Tag Archives: education

Professional Communication and Presentation Reboot: Challenges

course reboot.001

This month marks my first break from both campus and online teaching since October. This is usually a time for me to review my approach to teaching the campus and online iterations of Professional Communication and Presentation. In addition to teaching, two of my most fulfilling roles as the lead instructor for this course are instructional designer and curriculum developer. The campus version of PCP changes a bit each month because I can note new areas for growth and opportunity, can consult with campus students on what works and what doesn’t work, and I can see live whether or not a lesson resonates with the students and translates into positive results. The online course, however, requires a bit more time, objective assessment, and analysis to adapt. This usually means that during the months I am not on campus I coordinate a major reboot of the overall structure, lessons, learning materials, and assignments based on the big challenges I noted for the previous six months or so of a previous iteration.

In analyzing the course this time around, I noted several challenges, opportunities, and action items. Alex Rister and I are firmly in the research and development phase. As she noted yesterday on Creating Communication, we’ve found a few amazing sources to draw from including Pamela Slim’s Body of Work. In this post, I’ll cover the big challenges this course faces now. Next, I’ll cover how I’m working to turn those challenges into opportunities, and finally share how the course will adapt and change over the next two months.


Challenge #1: The lack of synchronous communication

As Alex discussed in her public speaking online series, teaching a presentation and communication class online is a real challenge. Everything we teach students is based on developing, designing, and delivering a presentation to a live audience. From audience analysis and slide design to “naked” delivery, the need for a live audience engaging with a presenter is ever present. Furthermore, students learn better when given an opportunity to present in the way they will likely do so in their everyday professional lives. However, we’ve been tasked with teaching this course online, despite the body of evidence that emphasizes the importance of synchronicity in online learner success (Source). So, it will be important in the next two months to bring in more instances of synchronicity. Currently, the PCP team uses iChat/Aim, Skype, and GoTo Meeting to add a synchronous element to the course, but we have not found the solution to helping students present synchronously to their classmates/teachers or to a physical audience.

Challenge #2: Understanding and engaging in presentation as a process

The biggest reason for the last reboot was to help alleviate a serious deficiency that we’ve managed to work on successfully in the face to face iteration of the course–students do not understand either the importance of or the need for engaging in a presentation process. While we talk about Nancy Duarte’s presentation ecosystem and structure the course so that students develop a portion (outline, slides, rehearsal) of their major project, an Ignite presentation, each week, many students still wait until the last minute to develop that piece and are often confused when their PCP instructor asks them to revise their outline and then implement that revision in the storyboard/design for the slides. Helping students understand how each piece fits together and also building in opportunities for them to take their time before submitting official drafts of their work is our second challenge in the reboot.


This visualization of the presentation process by design firm Idea Transplant has been and will become an even stronger cornerstone of the course.

Challenge #3: Streamlining content

Perhaps it’s my background as a learner (I devour as much information as I can about a subject and love when there’s something new to learn and explore about a subject), but I can definitely recognize that both on campus and online I share too much information, which just leaves students feeling overwhelmed. Yes, it’s all great information, but if any of it is redundant, too complex, or repetitive, what’s the point in including it? So, our third challenge will be to reduce the number of lessons and assets to the most important and needed learning materials.

Challenge #4: Universalizing the experience for multiple degree programs

PCP began as a course offered only to music business and entertainment bachelor of science students. In the past five years, the course has expanded to other programs–computer animation, game art, game development, internet marketing, music production, media communications, and software development. While the course’s current structure, develop, design, and deliver, a persuasive speech is definitely general enough to encompass all of these programs, our students’ needs have changed. Whereas some students present informative and persuasive presentations on a regular basis to audiences, some students will only ever have to present their body of work to a potential employee or client. This leaves them wondering just how this skill will help them in the future. So, how do we communicate to students just how important and necessary strong professional presentation skills are? That’s our fourth challenge.

Challenge #5: Emphasizing the first P in Professional Communication and Presentation

Professionalism is important at my school, but it’s even more important in a class with the title Professional Communication and Presentation. Currently, the campus class devotes a week or so of in class time to the concept of a professional persona and communicating professional brand via a visual resume. However, this was removed in the last reboot of the online class to help streamline the approach and give students more time on the Ignite presentation. This means that our online students spend very little time if any truly exploring and practicing what it means to be a professional communicator. Our final challenge will be to refocus persuasion and presentation towards building professionalism.

