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Learning presentations: 10 Framing Principles


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We introduce Learning Presentation design principles that incorporate theories of Adult Learning. These presentation principles and approaches can be adapted by researchers, teachers, and students for use in classrooms, conferences, and communities, whether F2F, hybrid, or online environments. We collaborate with participants by sharing knowledge and experience to create personalized strategies for maximizing learning while using presentation platforms. For this showcase we draw on our work with future faculty and current staff to demonstrate Learning Presentations as scaffolds for showcasing ideas, guiding learning, and engaging learners.

Ilene D. Alexander
Christina I. Petersen

Published in: Education, Technology
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Learning presentations: 10 Framing Principles

  1. 1. Garr Reynolds in Presentation Zen:The facts used to be difficult to access. Not anymore.Good stories have interesting, clear beginnings, provocative, engaging content in the middle,and a clear conclusion.What Garr Reynolds doesn t say – in fact few writing about presentations say this – isanything about learning presentations – where learning processes involving social andpersonal, reflective and critical processing of information and learning as creation of newknowledge in the actions of examining ideas gained from listening, observing, reading,experiencing and testing.Where a presentation presents information, a learning presentation provides a structure thatdraws together ideas and images to provoke learning as the learning presentation, learnersand presenters interact. A learning presentation considers what audience members alreadyknow, why they need/want to think about whatever it is that s at the heart of the presentation,what ideas and information will provoke next stages of learning necessary for growth ofinsight, development of skills, problem solving of a proximate concern.Learning Presentations draw on what audience members have already read/done to preparefor the session; provide a framework for thinking through ideas and images and pauses fortalking/thinking so audience members connect with a core ideas; expect that learners willneed/want to take next or new steps as part of the follow up to a learning presentation.Photo: Blackboard with the question What is your dream job? at the Oxford and GrandCaribou on the day I assembled the slide shell of images for this presentation.
  2. 2. A learning presentation doesn t try to be everything – the textbook, the discussion linking thetextbook to life and / or scholarly literature, and the road map through a thinking process.That s a presentation – a format that often aims to merge together the text/documentation toconvey facts with slides that blend in new questions and bits of information.Garr Reynolds calls this Slideumentation – others have called it death (of creativecollaboration and independent thinking) by powerpoint.As my Grandfather might say Sure, you can kill two birds with one stone. But do youreally want dead birds?Photo: Claude Pratt Alexander and granddaughter sitting on the bench outside the back doorof 131 Morgan Street in Tracy, Minnesota. 1961.
  3. 3. Nope on the dead birds – but yes to learning presentation, where the two things we get with a single presentation might well be words and images creating a memorable intersection: We might get to listen to an intelligent and evocative—perhaps at times even provocative—human being who teaches us, or inspires us, or who stimulates us with knowledge plus meaning, context, and emotion in a way that is memorable (Garr Reynolds). Likewise, the first step to creating and designing great presentations is to be mindful of the current state of what passes for normal PowerPoint presentations and that what is normal today is out of sync and off-kilter with how people actually learn and communicate (Garr Reynolds). I want presentations that are built for learning – scaffolded by considerations about learning, design and story that shape deliberate decision-making in light of audience, message and learning goals. I want presentations where words and ideas, images and insights, cognitive and affective, slides and handouts intersect meaningfully – not where these die as words pose as images and collide for our attention. As Peter Elbow says in On Writing about engaging processes of drafting – the act of beginning to write before you re fully ready – and revision: “Another reason for starting writing and keeping writing: If you stop too much and worry and correct and edit, you ll invest yourself too much in these words on the page. You ll care too much about them; you ll make some phrases you really love; you won t be able to throw them away. But you should throw lots away because by the end you ll have a different focus or angle on what you are writing, if not a whole new subject. To keep these earlier words would ruin your final product. It s like scaffolding. There is no shortcut by which you can avoid building it, even though it can t be part of your final building” (30). Photo: Lowry Theatre staircase with its scaffolding not showing, and its bold, evocative colors shining in front Salford, UK.
  4. 4. Principle 1 - Learning - Consider the ways in which your audience members might bestlearn.I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they canlearn. Albert Einstein. A classroom characterized as persons connected in a net of relationships withpeople who care about each others learning as well as their own is very differentfrom a classroom that is seen as comprised of teacher and students. CarolynShrewsbury. Learning refers only to significant changes in capability, understanding,knowledge, practices, attitudes or values by individuals, groups, organisationsor society. Frank Coffield.Photo: Bath Botanical Gardens. December 2010.
