Wednesday, December 12, 2007

presenting on the uphill

Worth noting: Slide #3, the one in red, used a friendly little font called, Children Should Not Play With Dead Things. To add to the joy of Slide #3, I gave the text a 'very fast' 720 degree clockwise spin. The PowerPoint is right here if you want to see it in all it's spinning font fun.

So I asked students to pick a slide and defend their choices.

And I quote from a senior:
I'd want to watch a presentation with spinning, bloody letters.
And I ran to a corner of my classroom and cried:
So much time spent on design and barely a dent! Oh, but to listen to their "presentations"! Why haven't we taught them how to present?
I'm all for design and Pecha Kucha, but shouldn't it be of some concern that our students' understanding of their content is in no way growing proportionally to their aesthetic awareness of slide design?

You're not new to this, nor am I, but as seniors in our school start the process of preparing their Senior Inquiry presentations, anxiety about another round of stammer and pause-filled presentations gnaws at my tricuspid valve.

Just yesterday I worked with Brian, a senior working on a presentation for his English class to demonstrate understanding of a central theme in William Golding's novel, Lord of the Flies. He requested my help, wanting some advice on the design of his slides. They were a lot like option number one from the above slidedeck (I love that term, slidedeck!). We worked together and after teaching him how to create mildly transparent text boxes and use strong, central images, he seemed shocked that his slides actually looked, his words here, "adult and professional".

Naturally, as one who taught senior English for a decade, I asked him to take me through his presentation. A quizzical, 'wha 'choo talkin' bout, Rodoff?' look emerged.

Immediately, he turned to the computer and started looking at his slides. You should have been there! He looked at those 'adult and professional' slides and to his new-found misery, he realized that they could not help him deliver the content that he moments earlier had bullet-pointed on his slidedeck (still love that word, slidedeck!).

Shouldn't Brian know his content well enough to speak about it in extemporaneous fashion before he ever sits down to make a RISD-quality slidedeck?

Design doesn't create understanding.

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