Archive for the “Conferences” Category

I'll be keynoting the Northeast Ohio Regional Technology Conference at the University of Akron, in Akron, on Friday, March 16, 2012.  I've presented in Akron on several occasions and I've always had good presenations there so I'm looking to continue my string.  The keynote focuses on learning spaces, and is a favorite of mine, entitled "Habits and Habitats: Retninking Learning Spaces for the 21st Century, which I've updated with new ideas.  I'll also be doing a new workshop in the afternoon for school leaders entitled "Leaders and Learning Spaces," which presents a combination of learning space principles and design thinking to help leaders make changes in the spaces where learning occurs.  

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I'll be in Austin on February 8 and 9 doing two presentations at the 2012 TCEA Conference.  TCEA is undoubtably one of my favorite conferences as is Austin one of my favorite towns – you really can't beat the two together if you are interested in technology, learning, great food, and great Texas hospitality.  I'll be doing a session on rethinking how we approach technology entitled "Overcoming Technology Yah Buts" as well as a session on developing social media guidelines for schools, appropriately titled "Developing Social Media Guidelines."  Support materials are almost finished for both presentations and can be seen on my presentation site, or by clicking on the hyperlinks in this post.  I hope to see you there.

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It’s easy to bash presentations.  It’s also easy to bash presentation styles.

Included in this process is always the obligatory derogatory comments directed at PowerPoint.  Standard stuff.

Of course, much of this consternation towards presentations originates with having to sit through some really bad presentations where the presenters are just awful and have no clue how to communicate and engage an audience.  We’ve all been there.

It’s also easy to bash the lecture because everything now needs to be collaborative, on a wiki, shared in a Google Doc, or done together in a backchannel.  But I’ve attended some phenomenal lectures, where the lecturer/presenter just had tremendous ideas.  Mimi Ito and Connie Yowell come to mind, where for an hour I sat and wrote and wrote and wrote, trying to capture every profound thought.  My engagement was with the ideas, and singular.  Me.  Processing.  No one else.  Just a stream of ideas, balanced against my beliefs, with individual processing and plenty of time for collaborative discussion later.  But for an hour-me, the presenter, and ideas…

Most might look at the room and what was taking place with a presenter talking and people listening and characterize that as a passive learning experience for the participants.  But passive?  Only if you wanted it to be.  It certainly wasn’t that for me-it was very active.

And the presenters used slides.  With text.

So I was intrigued by this blog post by John Pederson, who quotes (I think it’s a quote) Heather Gold who proposes something called tummeling.

Basically, a tummler is hired to entertain and make sure everyone had a good time.  Sounds really can watch her explain it here.  Be sure to also examine her comparison between presentation and conversation, which is interesting, if not outright wrong.

It’s easy to dismiss bullet points.  I don’t think they work especially well and a presentation filled with slides of endless bullet points can be absolutely disastrous for a presenter, not to mention the audience.

But let’s not dismiss text.  Text and bullet points are two different things.

And we certainly shouldn’t dismiss slides, because slides can carry a very critical element of a presentation.


In any presentation, you are selling ideas. As Seth Godin says: “Communication is the transfer of emotion.”

And that emotion is communicated through two channels:  the presenter and through the visual content of the slides, and processed by the 3.5 pound (1.58 kg) processor inside your head, all in an effort to make meaning.

The choice not to use slides, and not to use the capacity of those slides to carry images that communicate visually, represents a shallow understanding of human communication.  As the speaker in the video indicated, effective communication is supported by an “emotional substrate.”  Yes, that can mean face to face emotion crafted by the presenter..  However, it should also mean carefully selected visuals that enhance the emotion channel of the presentation.  Ignoring visuals, or failing to include visuals, means you just ignored or failed to include a very powerful communicative element-an element that might just make all the difference.