  5. 5. Principle 2 - Design - Begin with design, then continue to incorporate design as content.Innovation doesn t just happen at your desk. It happens in the weirdest places and times. You get ideas through watching the world, and through relationships. You get ideas from looking down the road. You have to beavailable to adapt on the fly. In real innovation, being comfortable isn t good.I don t want to be comfortable. I always want to be on edge, because that edge gives you energy and excitement.What s new? What s next? That s how you stay ahead. Terry Tietzen, founder and C.E.O. of Edatanetworks, a developer of customer loyalty software NYTimes 25 March 2012, Business Day page 2Garr Reynolds on Why Design MattersDesign begins with people and initially happens away from the computer and presentation software To me, design is about humans creating great works that help or improve the lives of other humans, often in profound ways, and oftenin ways that are quite small and go unnoticed. When we design, we need to be concerned with how other people will interpret ourdesign message…. Designers need to be aware, then, of the end user. If no one can (or wants to) benefit from our design - no matterhow compelling or beautiful or cool - then what good is it? …[G]ood design must necessarily, in my opinion, have an impact onpeoples lives, no matter how seemingly small. Good design changes things.Seven basic graphic design principles – Garr Reynolds citing Alexander White Unity – of concept
Gestalt – overall design
Space – the space you DON T use can clarify concepts
Color – conscious use for emphasis, hierarchy, dominance, and balance
Dominance - strong and clear focal point with clear contrast among elements
Hierarchy - clear starting point with elements to guide viewer through the design
Balance – elements work in symmetrical, asymmetrical, or mosaic modes Garr Reynolds on working away from the computer:• Before you design your presentation, you need to see the big picture and identify your core messages—or the single core message.• a cognitive style to PowerPoint that leads to an oversimplification of our content and obfuscation of our message.• professional designers—even young new media designers who ve grown up on computers—usually do much of their planning and
  6. 6. Principle 3 - Story - Use story to provide context and organize your facts.Stories are effective teaching tools. They show how context can mislead people tomake wrong decisions. Stories illustrate causal relationships that people hadn trecognized before and highlight the unexpected, resourceful ways in which peoplehave solved problems.Dan & Chip Heath, Made to StickWhen we teach we tell stories about the world. Some are scientific, some historical,some philosophical, and so on.Jo Ann Pagano, Moral Fictions in The Stories Lives Tell: Using Narrative inEducationPhoto – Taken in September 2009 the very day I decided I could make presentationsoftware like PowerPoint work for me if I took my own photos for classroom andprofessional use and made use of the typesetting and newspaper production &design skills that had paid my way through undergraduate school. I found thisphoto on that first walk with camera in hand, moving from the conference dorm tothe Cornerhouse on what was my first of now five longish to long stays inManchester/Salford.
  7. 7. A scallywag, historically, breaks with prevailing, coercive norms and facessanctionsNoun informal 1. a person, typically a child, who behaves badly but in an amusingly mischievousrather than harmful way; a rascal: that scallywag of a son of yours• US a white Southerner who collaborated with northern Republicans during the post-Civil War reconstruction period. scallywag, in our use, who makes use of Learning Presentations, may– in his or herwork within academic settings –find s/he gains approbations for using LearningPresentation Principles and Frameworks to break with presentation norms that thatstifle creativity and/or prevailing power point practices that disrupt, dominate ortrivialize content through slideumentary means and modescreativity - that process of having original ideas that have value (Ken Robinson)that is, an imaginative activity that seeks out original and assesses value. All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and EducationNational Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education1999things you ll get called for changing the rules (dissonance too part of learning;Brookfield on feeling a traitor and real costs)Photo: Ornamental Fountain in Williamson Square, home also to the Playhouse Theatrein Liverpool.
  8. 8. We want learners to move with heads up, to identify what s new, what s newly in sight, what s takingshape, what s challenging their brains to workout new configurations for information becoming part of /dropping away from ideas and concepts; we want them to notice variations - colors and shapes, movetoward something new with tentative - and at times bold - graces.Connecting requires depths of learning - visual and verbal, oral and aural, written and spoken - acrossprocessing modes that James Zull notes as Four Pillars of the brain: collecting data, reflecting (on what sbeen gathered anew alongside what s been gathered before), creating, and testing.Connecting requires • entertaining new ideas / novel combinations - play• making sense of sensations, sensual data, positive/negative connotations, flight and fight responses,human dimensions of ideas / issues and human connections to the act of studying itself - feeling• proposing and/or discerning a theme, as in literature, that s built from the interplay of select baseelements - developing meaning Elements of• Plot (i.e., What happens in the story?)• Scene or Setting (i.e., Where, when, and in what environment(s) does the action take place?)• Characters (i.e., What people or beings are in the story?)• Style [or Mood or Tone] (i.e., What is the size of the vocabulary, the complexity of the story and sentencestructure, and the treatment of the story s telling: comic, serious, tragic, morbid, etc.? This is often amost difficult characteristic to pin down.)• Theme(s) [or Messages] (Idea(s), cosmologies, theologies, philosophies, religions, statements, theories ofnature, moral(s), etc.)The five elements of literature discussed above are never mutually exclusive. One element is not reallyintelligible without most or all of the others well understood, so don t get discouraged when, just as youthink you have something nicely explained for a piece you re reading, you think of something additionalor even contrary that makes your explanation inadequate. The best we can probably expect is that theseexplanations make temporarily intelligible the fictional universe we ve visited and are trying to tellsomeone about.Photo: Grandbaby learning to hold up her head.
