or: My First Ed-Tech Conference
also: My Last Ed-Tech Conference
I’m back now from the Innovative Learning Conference in San Jose, CA. When I first bumped into Alice Mercer, she said, “This doesn’t seem like your kind of thing.” She’s either right, and I’m just the wrong person for ILC, or else ILC should have stepped its game up in a lot of ways. Obviously, I’m biased toward the latter. Either way, I shouldn’t have missed class time for this.
Therefore, a brief preface of ILC’s good stuff and then my best advice for the presenters there. If you’re reading this and you presented at ILC, obviously I’m not talking about you, or your session, etc., and hopefully you all realize by now that I reserve my harshest criticism for myself.
It was nice meeting Collette, Rushton, Alice, Gail, and some other folks; CUE organized the conference well, with the right number of sessions per day (five) at the right length (an hour, though some presenters didn’t earn ten minutes); the catered lunch was fine, just fine.
In order to earn one seat-hour from a few dozen people, your presentation needs either:
- a compelling personality behind it;
- expertise, the sort of expertise DFW wrote about, the kind that has such a tight conceptual grasp, it can explain itself from any side, from any angle, from a macro- or microscopic lens;
- a compelling narrative, something with an antagonist, with obstacles to overcome, even if they’re just stubborn network administrators; this is why I pinned my talk on math methods (back in the day) to a fictional student and gave her a photo;
- illustrative, complementary visuals; video, PowerPoint, handouts, makes no difference to me so long as they’re pretty and useful;
- empathy for audience expectations, the sort of clairvoyance where you know what your audience is wondering, what it’s waiting to see.
Fourteen of eighteen presentations I attended couldn’t manage one of those.
There was the usual PowerPoint plague, presenters standing for thirteen minutes stock-still in front of a bulleted slide, that flat text often describing a highly visual concept
As a guy who teaches compulsory Algebra to kids who have hated Algebra, I don’t see how fourteen presenters managed to blow a scenario where an audience volunteered to attend their sessions. Where the audience is interested in the session (provided the presenter didn’t falsely bill it). Where the audience is pulling for the presenter. Where the audience is eager to be dazzled, fed, or inspired.
ILC was like walking into eighteen car dealerships, pockets bulging with cash, declaring to every salesperson, “I’m here to buy,” and discovering that fourteen of them couldn’t close the sale.
I don’t mean to be overly particular but what I saw this weekend was visual- and verbal illiteracy at a high level. I saw fourteen educated professionals put styrofoam on a plate, convinced it was steak. I want no part in that sorry transaction. I want to produce and consume the best I can while I still can.
I’m speaking at CMC-North in Monterey this December on how not to ruin entire classes with visual illiteracy. I realize it’ll serve me right to have some punk kid out there in the audience, snarking about me on his blog and on Twitter.
All I can do is hold myself to this same standard.
If you’re cool with some profanity and if you’re even a little invested in the state of online gaming, check out this presentation from NY Tech Meet-Up. It did more to inspire, educate, and illustrate in five minutes and change than did the median presentation at ILC 2008.
Tom HoffmanOctober 17, 2008 - 4:28 pm -
Well, the first problem is you went to the presentations. Didn’t anyone warn you about that?
KateOctober 17, 2008 - 6:19 pm -
1. Charles Forman earned my attention with his compelling biceps.
2. Does it seem like all these presentations people point to as the uber-examples of awesomeness feature lots of slides with quick transitions and a pretty-much memorized script? Just seems like that requires the kind of rehearsal that my 5 shows a day aren’t conducive to.
3. Excuses aside, I need to improve in this area. I have Open House on Thursday and a “beyond smartboard basics” PD presentation Friday… thanks for the reminder.
TomOctober 18, 2008 - 12:52 am -
You should get yourself to the UK and come to a TeachMeet – http://www.teachmeet.org.uk
SamOctober 18, 2008 - 6:04 am -
Makes me think of the majority of the resources/lesson plans that I have seen out there for my “Mass Media/Public Opinion” Unit I’m currently writing. I’m baffled as to how every single day doesn’t have some kind of interesting and engaging visual. Talk about a topic just begging to be taught beyond bulleted lists and lecture.
JoseOctober 18, 2008 - 8:15 am -
This is interesting. Frankly, for some reason, we’re running out of people who really know how to present. I feel that a lot of people know how to write compelling presentations on paper just so they can get credit for being a presenter at a conference. But once we get there, we often feel cheated by the whole process. As someone who’s been to a few and even presented at some, I can see where a lot of this knowledge would be useful for future presenters. I agree with Sam: this kind of list would be useful to future presenters.
dkzodyOctober 18, 2008 - 8:28 am -
You have hit the nail on its proverbial head, and this is the reason I attend almost NO conferences. Your experience is relived at all of them, and my time is way too valuable for such waste.
mattOctober 18, 2008 - 9:17 am -
For the most I agree, I have been to a few ed tech type conferences and have been disappointed. Frequently the only “good” presentation is the keynote or opening speaker. My job then is to make the best of it.