To extend your thinking a bit, if you haven’t seen Richard Mayer’s Multimedia Learning, you should.  His book is based on “seven researched based principles for the design of multimedia messages” that we should all learn and apply to presentation design.  Here are four that I think are most relevant to this post:

1.  Multimedia Principle:  Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.

2.  Spatial Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.

3. Temporal Contiguity Principle:  Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

4.  Individual Differences Principle:  Design effects are stronger for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners and for high-spatial learners rather than for low-spatial learners.

Basically, images and text are critical to learning, and especially more so for low-ability learners when the media design is appropriate.

Let’s not forget that presenting is communication.  Let’s not forget that presenting has its place.

And there are numerous ways to present ideas, ranging from Twitter to blogging to sitting on a stool, telling a story.  You can even…ah…tummel.  However, presenting to a small or large audience alike requires, skill, effort, and knowledge as well as an understanding of human communication.  It’s in vogue to consider new ways to communicate, new ways to engage an audience, its vogue to present using a test-based wiki for example.

But having an audience walk away with being energized, being challenged to think, being moved by a message communicated through appropriate media, and with the ability to process additional insights that can lead to actionable next steps that they didn’t have an hour ago is also pretty damn good…

Mayer, Richard. Multimedia Learning. 9th ed. New York, New York.  Cambridge University Presss, 2007. 184. Print.

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Keynotes are hard.

They’re not like any other type of conference presentation.  They’re not like spotlights and they’re certainly not like a breakout session, or a workshop.  For me, giving my first keynote (I’ve done 13, and thank you Judy, Gwen, Diana, and Joanne for that first opportunity) was a goal realized, and represented a pathway of hard work, success and failure.  Public speaking was something I avoided at all costs, and my inability to address this bothered me more than my fear of speaking, so I started presenting.  First, at local county institute days, and then at our state science conference.  I did my first national presentation in 1995 at the National Association of Biology Teachers Meeting in Phoenix on the “information superhighway.”  From there, I did my share of professional development workshops at middle schools in the middle of January after school on Wednesday.  I’ve done presentations in just about every venue I can think of, on just as many topics, and with as many different audiences as possible.  Since 2005, I’ve presented at over 80 conferences, most recently keynoting NYSCATE, and having the distinction of following Sir Ken Robinson.

Hall Davidson gave the best advice on keynotes, and that was that keynotes should frame the conference and provide context for all of the other presentations.  I’ve tried to do that in my keynotes, and I typically read all of the conference session descriptions while planning for a conference so that I can do that.  Keynotes should also incorporate the theme of the conference, something that is overlooked by many, including, in my experience, the other speakers at the conference.  Most importantly, you have to bring the big ideas, your big ideas, blend in the ideas of others, provide direction, and provide a measure of practicality.  If you want to see the expectations for a keynote, just see this.

It’s a pretty big thrill to hit a home run when giving a keynote.  On the other side of the coin, its personally and professionally disastrous not to. And when you consider the conditions: hot lights in your face so you can’t see the audience, typically a small stage with a podium, being videotaped, having awards and conference planners eat into your planned presentation time, dishes clanking at dinner keynotes, and the pressure of having the big picture in the program-well, giving a keynote can be very challenging, not that you would think otherwise.

But when you just hit it right…oh yeah…

So I’ve watched the keynote voting free-for-all on the ISTE site over the past few days with interest.  Congratulations to those in the “lead.”  I’ve actually been flattered by having 39 supporters cast 103 votes for me.  Thank you, it is appreciated.

There’s been a lot of gamesmanship for votes starting to emerge (see @garystager’s tweets), and as you might expect, multiple perspectives on the process that ISTE is using, and whether its appropriate and will ultimately be an effective process that will yield a set of engaging keynotes.

But my favorite comment so far was in this post by Scott McLeod, in a tweet from @juliafallon (sorry, her tweets are protected so I can’t take a screen shot-see Scott’s interesting post).  @juliafallon says: “This is ISTE’s worst idea ever.  We have a bunch of echo chamber nominees along with a few don’t insult me ones.  I want new blood.” To her credit, she goes on to write three more tweets, which are wonderfully done.

