Yesterday I had the honor of giving a keynote presentation at the Minnesota Educational Media Association’s final day of their annual conference. What a joyful experience. When I was asked I did not know for sure how I would approach it. I pondered my current status as a media specialist school librarian and where my focus and joy was currently coming from to help me formulate a plan. The most prevalent issue in educational technology at the time was (and still is) cloud computing. But I recognized there are broader issues that need attention too, such as engaging these well equipped highly connected 21st century learners in our for lack of a better term, archaic classrooms. Today’s classrooms, despite trends toward the creation of “smart classrooms” are just about the only place in the world now where everyone is asked to disconnect for the purpose of learning. That is such an oxymoron, particularly for me as I acknowledge my own learning has exploded exponentially as I have cultivated and networked with a widely diverse groups of people in online circles. I recognize the potential for learning that is engaging and fully employs all these tools and applications we ban in most of our public school system.
Plugging Terry Freedman’s book
During yesterday’s keynote, I shared Terry Freedman’s free online book, The Amazing Web 2.0 Projects Book. It was towards the end, and I shared it as a starting point for my audience, not just for newbies, but also for the school librarians and technology integration specialists to use as a place to stir conversations and come up with new ideas that sprout from existing projects listed in the book. Friends tweeted out the link to my presentation, which is how Terry Freedman became aware that I had promoted his collaborative book. He commented on how interesting my presentation looked and he shared the link. (Thanks, Terry, for the plug!!)
So how’d I do?
I took a moment to review my slide deck, and worried that visitors would not understand some of the more zen-like slides. Yes, please allow me to confess my sins against zen presentations. Half my slide deck was very zen like (or as zen as I can get anyway) and the other half were more in tune with what I call KMN slides. KMN slides are those horrible, awful slides that have way too much text, the ones that make an audience member scream inwardly “kill me now” so I don’t have to sit through these awful, boring slides that I can read for myself but am being forced to have someone else read them to me. I truly HATE presentations like that.
So for this keynote, I decided a good while ago that I would attempt three things:
- Place my presentation in the cloud (GooglePres was my choice) and use that vehicle for delivery,
- invite any audience member to join me in my presentation live,
- and encourage the audience to live interact by clicking on links and reflecting on the content.
The plan – risky business
As the day approached, I became more and more nervous in my plan for implementation. Would the wifi work? Would my videos play? How would I include my audio clips since Google Pres did not offer embedding sound clips? Should I move it back to a standard Powerpoint? What if mid presentation I lost all connectivity–thus forcing me to move over to that flat powerpoint format I created for a back-up plan?
Why put myself through such stress? Why did I want to use a presentation from the cloud? I truly came so close to just using the standard disconnected, uninteractive Powerpoint that I had. It was easier and I would have significantly less stress or worries. And being my first ever keynote, wasn’t it risky and downright silly to hinge being successful on all those what if’s?
I prayed to the good Lord all day the day before that it would work. My purpose for using my presentation from the cloud was to model its use, show the potential, and engage my audience in a way that might be unfamiliar to them. I wanted them to think outside the box and consider the approach in their own teaching context, all while delivering a message to inspire them. Was I successful? I don’t know. I did feel good about the keynote. The one thing that did go wrong was in a video from youtube I embedded that wanted time to render. I played maybe 25 seconds of it, and then moved on to make my point and encourage the audience to pull it up later and view it.
To be zen-like, or not
In viewing the slidedeck, I noticed I have 29 slides. 17 slides that were more in tune with presentation zen. The remaining slides were filled with hyperlinks more in tune with a KMN! So upfront I feel I must defend those KMN slides. The KMN slides are intended for the audience who wants to take advantage of the interactive component I tried to implement. My hope is that those pretty good at multitasking did pull them up during the keynote, and those who prefer to interact afterwards would pull it up and see all the links and tools and reflect on my message.
Reviewing back through my slide deck that has been shared by those I interact with, I was afraid my message was not crystal clear. That can happen when you are trying to be zen. Ultimately my message was as follows:
- Our kids are there using the tools, so as educators we should also develop schema to understand them.
- As educators, we must embrace these tools, harness them for our teaching context, and channel them for engaged learning.
- In utilizing the tools in an educational setting, we must remember that it’s not just about the tools and the engagement, but it’s also an opportunity to not only model ethical and appropriate use, but also teach ethical and appropriate use.
- And finally, it doesn’t matter where you start, just start. The links in my presentation are for audience members to pick and choose a place to start. Take them or leave them. It doesn’t mean you must use them all. Different likes for different types.
That leaves a slide or two that may need more explanation, such as the one that reads in flaming text, “Mightygir4.” There’s a story there. If you want to know it, join me in a real conversation. Putting it down in text just causes it to lose a lot of meaning. But there is a story to be told there. So let’s talk.