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TED talk of the day: Jacob Barnett says think, don’t learn

Jacob Barnett is a speaker, budding mathematician, and physicist; he is also 14 years old and was diagnosed with ADD and autism at a young age. After years of special education classes and failed attempts to “correct” Jacob’s inability to learn, his parents took him out of school and allowed him to think (not just learn). Jacob believes it was the freeing of his consciousness from the bonds of traditional education that enabled him to finally think and innovate. Further, he supposes that some of our greatest thinkers (Newton, Einstein) began to really think only when they put aside learning. Now, this may not work for most of us, who don’t have the innate genius and can thrive and think once the constructs of learning are in place. However, I am fascinated by the idea that learning happens not when we are forced to exist within the constraints of lesson plans and diagnoses but when we are freed from the bonds of learning and begin thinking and tapping into our creativity. As I work on the next post in my content development series, developing a presentation’s big idea, it’s good food for thought.

Under what conditions do you stop learning and start thinking? What gets your creativity moving?

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TED 2013 Prize Winner: Sugata Mitra

Today’s TED 2013 share is Sugata Mitra’s Build a School in the Cloud. Mitra is this year’s TED Prize winner and for good reason. His use of cloud computing in providing an enriched and dynamic learning environment for students in India is inspiring. The model of collaborative education, Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE) empowers students to collaborate and take control of their learning journeys. Check out the talk below and enjoy this nugget of inspiration from TED!

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Tweak Your Teach: Design Thinking for Educators Vol. 2

My exposure to design over the past four years–TED’s mission of spreading ideas through the marriage of technology, entertainment, and design; the work of those who work towards the cause for cinematic presentations, and the work of instructional design folks like Julie Dirksen–has definitely impacted my approach to building and revising my courses. I am in the process of reworking the online version of Professional Communication and Presentation and redoing my on campus lectures for the course, so, the design treat I found in my inbox on Monday couldn’t have come at a better time.


Source: Renato Ganoza via Compfight cc

The  creators of the Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit, Riverdale School and design firm IDEO, have released volume 2 of this amazing resource. This new volume of the toolkit icludes a basic introduction to what design thinking is, a streamlined process for using design thinking to improve the educational experience (whether it’s curriculum, space, process/tool, or systems-based), and a new workbook feature that takes educators through the design process. The workbook provides educators with a framework for completing short-term or long-term projects both individually and in groups.  Download this superteacher resource at the Design Thinking For Educators website.


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Tweak Your Teach: The Teaching Portfolio

I am excited to continue working on Tweak Your Teach and the rest of my blog in the new year. I’ve just updated the site to include a teaching porfolio section that I will be adding to and growing over the next few weeks. What exactly is a teaching portfolio and what is its purpose?

teaching portfolio post.001

According to Rutgers University’s Center for Teaching Advancement & Assessment Research, a teaching portfolio is a “flexible document” that details a teacher’s “teaching responsibilities, philosophy, goals and accomplishments.” This traditionally print document contains the breadth and scope of an educator’s experience and includes three major areas:

1. Teaching Responsibilities (What I do)

2. Teaching Philosophy and Statement of Competency (Why I do it)

3. Evidence of Effective Teaching (Proof that I do what I say)

A strong portfolio is dynamic–it changes constantly and includes both specific goals and measurable data indicating those goals have been met. More than proof of concept, a dynamic teaching portfolio shows an educator what he or she has accomplished and what he or she still needs to grow. There are several excellent print guides as well as examples available. One of the most highly recommended is The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions.

However, several  comprehensive guides to the portfolio process that don’t cost a penny come from reputable educational institutions like Rutgers. Two of my favorites are A Guide to the Teaching Portfolio by the University of New Hampshire and the very comprehensive and useful guide from the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning at the University of Texas at El Paso.

As I begin this process, I have many great examples to draw from, but find the approach to the standard portfolio to be a bit stale. I am working on ways to make it more dynamic and interactive, drawing from my design skills to further enhance how usable this is as a tool  for me and for others. I’ve added a few preliminary elements to the portfolio section, the most recent of which is my teaching philosophy. I’ve truncated this down from two pages to one, but would definitely like to add specific goals to the end. This draft focuses on my self-definition as a “super-teacher.” I began using this term several years ago when I saw a stark difference between those who teach because they cannot do something in their field and those who teach because teaching IS their field. Those are the super-teachers, at least the ones who call teaching their bliss and work towards the betterment of education for all. Check it out in the new teaching portfolio section under “About Me.”

