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Posts Tagged ‘talk

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.

In my Presentations page I share the more recent keynotes and talks I have done. I prefer workshops, but these are not as straightforward to conduct and present as a portfolio of work.

I have had to do talks for about ten years as a former university professor and especially now as a consultant. During this time my process has evolved and refined.
 

Stew by jeffk, on Flickr
"Stew" (CC BY 2.0) by jeffk

 
My main process is to stew, especially when I have months-long lead time. Take my recently concluded keynote, Don’t Play Games with Gamification, for SIM Global Education as an example. I met the organisers in late July and I started outlining, collecting thoughts and ideas, and organising in Evernote on 28 Jul 2016. I delivered the keynote on 22 Oct 2016. That is a three-month slow cook.

A quick scroll down my Presentations page might also reveal how the topics are quite different. Professional speakers can repeat or rehash their talks and get very well paid for them. I often come up with fresh content.

I do rehash some content and ideas to suit context and audience, and I also like reusing Google Presentation templates that are visually pleasing.

My modus operandi: Get as much background information as possible through meetings, interviews, and document analysis; visit the venue to get a feel of the room; conduct a pre-event poll; provide a backchannel and other opportunities for the audience to become participants; provide pitstops or time to reflect on takeaways.

Through all this I stir my stew, blend and extract flavours, remove what does not look right, and reduce content as much as possible. The last part of the reduction is taking out spoon-feeding elements and adding elements that require participants to feed themselves. That is something I cannot write down in a recipe.


Video source

This YouTube video is a brilliant critique of talks by self-proclaimed thought leaders. It revealed every drop of snake oil.

The first time I was called a thought leader, I did not even know what that was.

It is still a label I am not comfortable with. If someone sticks it on me, I pull it right off. I recall someone introducing me as a thought leader at an event. When I took the floor, I explained how I did not just deal with thought but also with action.

Reflecting on that helped me remember when I might have first been called a thought leader. It was a session I led that pointed out the fallacies of lectures and talks. How was that for leading with thought?

The thread that runs through my rant yesterday and today is how people talk smart talk but walk dumb.

Several weeks ago, I had an unpleasant dining experience. It gave me food for thought on why technology-led change in school flows slower than molasses.

I revisited an eatery that made some changes. One such change was a subtle one. There were QR code stickers on the tables which linked patrons to an online menu and ordering system.

The process was straightforward: Scan, select, order, pay, wait.

While waiting for our food to be served, I dealt with a technical issue on my son’s phone. It took a while to deal with because the problem was quite serious. I spent almost 20 minutes trying to troubleshoot the problem. I know this because my food order did not arrive and I checked to see why.

Online order.

I walked to the counter staff and asked if there was a problem with my order. They replied that I not ordered because I was “just sitting there as if I was waiting for someone”. Forgive me for doing what customers do, i.e., order and wait.

They also said that they tended to rely on online orders at lunch when things got busy. Apparently I was supposed to know this. Forgive me for not being a mind-reader.

A staff member then reluctantly pulled out a previously hidden iPad and saw the order. Almost as soon as she tapped on her screen did a confirmation appear on my screen. Forgive me for not reminding you to check your ordering system.

I am sorry. I apologise for the portion of the human race that holds the rest back because they cannot overcome their inertia and bias. They do what is good and comfortable for them instead of focusing on others.

I am not sorry. I make it a point to create dissonance. I tell and show people — teachers in particular — why and how to teach better with technology. The process is sometimes painful and difficult, but we do this because we focus on our learners.

Most of us would not put up with shoddy service at an eatery. I cannot put up with schooling that pretends to be education. I see through the lip service and push or pull people along if necessary. If this makes them feel uncomfortable, then so be it. Better to be honest than a hypocrite.

Last week I received email from GeBIZ to complete a survey (PDF file) and then either email the file or fax it.

Gebiz email requesting for survey returns.

The message and instructions begged these questions:

Perhaps someone conspired to rile GeBIZ users up so much that they would provide feedback to demand for more efficient and effective practices.

An online version of the form is both more efficient and effective.

  • Its submission is immediate as is a confirmation of receipt.
  • There is no need for people to compile data from two different sources into one.
  • The data can be automatically collated and analysed without first being inputted manually from the emailed PDFs or faxes, thereby reducing human error.

If this is what happens to a survey, I dare not imagine how other processes might be compromised.

As an educator, I cannot help but wonder what messages actions like these send to the larger system. Are these indicators of push-backs on progress?

I do not think that my concern is unwarranted. While mainstream school teachers are not quite affected Internet restrictions, there are already restrictions on services like Dropbox and mobile services.

If plans are only as good as their implementation, why does “smart talk, dumb walk” persist?

Policies crafted by leaders shape the work environment and culture. If higher-ups associate the Internet, social media, or anything “e” as dangerous or wasting time, they will enact policies that reinforce such hang-ups and nurture a culture based on fear.

Consider this scenario. Imagine I propose that school personnel decide on whether they spend money only on a textbook collection or Chromebooks. The books do not raise an eyebrow, but the response to Chromebooks is “Yes, but…”.

As different as schools are now compared to a generation ago, values and practices today are arguably still entrenched in the past. Ask teachers if they integrate technology and it is still common to hear phrases like “technology to enhance”, “the basics are more important”, “we don’t want the kids to be distracted”, or “the exams are handwritten”.

Technology should not just enhance, it should enable learning. The basics have changed and are more complex and kids need to be empowered. Very little outside of conventional exams and schools is handwritten. Even GeBIZ asked for email replies.

Despite the smart talk and inspiring rhetoric, what actually makes a difference is the walk. It easy to say you want innovation in schools. It is more difficult to create conditions for change.


Video source

This might be the first time I have heard creativity defined as the “conspiracy of craziness”. 

How do we get this creative conspiracy? By having “ridiculous optimism”.

Tune in to this TEDx talk by Kermit to fill in the blanks. 


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