  9. 9. Principle 4 - Play - Laughing people are more creative people.Daniel Pink – in a conceptual age, work is not just about seriousnessbut about play as well. Such an age requires high-touch and high-concept aptitudes equally. Synthesis and ability to use seeminglyunrelated pieces to form and articulate the big picture before us iscrucial, even a differentiator (Reynolds on Pink s ideas) Madan Kataria - Laughing people are more creative people. They aremore productive people.  location 291 in Presentation Zen, Kindleedition.Photo: Piccadilly Gardens fountain one very hot July 2011 day.Manchester.
  10. 10. Principle 5 - Feeling - Invoke emotion and invite audience members to connectthinking and feeling responses, cognitive and affective learning. Bridging Emotion and Intellect / Jane Fried. College Teaching: Fall 1993.The work of a teacher involves (1) development of critical thinking skills, so that students understand how to organizedata, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and draw conclusions; (2) recognition of meaning attribution and the power that emotions, values, andpersonal experience have in shaping ones interpretation of information.The professor, therefore, becomes responsible for teaching students three sets of skills:• first is separating facts from cultural assumptions & beliefs about those facts• second is teaching students how to shift perspective.• third is perhaps the most difficult to learn, that of differentiating betweenpersonal discomfort and intellectual disagreement.Observe/DescribeReflect/InterpretExpand/ExtendSeth Godin says presentation is about the transfer of emotion  location 342Communication is about getting others to adopt your point of view, to help themunderstand why you re excited (or sad, or optimistic or whatever  location 349Often, people gain a feeling for or about your presentation, or come to a conclusionabout your presentation by the time you re on the second slide.  location 353Photo: Girl by Robert Thomas, in Gorsedd Gardens in front of Cardiff City Hall. 2008.
  11. 11. Principle 6 - Meaning - Convey core idea / central concern, even passion in yourpresentation: use this opportunity to make a small difference in the considering audience, message and learning goals, those who shape and sharepresentations have an opportunity to make a small difference in the world  location 298 in making presentations, draw on other forms of visual <--> verbal communicationlocation 324: documentary photography and fictionartistic and advertising imagerydocumentary films, ranging from Ken Burns work to the 2012 documentary shortsubject, Saving Face: and graphic novelspartnering text and images that together form a powerful narrative which isengaging and memorable - Cabinets of CuriositiesGarr Reynolds exhortation: stop letting our history and conditioning about what we know (or thought we knew) inhibit our being open to other ways of presentation.  location 335In short, Learning Presentations is about remov[ing] walls and connect[ing] with anaudience to inform or persuade in a very meaningful, unique moment in time Photo: Window poster at the recently closed Blackwell Bookstore at the University ofSalford. July 2011.
  12. 12. Principle 7 - Symphony - Integrate all elements of your presentation to shape the big picture. Seekways to illuminate logic, analysis, and intuition as part of setting out idea or topic. Design toacknowledge audience members thinking and feeling responses / cognitive and affective learningmodes. Anyone can deliver chunks of information and repeat findings represented visually in bulletpoints on a screen, but what s needed are those who can recognize the patterns, and who areskilled at seeing nuances and the simplicity that may exist in a complex problem. Symphony is about utilizing our whole mind – logic, analysis, intuition – to make sense of ourworld (ie our topic), find the big picture, and determine what is important and what is notbefore the day of our talk. It s also about deciding what matters and letting go of the rest. truly seeing in a new wayWhole mind / Whole person HIgh concept / High touch Cathy Davidson would say of this conceptual age that learning requires the depth and breadthof symphony: mindfully multi-tasking, purposeful uses of multiple technologies, approachesto learning and to problem solving by attending to the layersNote: Weve called this integration elsewhere, thinking about interdisciplinary studies meetingreflection learning and perspective taking as integral to discussion. Reynolds draws on Daniel Pink to call this see the relationships between relationships.  location 274Photo: View from top of Dina Bran outside Llangollen, Wales. Fall 2010. 