Are you a teacher? What’s your philosophy on teaching? What do you draw inspiration from?

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Tweak your Teach: Dr. Tae’s Building a New Culture of Teaching and Learning

I am working on a new section to the blog that focuses specifically on education. In keeping with the tweak theme, I’ll be posting new articles under the category ” Tweak your Teach.” If you read this blog, you know, I am committed to the “tweak” in all its forms. Tweak your slides, your speech, your life, and definitely your teaching. At no time has this final point been more important in American education than now. Dr. Tae is one of my favorite educators.

Dr. Tae uses storytelling, simple truths, and skateboarding to present his case for a new culture of learning at TEDxEastSidePrep

Dr. Tae uses storytelling, simple truths, and skateboarding to present his case for a new culture of learning at TEDxEastSidePrep

His 30 minute talk, “Building a New Culture of Teaching and Learning” is inspirational and a must watch for superteachers. In this inspiring talk, Tae ses humor, impeccable logic and evidence, and the testimony of educators as well as weaving in his own personal and professional anecdotes to convey a simple and very sticky message:

School sucks, especially in science and math.

Tae then explains that the problem is not mutually exclusive to secondary schools. The entire educational model–from elementary to university level is broken. But why is the system broken? The problem begins in secondary schools. Firstly, schools do not hire great teachers because the focus is on certification and not qualification or quality. Further, the structure of schools is broken. Our students are given a fixed and finite amount of time in which to learn something and their performance is based on grades, which are coercive by nature. I had this experience–Mr. Feldman, my high school physics teacher is one of my most memorable teachers–because he was so completely awful. He demeaned students who were not already great at math and science and showed complete contempt for the entire experience of teaching his students. He taught me that physics sucks and that I am not smart enough to understand it. Definitely NOT the goal of education. This is a product of the standardized test driven model of education we inherited after the industrial revolution. The problem is compounded in universities, which have become a depersonalized experience, where the culture of open discourse and the exchange of ideas are considered burdens to the more “important” work of research.

So, what is Tae’s solution? Skateboarding. No, really, skateboarding. Tae then reveals a very simple truth.

To learn something properly, you work your ass off until you get it right. That’s it.

Schools are in complete opposition to this model. Schools don’t give students open time to master a skill; in school, students are motivated via coercion, but true learning must be self-motivated and guided by responsible mentorship; in school, students often turn to cheating (because what matters is the grade, not true learning), but according to Tae, real learning cannot be cheated. Mr. Feldman’s counterpart was Dr. Earls, a published author and authority in humanities, who pushed me to take control of my learning, who helped me to see the place education could have in my life, and who truly cared about empowering her students to be more than they already were or are.

Tae’s model of education is wonderfully idealistic–when I first encountered this talk two years ago, I was and am still stoked to know there are teachers committed to a renaissance of teaching and learning. Ultimately, Tae’s solution involves more than just a restructuring of the education system; it is the creation of a culture of education where each of us takes a role in teaching others, whether formally trained or not.

I think it’s important that you watch the video, dear reader, so I won’t rehash everything (even though I really want to). Instead, I’ll focus on just a few key points from each of the major segments of Tae’s talk.

All of us can share and teach. It is our responsibility to distribute and share what we know. We can all be great teachers; we can share our knowledge freely and really change our world. Knowledge should not be selfish. Teaching and learning are part of our cultural habits. They should not just be something we do in school. Share what you know. Watch Dr. Tae’s talk and be inspired to Tweak your Teach!

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Deck of the Day: Corinne Weisgerber and Shannan Butler Reinvision Education

In today’s Deck of the Day, educators Corinne Weisgerber and Shannan Butler illustrate how they use Twitter, Diigo, YouTube, blogs, and the myriad of web tools out there to create personal learning networks and truly engaging and dynamic online experiences. I am stoked to expand my pedagogy to include Pinterest and Twitter, but have had no real direction to move in. Weisgerber and Butler provide tangible techniques and real world examples. Welcome to the educator as curator!

