This past Monday at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference (PETE & C), Erin and I had the opportunity to present on project based learning (PBL). While we had presented on the topic many times before, this was the first time the presentation was mostly based on the contents of our book, Hacking Project Based Learning. (Exciting!) Rather than walking the audience through the book’s ten hacks/chapters, we decided to take a unique approach by focusing on six main symptoms and remedies for PBL Paralysis (obstacles that could prevent educators from implementing project based learning: standardized testing, needing grades, poor professional development, etc.).
Following Monday’s session, Erin and I were asked (and flattered) to present the session again on Wednesday, which we did. Between the two presentations we took the time to revise and edit our work.
That being said, here are five lessons learned from giving the same presentation twice (at the same conference).
Lesson #1: Provide Background Knowledge
Session 1: We started the presentation by having participants discuss and briefly share out what was preventing them from moving forward with PBL. Then, Erin I proceeded to talk about what we think are six main symptoms of PBL Paralysis.
Session 2: While the discussion helped to focus everyone on the same topic, Erin and I weren’t really able to alter our presentation as a result of the responses we heard. (The presentation and its slides were already planned and created.) So, instead, we opened by displaying a graphic that shows the difference between projects and project based learning (below). Then, based on the graphic and participants’ background knowledge, everyone discussed and shared out the difference between the two. This activity helped to clarify what project based learning is (to an extent) before diving into its potential obstacles.
Before delivering a presentation, how do you make sure participants have the necessary background knowledge?
Lesson #2: Provide a Road Map
Session 1: Throughout the presentation, Erin and I explored six main symptoms of PBL Paralysis. Prior to discussing each one, we displayed a graphic with the name of the symptom.
Session 2: At the bottom of each one of these slides, we added numbering to let participants know where it fell within the context/order of the six symptoms. The numbers 1-6 were included on each slide, in red, with the current number/section highlighted in orange. An example is below.
How do you make sure participants know where the current slides fall within the context of the entire presentation? Is this always necessary?
Lesson #3: Seamlessly Transition into Videos
Session 1: Throughout the presentation, Erin and I showed a handful of short videos to help us illustrate our points. Typically, when transitioning to a video, we clicked over to the slide on which a video was embedded, said what we had to say to set the stage (with the poster frame of the video showing), and then hit Play.
Session 2: Here we made the small change of setting the stage for each video while displaying the slide prior to the one on which the video was embedded. This technique (which forced us to better familiarize ourselves with our content) made for smoother transitions as each video first appeared at the right moment in relation to our dialogue. Also, at times, a video almost serves as a form of a punch line to what is being said. Therefore, having the poster frame appear prior to the video’s verbal lead-in can diminish the impact of the video on the audience.
What tips do you have for incorporating videos into presentations?
Lesson #4: Highlight Parts of a Slide, When Necessary
Session 1: One of the slides lists six academic standards. During the presentation, I called attention to the verbs in these standards to drive home that point that standards with higher level/order verbs should serve as the basis for the learning that takes place during PBL.
Session 2: To more easily call participants’ attention to these verbs, I added in an animation in which each standard’s leading verb is highlighted (by a yellow rectangle with an opacity of 40%).
What technique(s) do you use to emphasize certain parts of a slide, when necessary?
Lesson #5: Always Be Refining Your Slides
Here we don’t have a Session 1 and a Session 2 comparison, but rather a post/statement I made on Facebook while I was in the process of changing up the slides with Erin:
“Hardest part of slide design –> Treating every single slide with extreme detail, as if it's the only one that'll be shown.”
Right now, the Hacking Project Based Learning slide deck contains 60 slides. When everything was initially created, we paid as much attention to detail as possible, but admittedly, a few slides did “slip through the cracks.” I have found that a slide deck’s “imperfections” usually stand out (1) after stepping away from it for a few days and then returning to the work, and/or (2) after using it in front of an audience. It is generally difficult to get everything “right” the first time, especially when so many slides are included. But, what matters most is being able to pinpoint what can be improved upon (in the slides and in the presentation), and then having the discipline to continuously make the necessary changes. After all, nothing is ever perfect!
After a presentation, how do you decide what changes need to be made for next time?
In the End
Erin and I felt there was a noticeable improvement in the presentation the second time around, and the overall feedback to both sessions was positive (a few testimonials are here). Nonetheless, there’s always more that can be done, both in regards to improving upon the slides and their delivery. In fact, since Wednesday I have taken the time to tweak the slides a bit since the presentation is still fresh in my mind.
Erin and I look forward to continuing to enhance our work, for the benefit of students and teachers, both in and out of our respective school districts!
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