psychology and visual design principles. I try to focus on listening as I talk in order to change minds. This is effort that often goes unappreciated, but I know that it matters.

As I draft this reflection, I am facing an impasse with an organiser of a talk I am due to give overseas*. The issue is whether or not I should use the organiser’s PowerPoint template (complete with corporate branding) as the background of my slides.

My conversation with the organiser is between them and me. However, I realised this was a learning opportunity, not on how to negotiate in such situations, but how and why I design slides to visually deliver subtle yet powerful messages.

Visual design: Quote.

I often opt for a minimal look instead of heavy text and bullet points. I have learnt that I should tell the story, not the slides; they are there to back me up.

In this set of slides, I took minimalism one step further by relying on black, white, and the shades between.

Visual design: Themes.

The slide above is early in the sequence and shows the themes of my presentation. The slide below is near the end and highlights a closing message.

Visual design: Conclusion

The theme slide follows an online activity and the words scaffold what I lead participants to reflect on. The conclusion slide helps me deliver a closing mantra. The difference between the two is their lateral alignment.

The anglosphere is used to reading left to right. The conclusion slide is expected and easy to read. This is critical at the end of talk if you want the audience to focus on takeaways and temporarily put aside questions, dissonance, and tiredness.

The reflection slide might cause a bit of visual dissonance because the header and text are not where they usually are.

Visual design: Step back, reflective elements.

Here is another slide from the same deck that uses my switch-to-the-right theme. I use this visual technique to highlight dissonance.

When you look in the mirror, you see yourself laterally inverted. It is you, but not quite you. The reflection is an opportunity to examine yourself and focus on what needs improvement.

So my normal left-aligned layouts are messages I share while the right-aligned ones are for dissonance and reflection. My presentations tend to be iterative cycles of presenting forward and stepping back.

This is subtle and I do not explain this design to my audience. But I will invariably get feedback that the slides are visually impactful.

Visual design: Colour punches.

Before my audience can get comfortable with soothing greyscale, I provide the occasional punches of colour. If I go on a storytelling stretch or a series of slides to make a point, I emphasise these presenting forward elements with colour shouts to make sure that the main question, point, or challenge is clear.

Tomorrow I share how I design talks for interaction.

*Update: The issue is resolved and I am using my own visual design instead of a corporate template.

I get what the image quote is getting at. For the benefit of our learners, do what works for them.

But under what time frame? What works for now? What works for the long run?

What works now is generally primed for the past and the short term. I am talking about preparing students for tests and helping them get good grades.

Now this would be good if tests and grades guaranteed attributes like critical and creative thinking, but they do not. Quite the opposite.

If we focus on what helps our children over the long run; they must:

  • learn to fail and recover
  • realise that they cannot always get their way
  • value values
  • go beyond learning what school teaches them

Using a variety of strategies is certainly one way to meet this checklist. But what if the strategies have blindspots or are no longer relevant?

Consider a social media-immersed set of learners on one hand, and a social media-averse set of teachers and school administrators on the other. The first group is learning as they use the new tools, but they are not properly guided or advised because the second group is fearful, ignorant, or resistant. The second group is blind to the effective use and benefits of social media-enabled learning. It is fearful of new tools and methods, and if they use the tools at all, they are used to do the same old thing.

If you are a teacher, you might relate to these examples:

  • Your leaders create numerous WhatsApp groups for administrative notifications so you can be summoned at any time.
  • Your school’s “social” media presence only disseminates, i.e., social media is only for one-way communication.
  • You use new tools to do what can already be done (better) without them, e.g., quizzing with Twitter.

There is no point saying that you have many tools in your toolbox. Not all tools are relevant or useful. Some tools might be blunt or dangerous. They remain in your toolbox because you are reluctant to let them go.

There is no point saying that you have many tools in your toolbox if you only use old methods. You will use the new tools in old ways that are not relevant or even harmful.

There is a legacy to teaching. It should be the timeless attitudes, beliefs, and skills a teacher prepares his or her students for. The legacy should not be the old tools or strategies.

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.

Today I help facilitate a free seminar on Creative Commons (CC) in Singapore.

We do not have an ambitious plan and are starting simple to gauge interest and to create ownership of CC efforts.

I anticipate that a few attendees might have questions and experiences that relate to implementation issues. That is, there might be folks who are already sold on the idea and want to take action. So I share some of my limited experiences with rolling out change using my ABC framework (awareness, buy-in, commitment).
 

 
To create awareness, you can organize events like tomorrow’s free seminar. I mentioned yesterday how I also led an e-Fiesta and conducted talks with CC as content.

Some passive but complementary ways of creating awareness might include using media like posters and YouTube videos.

Such efforts can lead to stakeholder buy-in if you manage change well with follow ups like focused conversations and informal meetings.
 

 
The stakeholders you might target first for buy-in at institutes of higher education (IHLs) are key appointment holders and librarians.

Appointment holders can set policy around the creation and sharing of learning resources and research artefacts.

For example, most institutes lay claim to the copyright or intellectual property of any process or product created by its employees. Appointment holders might make some exceptions, say resources created under institute-sanctioned volunteer work, as belonging to their staff and/or open for sharing by default.

Appointment holders could require their institutes to be signatory to open licensing and publishing. The could mean promoting financial grants that have open requirements and then sharing data corpuses, reports, and other related material after a short embargo period.

If they are daring enough, such change leaders might add open efforts to staff appraisals and promotions either as core components or as distinctive X factors.

Institutional libraries are publication gatekeepers. They shape policies for the mode of sharing an institute’s research, books, white papers, monographs, posters, etc. For example, yesterday I shared how my alma mater shared dissertations under CC.

Libraries might consider at least two metrics when considering open or CC initiatives. First, open publications tend to draw more views because they are more accessible. Second, open resources are free or might cost considerably less than those hidden behind paywalls.

What of open initiatives in mainstream schools?

Media resources teachers and educators in charge of digital citizenship are in the best position to promote the use of open or CC-licensed resources. They can teach students how to use CC-enabled search engines more prudently and how to attribute what they use.

If good policies are put in place, instructors at mainstream schools and IHLs might also require learners to use and cite CC-licensed artefacts as part of curricular demands.
 

 
What I have described so far deals with creating awareness (I know) and buy-in (I believe in). What creates commitment (I own it)?

One of the best ways to create commitment to change is for teachers and students to walk the talk. They should give back or “pay it forward” by sharing what they create under open or CC licences. Creators can use this CC licence generator to label and share their work.

I do not recommend extrinsically rewarding such efforts because they should be rewards in themselves. However, there might be room for strategic efforts like contests on CC concepts or learner-led sharing of their CC efforts. These feed the awareness engine for the on-going and iterative efforts to push open learning forward.

Moving from awareness to commitment (ownership) transforms the good-to-know concept of sharing openly to one of better-to-practise. This is the bottom line if you want to share because you care: You cannot think about implementing CC; you must do CC.


Video source

One of the biggest opportunities in online learning spaces lies with YouTube videos.

Not PowerPoint-based, talking head, traditional lecture videos. That is combining an old strategy with a new video platform.

It not even only about using movie clips or broadcast news snippets to generate discussion. This strategy, while still valid and potentially powerful, is already established.

Instead, the opportunities open up with snappy, entertaining videos like the one above. Or decision tree videos, situational dramas for reflection and discussion, interviews like Tyson’s, etc.

The new videos are shorter in duration, higher on entertainment value, are more interactive (giving the viewer choice or requiring their input), and provide for shared and immediate context.

The strategies that enable their use include designing short and inter-related tasks, providing user choice, creating context, and promoting opportunities for content creation, analysis, and reflection.


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