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TED Educators: John Wooden and Dave Eggers

John Wooden on true success

As an erstwhile college sports fan (I really only paid attention when I was in school), I don’t know much about the greats of college sports lore, apart from the once great Steve Spurrier. So, one must forgive my lack of know how about the late John Wooden, arguably the best college sports coach of all time. Once I watched this talk though, I realized his true impact as a coach came not from wins and championships, but from his understanding of the true meaning of success–hard work, a positive impact on the world, and always doing one’s best.

Dave Eggers’ wish: Once upon a school

One of my favorite facets of TED is the TED prize, which is awarded each year to one idea that would benefit from the kind of exposure and support the TED organization has the ability to offer. Dave Eggers recounts the story of 826 Valencia, an after school program that pairs writers with students in a unique tutoring experiment. Eggers’ enthusiasm, humility, and passion for helping others inspires the superteacher in me to do more.

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Link of the day: redesigning apple crapple

I ran across this link from the New York Times Learning Network. As one who has fallen victim to the “apple crapple” as one listener of Studio 360 referred to visuals like ” apples, ABCs, 123s, one-room schoolhouses with bells on top” (New York Times), I think I’m ready to take a cue from 360 Design and rethink my visual representations of teacher.

360 Design has created an entire campaign around the idea of connecting dots and fostering learning journeys. I am so stoked!

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Design in digital education

So, part of being a teacher, at least a good one, is a healthy bit of complaining. I don’t mean complaining about course loads or workplace politics or noisy cube neighbors. I complain about the disconnect between the online learner and the online teacher; I complain about the pervasive shift away from teachers who are creative problem-solvers towards teachers who are mere task masters, trapped and demoralized by a system that focuses much more on results than it does on an enriching learning experience for students. I’ve referred to Ken Robinson’s “Bring on the Learning Revolution” (once to my own detriment and at the expense of my “reputation”) in the conversations I have with superteachers. Although his first TED talk “Schools Kill Creativity” is definitely the more popular of his two takes on the state of education, it’s in his second talk that he brings up the idea of fast food education, a one size fits all assembly line model of educating the masses, that like one too many cheeseburgers, deteriorates and destroys the quality of the educated, while at the same time reinforcing the idea that teachers are merely there to dole out grades, to check off on work completed without criticism.

I spent several hours last night networking with a fellow superteacher, who feels shackled and constrained by his school’s insistence on checklists. He teaches art to elementary schools students and actually has to warn his students that he is going to teach differently and act differently when an administrator stops by to ensure items are checked off. He is thinking of moving on to something else. He loves education and working with kids, but feels education has been coopted by other interests and concerns.

I believe this disconnect is most prevalent in the online environment. Although this not entirely absent in the traditional classroom context, in a physical classroom, the teacher’s role is more clearly defined (even if it is just task master) and the student has a clearer sense of what the process of being educated requires (active participation, immersion in course concepts, thorough study, analysis, discussion, revision, and self-reflection). Recently, our department has been working ways to make online feedback more dynamic. We’ve begun using Jing to record audio feedback to student work. I listened in to many of my colleagues recording their feedback and I was definitely pleased by the enthusiasm and dynamism this approach engenders. I can only imagine what it would be like as a student to receive verbal feedback from a teacher, to hear a teacher’s sense of encouragement and willingness to help.

As I perused design-thinking.alltop.com for some inspiration today for another post on photography, I ran across this article from The Design Thinking Network on the place of design in digital education. Adopting design-centered approach, meaning drives each intentional decision, and each decision made is meant to creatively solve another pedagogical challenge in both the live the virtual classroom, has enabled me to tweak my class to the needs of my students as opposed to stick with a routine/pattern/structure that works best for me. Keith Hampson asserts that design is even more important in the online learning environment than it is in the physical classroom because the mediums being used but that most online learning systems fail to take design into account when creating content and software. The online experience is a design-based experience. Every day we are bombarded with both good and bad design. Consider how many pinterest boards you visit each day. How many websites you Stumble Upon, and how many blog, magazine, and news articles you read. Hampson sees this as an opportunity to use design in a design-saturated environment. Similarly, the Design Thinking for Educators organization is committed to bringing the design process into the classroom. If you haven’t checked out this amazing resource for 21st century conceptual approaches to education, you are missing out. Thanks to Alex Rister for the share!

I truly believe design-centered thinking (problem solving, ideation, troubleshooting, radical ideas) can save education. What do you think? What will help move education in the right direction?

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