I think your expectations were (naively) too high. Giving good presentation is a highly specialized skill that is different than teaching. Really good presenters do it for a living and make big dollars. What you get at conference like ILC are not professional presenters, but a bunch of busy teachers giving a show and tell of something that works for them. Sure they use powerpoint poorly and are nervous and not as well prepared as you might expect or desire. But they have something that they think is working well enough to share. And they are basically giving this away to you.
Humor me with an analogy, conferences like this one are like an old school form of blogging. The amateur presenter makes an assertion of some kind (post) and attendees make meaning out of it through their conversation on the topic. If all you do is snark about the delivery I bet you didn’t get too much out of the conversation. (You did read that commencement speech DFW gave a few years back didn’t you? Give’em a break, they are trying.)
Sure the presenters could be better. Is that really the most interesting thing you can say about a few days you spent with the conference community? If so, I don’t think you were trying hard enough.
A. MercerOctober 18, 2008 - 10:25 am -
Well Dan, I did try to warn you, but I was ever so glad to meet you in person.
The talk I hear is that the Middle Schools Conference (conveniently located in Monterey) put on by both CUE (Computer Using Educators), Middle Schools, and High Schools group in December (http://www.clms.net/conferences/tech.htm) is more curriculum based, which I think you would appreciate, but I’m guessing the preso quality may be closer to the Math Conference at Asilomar, which your posts last year indicated was uneven. At least you’ll have content out of it?
This was a small conference, and that means that there is not as great a variety of topics, but it was MUCH better for networking in person. That is what I find invaluable about conferences. My husband has attended various types of transportation conferences for his job, and this seems to be a universal truth of conferences, it’s all about the meetings in the hallway with peers, and NOT the sessions (and I say that as a session presenter at ILC).
I’ll be doing my own reflection on ILC, and probably do a post with “advice” to a conference newbie like yourself (which is ridiculous considering I’ve only been doing this for like a year–but I’m a fast learner).
Lee KolbertOctober 18, 2008 - 12:11 pm -
Just wondering if you attended my session? :)
I found the same thing in some of the sessions I attended but also found that although the person presenting may not have been terribly engaging, the content of the presentation was extremely beneficial. I think as professionals, although its nice to be entertained, we are not only expected to aim our attention at the content but are expected to filter through the fluff to find it. That should be easy to do.
Now, having said that, I’m not referring to my presentation because I was of course, very entertaining, engaging AND offered a wealth of beneficial information.
BurtOctober 18, 2008 - 3:03 pm -
I’m sorry to hear that you were so disappointed with your experience at ILC. Unfortunately, reading your tweets during ILC, you did come across as a “punk kid out there in the audience, snarking about (the presenters) on his blog and on Twitter.” Now reading your blog, I have a more complete view of your opinion of the conference. However, I hope that you will take your suggestions a step further and provide feedback to the presenters. That way, when they present in the future, they will have better designed presentations and more empathy for the audience’s expectations. As your profile states, “You love to teach” and I hope that sentiment extends to other teachers.
And of course, I hope that you will present at future educational technology conferences. The topic of your presentation at CMC in Monterey looks like it would have benefited the ILC audience.
A. MercerOctober 18, 2008 - 3:12 pm -
Can I share Burt, that VERY little of the subject matter was “up Dan’s alley”. One great math session was not labeled well, and was at the same time as one of the few sessions it looks like he enjoyed on Digital Photography. Most of the other stuff that had his interest was at an intro level.
Dan, Burt is right about feedback, and I had one presenter ask me, and listen to my feedback on a subject up my alley (achievement gap), so most will listen. You may snark a bit on twitter, but you are generally polite via email or face-to-face.
Dan, you are far above the level of most of the presentations on film making that are being done, I would not bother with anything except one of the AFI trainings, or something by Marco Torres (I think you once snarked on one of his kids videos that had graduates complaining about how they couldn’t do film reports in college). Whatever you thought about that film, he seems to be having his kids do high quality work on the technical details. If you have Discovery Streaming, you can become a Star and sometimes they do things where you meet the folks that make their videos. I got to go to there Green Screen studio this summer at headquarters.
