End of the year. Time to reflect. Time for honesty.
One of the big initiatives of our year was school-wide presentation reform.
Some things worked. Others didn’t quite. We had stellar examples and we had some real disappointments.
On the positive side, nearly all our presentations improved in terms of the students’ slide design, their efforts at storytelling, their use of rhetorical devices, their efforts to engage their audience. No one fell asleep. These are all very good things.
On the negative side, particularly with our Senior Seminar presentations, some students focused more on the bread. That is, their sandwiches had little meat.
Somewhere along the way the students neglected to present their arguments, their evidence, their conclusions, their journey.
Their teachers and I are trying hard to figure out how we lost the meat. We put it in the rubric. We talked about its importance all along. For most of the students, it appeared in their required formal papers. But, when it came to pulling all the pieces together for the presentation, somehow it disappeared. Could it be because presentation technique was the last thing we taught?
For just a few of students, the idea of losing the bullets and the templates they used for ten years was just too traumatic. Interestingly, audiences for those particular presentation noticed that difference, bigtime. They reacted to bulleted slides negatively, a reaction that was often physically visible.
One other positive was that I made a point of capturing all of the presentations for one of our senior classes. We also captured their reflections to the process. With the students’ permission, we’ve posted them on a private Ning. We now have models (of all sorts) to discuss and critique with this year’s students and those who follow them.
Another interesting story.
Brian, a junior, is completing production of a video for us to use with our presentation reform efforts. (I will share that video with you in a future post.) It’s become usual practice here for students to contribute to the learning with their own communication products.
But Brian and I have been arguing. After talking about how distracting moving text and frequent, flashy transitions can be in presentations, Brian opted to employ every sort of LiveType animation available to him in Final Cut Pro in the video’s credits.
When I suggested that wasn’t exactly walking the walk, he reminded me this was NOT a PowerPoint.