But I love the echo chamber.

Echo chamber for who exactly?  Those hyperconnected into Twitter?  Your typical classroom teacher?

If you take a typical ISTE audience of 14-15 thousand individuals, how many have heard Chris Lehmann speak?  Three to four hundred?  That’s not any fault of Chris’ or the audience, it just is.  And while Chris is a familiar voice to many of us in the “echo chamber,” he might not be known by a great majority of the audience.  You know, not everyone is on Twitter.  People should hear Chris Lehmann, that’s a pretty easy call.

And have you considered that individuals in the “echo chamber” might just be the people a larger audience needs to hear?  That they might be the leaders, might be the people with the next great idea or ideas, the next leader, the next person to light the way…

The process that ISTE has undertaken may not work.  Then again, it just might.

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Attending NECC in Washington? Here are my top 10 (or so) tips for having a productive experience:

Attend sessions that stretch your understanding of technology, teaching and learning. In my opinion, people have a tendency to attend sessions about topics that they have familiarity with, and sometimes have a well-developed understanding of. Some of this is only natural because of individual interests and the fact that everyone likes to gauge their understanding against others. But go see new things, and challenge yourself to be exposed to at least several new areas.

Attend sessions focused on pedagogy and skill development, and not just on tools. For example, I’m more interested in a session on “Writing in the 21st Century” than I am in a session that focuses on blogging.

Attend sessions being given by organizations. My favorite session last year was by a group from the National Council of Teachers of English where they discussed their vision of 21st Century literacy.

Go to sessions early. Last year, sessions on popular topics in San Antonio filled at least a half-an-hour prior to the session. Expect it to be worse in Washington, with probably more people attending.

Pace yourself. It’s ok to not attend sessions. NECC is an endurance test, and not a sprint. Take a session off, get some rest, and just enjoy the atmosphere.

There are more than just sessions at NECC. Go to the Blogger Café (map), introduce yourself by your name and not by your Twitter avatar name, and strike up a conversation there. If you are new to blogging, ask people there to show you how, what, where, and why. Be sure to visit NECC Unplugged and stay for several sessions there-they can be quite good. Also visit the playgrounds, where informal learning rules.

Visit the exhibit hall, yeah I said it. Many say it’s like a boat show, many despise the vendors but they’re people too, just doing their job. Ignore all that arrogant crap and just go. Enjoy it, see new stuff, get a whole years worth of pens, and judge accordingly-go in with an open mind. Hint: if you are like a typical teacher, leave some extra room in your suitcase when you pack- you’ll probably bring back more than you went with.

When in doubt, attend spotlight speakers-they are there for a reason and generally have good things to say.

Consider what you can do to share your experiences back home, and extend your experience by collaborating with others at NECC. At the CoSN conference in Austin this year, several of us took notes individually and pasted them in a shared Google Doc. Email fellow teachers, your department chair, or an administrator with updates and exciting things you have seen. Most will appreciate this, and it demonstrates your passion and commitment.

Vote with your feet. It’s ok to get up and leave if the session isn’t what you expected or if the presenter reads their presentation slides. Have a first and second choice for the time slots you are attending sessions so you know where to go should a presenter fall flat on their face

Eat at off-times. Lines get long both in the convention hall and in restaurants. Also, if you are leaving on Wednesday, be sure to give yourself extra time, security lines can get long when 15,000 people all decide leave at once.

Extend the experience by joining the NECC Ning site or Classroom 2.0 with its 25,000 members. Both are excellent spaces to continue to learn, contribute and network with fellow educators.

And whatever you do, do not, I repeat, do not, wear some type of Twitter T-Shirt, unless you are @paulrwood.

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9 Dots

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: innovation web2.0)

Here is the slidedeck from my presentation at Google Teacher Academy in Chicago. The topic was innovation. Here is the script….


In 1997 Apple challenged us to think different.

