I wrote about Greg Farr's dashboards awhile back, his weekly airing out of the campus' dirty laundry: non-attendance, discipline, drop-outs. "There are no secrets at Shannon," Greg says. If I were ever to step into administration, implementing that kind of accountability would head my list of Things To Do Before I Ever Sat Down.
Here's a sample dashboard, lifted from the school's website
This particular accountability measure freaks me out, also, because it demands focused graphic design, which my longtime subscribers will recall is an incessant fixation of mine.
Unfortunately, Greg and his team have here what designers call a "low signal-to-noise ratio." The information he's trying to convey pulses faintly from the screen (low signal) while other design elements blare static around it (high noise).
Your first slide is crucial. Cru. cial.
Your first slide establishes your presentation's identity and even if you only fire up a projector three times a semester or present at only one conference, your presentation needs an identity. If you plan on presenting your lessons every day for a year (as has been my m.o.) this is quintuply important.
The reason is simply this: you don't want your audience distracted by what your presentation looks like at the expense of what it's about. No matter what my slides are about, they share a similar look.
This is priceless. In a matter of days, my students forget that the body text (Tahoma) looks different from problem information text (Gill Sans). They could tell you that the slide backgrounds are light blue but they forget that I use a gradient. I set problem answers to a darker shade of the background blue, but after a week, the look of the slide becomes so transparent, half the class would tell you it's black. They never noticed the line breaks (always 10 points) or the reliable indentation (headers always 12% off the side; body text 3% more) or a dozen other elements I painstakingly built into the template with the express intention of rendering them totally, and completely, invisible.
I'm kinda screwed here. Graham, Marcie, and Tim are positively murdering the comments of the last post, raising great questions, and implying (in at least one case) that if I'm gonna talk up the connection between great presentations and our students' learning outcomes, maybe, um, I ought to do more than just gripe about the lousy ones.
But full disclosure: This has been the longest standing post in my Blog This Someday pile simply because I have absolutely no training as a designer of any sort. That may well be a boon to us here since the same could probably be said of our no-MFA-having teaching audience.
And the preface: If you're out there giving lectures or presentations with any regularity and you're only supplementing your talks with transparencies or nothing at all, consider investing in a laptop and a projector. For me it was a large hurdle between good presentation and great presentation, the sort where you spend twenty minutes from the front knowing you've got 'em mesmerized. Not for nothing, it has also transformed my teaching.
As with every slice of teaching, improvement is a three-step process: