I’m doing some research today for a presentation I’ll be giving on Personal Learning Environments and I came across this diagram which I really like in the following paper.
Caldwell, Glenda, Bilandzic, Mark, & Foth, Marcus (2012) Towards visualising people’s ecology of hybrid personal learning environments. In Brynskov, Martin (Ed.) Proceedings of the Media Architecture Biennale 2012, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Aarhus, Denmark, pp. 13-22. (download from eprints)
I like the way is divides the environmental components into three categories: technology, place, and people. I like that is shows how different individuals will piece together their personal learning environments differently. The question I am dealing with, however, is whether the current diagram is suitable for the venue of my presentation. I may use the original diagram or I may recreate a variation of it but I wanted to take a few minutes to analyze it and mention a few things about it. These are the kinds of things that I would think about.
First, there is a lot going on so I have to decide if it is appropriate for inclusion in a mostly lecture-style presentation. Maybe this diagram is better suited for a print pieces rather than displaying it on a screen. Things are a bit cramped and it could be more distracting than helpful. My initial instinct is that I’ll recreate a variation.
This idea is further pushed by the colored lines. Yes, the lines going from the three HPLE “people” are different colors but they are not clearly delineated colors and could have more impact.
Ultimately, decisions like these are sometimes dictated by time constraints and the purpose of the presentation. If it were a one-time meeting with a few people where I can leave the slide up and we spend time talking through it, then I can make do with it as is. If I’m using it in a written report I may be able to stick with the original.
But if I am building a presentation that will have some shelf-life and be viewed on perhaps a variety of types of devices, I would likely take the time to create one that is less cluttered, or at least breaks this image down into multiple slides to focus on different parts and then shows the whole image to show how it all fits together.
The bottom line is that a perfect image for one use may not be perfect for another. Experiment. Analyze. Rework. Repeat as needed.
Don’t Present Like a T-Rex
The cartoon above was used in an article I read today and it reminded me of a post I wrote some time back. So today we’ll go a little retro and revisit the piece called Don’t Present Like a T-Rex.
I was visiting the natural history museum this weekend and made a stop at the T-Rex exhibit, among others. Of course, one of the first things you notice about dino boy is how small and seemingly ineffectual his arms are.
But he’s in good company. I’ve seen a series of speakers recently who are trying very hard to get past the “I don’t know what to do with my hands” issue. They are making valiant attempts to gesture but they are so uncomfortable that they try to move their arms without letting their elbows ever stray from their sides. Their arms are pinned down from the shoulders to the elbows and then their forearms are flailing about like a T-Rex trying to clap.
So shake it out folks. Put your arms down by your sides and shake them loose. Let them hang there and get comfortable with that. Then move your arms, but your whole arms. Let some air under there. It will feel funny at first. It will feel scary. You’ll feel like you are taking up a lot of space. You’ll feel like your gestures are too big. That’s OK. You can tone it down if you need to. But first go big.
Be big. Take up space. Be a T-Rex and command attention. But you don’t suffer from short limbs like T-boy so don’t gesture like a T-Rex or you may find your presentation turns your audience to fossils and your message may become extinct.
"PowerPoint and its imitators have become the Comic Sans of instructional tools." Rebecca Shuman in PowerPointless: Digital slideshows are the scourge of education
Just as Comic Sans started being used everywhere, whether it was appropriate or not, PowerPoint has become ubiquitous and abused. There is nothing wrong with Comic Sans as mentioned on Comic Sans Criminal. All fonts have a personality which may or may not match the message you are using them to display. Be thoughtful and purposeful when selecting your fonts.
The same goes for your slides. Is a comic book metaphor appropriate to the given situation and audience? Are your slides adding value to your course or are they just copies of your outline? Do they help the students to learn? Are you using them simply because it’s easier to throw a slide up than to write on the blackboard? Are your slides really instructional tools?
Background image from Flickr
Sometimes the best slide to put on the screen is no slide. There are times when you want to draw all of the attention to yourself or to the discussion you are having in a meeting. Maybe you want to tell a story. Maybe you want to do a big reveal after you do the set up. Maybe you just don’t want the distraction of an image hovering the background if it is not immediately relevant and needed for the discussion. You can press the B key at any point to black out the screen or you can simply put a blank slide with a black background at the appropriate spot in the presentation.
I found these quotes in Stephen Kosslyn’s Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations. William Faulkner said of Ernest Hemingway that “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary,” while Hemingway questioned Faulkner’s approach with “Poor Faulkner. Does her really think big emotions come from big words?”
So which of these talented writers’ approach would translate best to presentations? Hemingway’s simple language approach would certainly win in most situations. And he is right to point out that it is emotions you are going after. Logic and facts are great and necessary but to change people’s minds you really have to change their hearts and beliefs, something that facts alone will not accomplish.
But Faulkner’s approach isn’t completely without merit. If you are speaking to an audience that expects complex language, fine, use it. That doesn’t mean you can’t still structure an interesting and compelling story. It just means that you need to make sure the style of your content matches the audience.