  13. 13. At the root of connecting - prioritizing, finding the tap root that willsustain the entire structure. Connecting roots. Connecting from theroots.We need to not leave [people in] the world split at the root. Photo: Bath Botanical Gardens. December 2010.
  14. 14. extend - what it means to learn, the means to learning, the practices of sharingideas in format and substanceextending credit - Acknowledgeextending use for a new welcome - Ownershipextending thinking and thinking resources - Openness
1. cause to cover a wider area; make larger• cause to last longer: they asked the government to extend its period of deliberation"• straighten or spread out at full length"• spread from a central point to cover a wider area"• occupy a specified area"• (extend to) be applicable to""2. hold (something) out towards someone!• offer or make available""3. cause (someone or something) to exert the utmost effort: extend oneself to utmost!Photo: Student depiction of learning for Fall2011 GRAD 8101: Teaching in HigherEducation course.
  15. 15. Principle 8 - Acknowledge - Acknowledge the origins of your presentation elements, contributors of ideas and images, and therole of audience members as co-creators of meaning as you interact with them. Acknowledge the presentation itself is not themain learning tool.In this conceptual age, we need to acknowledge that learning is constructivist, collaborative, and mediated as well asdistributed via technology. On a more local, personal, collegial level we need to share, give away, make it easy to find the resources we create -using various social media platforms to post learning, knowledge, developed and developing ideas as part of openaccess of peer review and open resource approach of publicly-based scholarship - the more people who know youridea, the more powerful it becomesConstructivism: is the theory that humans generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction between theirexperiences and their ideas. The Constructivist (e.g. Dewey[1] [2]; Montessori[3]; Kolb[4] [5]) learning process isexperiential learning through real life experience to construct and conditionalize knowledge. The type of learning isproblem based adaptive learning that challenges faulty schema, integrates new knowledge with existing knowledge,and allows for creation of original work or innovative procedures. The type of learner is self-directed, creative, andinnovative. The purpose in education is to become creative and innovative through analysis, conceptualizations, andsynthesis of prior experience to create new knowledge. The educator s role is to mentor the learner during heuristicproblem solving of ill-defined problems by enabling quested learning that may modify existing knowledge and allowfor creation of new knowledge. The learning goal is the highest order of learning: heuristic problem solving,metacognitive knowledge, creativity, and originality. Collaboration is working together to achieve a goal. It is a recursive process where two or morepeople or organizations work together to realize shared goals, (this is more than the intersection of common goalsseen in co-operative ventures, but a deep, collective, determination to reach an identical objective[by whom?][originalresearch?]) — for example, an intriguing[improper synthesis?] endeavor that is creative in nature—bysharing knowledge, learning and building consensus. Most collaboration requires leadership, although the form ofleadership can be social within a decentralized and egalitarian group. In particular, teams that work collaboratively can obtain greater resources, recognition and reward when facing competition for finite resources. Collaboration is also present in opposing goals exhibiting the notion of adversarial collaboration, though this is not acommon case for using the word. Paul Haywood s right hand. Education in a Changing Environment Conference Dinner. July 2011.
  16. 16. Principle 9 - Ownership - Own your presentation approach: don tbe owned by the presentation software or what prevails as a normal presentation. Own what will evoke and support learning. Photo: Walking into Salford from Manchester along the VictoriaBridge. August 2010.
  17. 17. Principle 10 - Openness - Remain open to change, and remaincommitted to sharing what you create as an open educationalresource. Photo: Liverpool s Crosby beach installation of Antony Gormleysculpture Another Place, and installation of 100 cast iron figures along2 miles.
  18. 18. At the heart of it: This is the route we re asking you to take. LearningPresentations take a new route, and new Learning Presentations takeus on new routes.Photo: Construction near Piccadilly Train Station. Manchester.January 2012.
  19. 19. Normal, it changes. And the best intentions that launched the oldnormal remain at play when we look at learning with new eyes -determining what stays the course with us and what changes inmaking a new that is of use for the audiences, messages, and learningneeds of the here and now into the future.Photo: Victoria Gallery and Museum, University of Liverpool. Apreserved lecture hall in the original red brick university building,noted as From 1892 onwards...the heart of University life; besidesadministration offices it housed lecture rooms, staff offices, commonrooms and the Tate Library, which was designed to hold 80,000volumes. January 2011.
  20. 20. Photo: Tin of sharpened colored pencils atop a black chair at the CraftCentre. Manchester. January 2012.