Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Avoiding death by presentation.

It is project presentation day! Your students are excited (and anxious) about presenting their work. They had lots of choices to demonstrate what they learned, each team has a different topic or solution to the problem. They have also used different tools to create amazing presentations. Slide decks using Powerpoint, Google presentations, Prezi, E-maze or even Piktochart abound. Everything is going swell, until students start presenting.

That is when you again realize that it does not matter that everyone is presenting something different or that the tool chosen has lots of bells and whistles. Students, and many adults, still rely on text heavy slide decks, and more often than not, they "present" by reading each slide out-loud. By the third presentation, and even though you have stated several times, "I can read your slide, turn around and tell us about your work", you are ready to pull your hair out. Out of the corner of your eye you see Juanita doodling and Johnny dozing off. The class is bored out of their minds. Something has to change!

Now you may already be thinking about authentic audiences, but the same thing happens when students are presenting to the community at large, and even in professional settings. And yes, I know that presentation skills need to be taught and students need to practice beforehand. We have had complete lessons on what makes a good presentation and critiqued posted presentations from around the web. But even then, the reliance on reading text-heavy slide decks is still an issue.

As I searched for an answer, I came across the idea of using an Ignite presentation format. The Ignite presentation is a 5 minutes long presentation with 20 slides where the slides advance automatically every 15 seconds. You can think of it as the presentation equivalent of a sonnet.

The idea is simple, but putting it into practice will require some prep and teaching on my part. This is the plan:

1. Introduce the idea of Ignite presentations. Share Scott Berkun's - "Why and How to Give an Ignite Talk".

2. Provide students with an Ignite presentation planner. This document becomes the presentation outline.

3. Based on the planner, students can create a slide index (on paper or a Google doc). This is basically a "what will go in each of the presentation slides". Students then practice with this slide index in hand to figure out what to say and what to include as visuals for that slide.

4. Have students choose a slide deck creator, and draft their visual presentation. Remind them of the "20/15" rule. 
  • Google slides: Create the 20 slide deck. Publish  to the web, and select auto-advance every 15 seconds. The link created is what they submit to be played on presentation day.
  • Prezi: Prezi does not offer the 15 second option in auto-play, so students will need to get a little more creative. For example it could be 15 slides every 20 seconds or 30 slides every 10 seconds. 
  • Emaze: Apply the 15 second stop duration in slides options to the complete 20 slides presentation.
The key idea in this step is that no matter what tool they use, they will be presenting using the automatic changing of slides. It should almost be a choreographed dance between the slide deck and the presenters. Practice is key!

This is what our first attempt looks like:

5. During presentation day, I will continue to use my peer-presentation rubric, which I have transformed into a Google form. Feel free to create your own copy from this presentation rubric response form  (If you are unsure of how, read my previous post Evaluating websites using Google forms).

So, that's it. What do you think?
What other ways have you come up with to avoid death by presentation? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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