Today is Mardi Gras and since I am originally from New Orleans, it’s a holiday that is near and dear to my heart. Today’s slide contains a bizarre image but it makes a point that is relevant to a couple of the topics I have touched on during this project 365 slide parade. Primarily this image reminds me to keep looking at the tools I have and try to figure out different ways to use them.
You might notice some ladders in the image above. But they aren’t just ordinary ladders, they have a wooden box attached to the top. These are used as seats for young children attending the parades, to get them up high where they can see and be seen by the float riders. I don’t know who first came up with this idea but it’s a common scene in the uptown part of the parade routes that travel along St. Charles Avenue.
People didn’t stop there though. Some decorated the box seats. I saw one this year that used cushioned upholstery. Others added wheels so the ladder contraption can be rolled to and from the parade site. Another I saw a few years ago had a PVC pipe systems attached so that beads the kids caught could be dropped down a chute into a bag below. The possibilities, it seems, are endless.
So what tools do you currently have at your disposal and how can you use them more creatively or supplement them with other things?
"Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after." ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Coffee cup image from Flickr)
I prepared today’s slide in StarOffice Impress because I’m traveling and working on a netbook and because I like to experiment with different tools. Impress is enough like PowerPoint to be easy to use but just different enough to take me some time to find certain tools. One of the big limitations is with the colors available. I’m spoiled with PowerPoint, I admit it.
Another limitation, which had nothing to do with Impress was that I didn’t have a great font collection on the netbook. I wanted something that was more personal, more like a handwritten note for today’s slide but we should all be careful with novelty fonts. They have to suit the mood, tone and audience. They also have to fit the media being used.
For instance, this font would not be great if these slide were projected. It would take more effort to ready this font on a big screen. On a computer screen it would likely be OK. For a small mobile device, again not so good. This is increasingly something we have to think about as our slides go off without us and get repurposed, and as we repurpose others’ slides.
I was going through some pieces I wrote a few years ago and found one that I thought deserved to be brushed off and re-shared. It has to do with listening, really listening. And I thought the image I selected for today’s slide was particularly appropriate since it has a child-like quality to it and hearkens back to our days on the playground. So whether you are the speaker or the audience member, student, coworker, etc. becoming a better listener will improve the results you receive.
From an April 2010 post called What did I just say?
Which of us didn’t hear that phrase from our mothers as we were growing up? We all do it. The fake listening thing. Uh huh, uh huh. If we make some verbal response that’ll signal we’re listening, right? And it’s not just when we’re kids that we do this. As we grow up and go out into the world we continue the uh huh tradition. And we have all these reasons. Gadgets at every appendage. Information streaming in from every angle. We’re all so busy. Really?
You can actually accomplish more in a short amount of time by doing less. Next time someone tries to talk to you, snap to. Actually look at them. Listen to them. The smartphone will wait for you. It’s not going to run off the desk away from you crying because you ceased looking at it momentarily. But the person you don’t pay attention to when they are trying to speak to you does notice and react emotionally and psychologically to your apparent indifference.
Image from Flickr
Wow time is flying. I realized today that I have completed two full months (OK February is a little short but …) of my Project 365 effort to create a slide a day. I thought it would be a good time to check in and see if this project was shaping up as I had envisioned it.
Basically my answer was yes. It have done a variety of things. Some posts were slides I would consider using in meetings, some for ballroom-style presentations, some for handout. There have been some tips and tricks and suggestions for further reading and resources.
Have I been happy with every slide. Nope. But that wasn’t the point from the beginning. I wasn’t looking to make the perfect slide deck. I was looking to poke around and experiment and share the process and outcome with others. Some of the slides I had to skimp a bit due to time constraints. Some could use more work. Some would work for some audiences and not others.
Overall I think things are going well. I haven’t run out of idea yet, so that’s good. But as always, I welcome your ideas and questions and comments. Two months down and only ten more to go. I suspect they are going to fly by.
3D is everywhere these days. At the movies you can even pick between different types of 3D. And sometimes the 3D rendering really enhances the experience, but that doesn’t mean that it is always the best option. Take charts for instance. They distort and mislead and rarely, if ever, provide a better experience in terms of making the data easily understandable.
In 2D’s Company, 3D’s a Crowd, the amount of distortion in pie chart examples showed that in a chart in which all of the slices represented equal 33.3% shares of the pie, by making the pie 3D one of the slices suddenly accounted for 40% of the pie in terms of screen area. That’s a major jump in screen area and will clearly lead the audience to perceive that slice as larger and more important.
Like many other design choices, 3D is usually used to try to make the presentation look fancier or prettier or flashier or whatever adjective, but it isn’t going to make your presentation better if you are misleading your audience. In short, I think Nigel Holmes may have stated it best when he said: “Why do you want your chart to jump off the page or screen? I’d rather it stayed there and let me read it!”