In 2008, that message resonates even louder and with greater urgency.

That ad campaign honored a wide range of people of accomplishment. One such individual was James Watson.

In 1954, along with Francis Crick, Watson described the structure of the DNA molecule. Watson and Crick were awarded the Nobel Prize for their efforts.

Here is Watson, on the left, Crick on the right, examining their model.

If you will recall your high school biology class, DNA is made up to two complimentary strands, wound around each other in what is known as a double-helix. DNA is the raw material of your chromosomes, and each of you has 46 in each body cell. Sections of your chromosomes are called genes. When genes are expressed in combination with environmental factors, they determine your traits.

DNA can be recombined in different combinations to yield very different results, even in siblings.

Different species have different chromosomes and genes which make them unique, but they still have DNA as their genetic material.

Science has even provided us with the understanding of how to manipulate DNA, giving rise to the field of genetic engineering.

In 2008, we have common technology that provides us with the raw material or platform for expressing our thoughts, our creativity, our innovation, really ourselves. We can mix and remix content and tools in a recombinant dance, to extend and create. To innovate.

In 2008, it is not unreasonable to think of these technologies as our “digital DNA.”

Of course, these tools range from the 140 character conversations of Twitter, to Second Life with our digital but DNA-less identity, and with a host of Web 2.0 tools in the middle.

More importantly, the suite of Google Tools, from Gmail to Google Earth, provides educators with unparalleled access to the type of imaginative environment that can be used to “think different.”

In 1997, would you have imagined what think different could be mean in 2008?

Today, you have an opportunity to think different. Today you have an opportunity to surround yourself with people of like talents, that have a like purpose. Today can be one of those days that change how you approach your craft and career.

For today, and for tomorrow, think beyond the nine dots.

The challenge of this puzzle is connect all the dots without lifting the pen or pencil and to do so in 4 lines.

Most will try and solve this by drawing lines within the boundaries of the dots. Not until you extend your thinking beyond your self-imposed boundaries, will the puzzle be solved.

There are numerous pathways for using technology successfully. This conference enables you to see a clear pathway for just that.

Remember, thinking different with the help of Google begins today.

Thank you

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Here is what I will be presenting in Shanghai, assuming my visa arrives!

Towards a Vision of Visual Literacy Learning

Humans are anatomically built to process visually.  With that in mind, how can educators take advantage of the explosion of user-created visual content, the Web’s enormous capacity to distribute that content in multiple formats, and the high level of engagement that occurs when visual content is used in instruction?  This session explores a framework for understanding the process of helping students become more visually literate, and identifies the strategies and tools to do so.

Capturing Stories, Capturing Lives:  An Introduction to Digital Storytelling

Everyone has stories.  Stories can originate from a variety of sources, from one’s collective experience to a person’s imagination.  Digital storytelling is the process of capturing those stories, first by writing, and then by extending that writing by including powerful multimedia elements to make the story come alive.  In this presentation, we’ll explore the process of digital storytelling from its theoretical basis to the practical “how to” processes necessary to integrate this instructional technique into your teaching.  See examples of student digital stories and see a digital story created.  Leave the session with the ability to use the process of digital storytelling to create a magical learning experience for students.

Digital Storytelling 2.0: What’s Next?

You’ve started using the process of digital storytelling with kids. You’ve had success. But what’s next, and how can you grow your use, or your program? This session explores the new tools, the new media, and the new networks of digital storytelling that will enable students to further extend their voice, develop their message, and engage in a lifetime of creation and contribution.

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I’m in St. Louis (actually St. Charles) for the Midwest Education Technology Conference until Wednesday. I’ll be presenting:

21st Century Cartography: Using Google Earth and Maps to Empower Student Learning, (Tuesday 2:20 PM) and Digital Storytelling 2.0: What’s Next? I’ve done these presentations before, but if you are interested in the updated resource pages, they can be found here (DST2.0, Cartography).

I might uStream them, but we’ll see how the bandwidth is.

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