Joe WoodOctober 18, 2008 - 5:41 pm -
Along with Burt and Alice I hope you see you sharing your fantastic ideas at future conferences. You have lots to offer – especially for teachers who aren’t currently dy/dan blog readers. There were a few duds at ILC, but as Lee mentioned sometimes you just have to dig through so-so presentations for some good content.
danOctober 18, 2008 - 8:42 pm -
I’m obliged to my commenters for their criticism and pushback. My summary and response:
Shareski did. Maybe a little late. I’d blow off the sessions but I think I’d find convincing my district to part with funds so I could go meet up with my Internet buddies a little difficult.
Is this really the lens I have to wear to enjoy conferences? I don’t follow. These people weren’t forced to present. They volunteered. And not even in the sense that we teachers sometimes volunteer to speak at our staff meetings on something awesome we did with our classes that week. These people were paid to present. My district paid them cash and I paid them time and I’m not really sure why I should ignore the weak return on our investment.
In what should have been an unremarkable session at last year’s CMC-North, Tom Sallee, a math professor at UC Davis delivered his presentation sitting at a desk for an hour and a half, deploying nothing more than a few transparencies on an overhead projector.
His presentation was captivating in spite of its rudimentary illustration and dry delivery because he brought to our attention a) a compelling dilemma, b) an interesting solution to that dilemma, and c) a clear rendering of the failures and successes he encountered along the way.
Not every presentation can (or should) conform to this outline. But fourteen of eighteen presenters at ILC should have tossed the outline they thought mattered and started with one that forced them into their audience’s shoes, that forced them to wonder what their audience wondered.
Isn’t that kinda the essence of teaching? For teachers, for professionals, that shouldn’t have been so hard to do.
Scott McLeodOctober 18, 2008 - 10:56 pm -
Dan, I think you’re right. We need to start demanding better presentations from speakers, regardless of their background. Ineffective delivery drowns out the intended message. Keep on fighting the good fight!
I’m currently spending an hour a month with 13 eager grad students at ISU on effective presentation techniques. So far, so good. We’ll be using some of your materials in the months to come.
For next year’s UCEA Conference, I have sworn to submit a presentation proposal on ‘Really Bad Academic PowerPoint.’ We’ll see if it gets accepted!
Lee KolbertOctober 19, 2008 - 7:20 am -
re: “We need to start demanding better presentations from speakers, regardless of their background.”
How would we do this? and how would a conference go about screening their presenters for their speaking skills?
I’d love to go to a conference where all of the presentations are top-notch, but can’t imagine what the process for the conveners could look like.
Scott McLeodOctober 19, 2008 - 8:35 am -
@Lee Kolbert: Now isn’t that an interesting question!
When I wrote that, I was thinking that there needs to be a general upward adjustment in the overall expectations climate. Things that could facilitate this include:
1. Explicit mention of high expectations in proposal submission materials, accompanied by links to helpful resources and examples. Examples of what NOT to do could send a strong message!
2. Better feedback mechanisms for poor presenters, again with helpful resources and examples for next time. Wouldn’t it be cool if instead of being polite and wasting their time, more folks simply got up and left in the middle of a bad presentation? This happens some but not enough. Better evaluation forms and return of aggregated evaluation data to speakers afterward…
Could we institute a litmus test pre-proposal acceptance? That’s a question worth some more thought and discussion. One thing we could do is some legwork ahead of time regarding applicants’ past presentations. For example, I sat through a brilliant academic’s horrible presentation: great on paper, awful live. Later I found out that everyone (but me, apparently) knew he was a terrible speaker. Why did he even get invited to keynote by the conference conveners in the first place?! This would be hard to do the bigger the conference got (e.g., NECC).
Thanks for the interesting question. I’ll be thinking about this all day, I’m sure!
Dean ShareskiOctober 19, 2008 - 12:08 pm -
Maybe these questions should be on every proposal form:
1. Why should I give a crap about your presentation?
2. Are you boring? Can I ask your students?
sylvia martinezOctober 19, 2008 - 12:14 pm -
@Scott – I like where you are going, and I think you have identified two of the issues. I think more is needed than helpful presentation hints. Anyone with Google can find a million helpful tips. And a litmus test? That flies in the face of human behavior.
I see this is a three-pronged problem. Yes, presentations need to be better AND the selection process needs to be better. But the third point not being talked about is that trade show demographics may make this impossible.
The second point is a particularly hard one. How are you going to make people say what they think? Even Dan, a notoriously outspoken blogger, didn’t name names. He thought 14 of 18 sessions were bad, but didn’t name them, nor the four he thought were worth it. Of course not, he doesn’t want to look like a mean guy. Who does? Most of us wouldn’t do it either, unless we are being asked by a friend.
How does that help anyone make a decision about going or not going to see these presenters? But there’s no way that I would ask Dan to name names, except in private, and even then he might not choose to tell me everything he thought. So how would the “next” conference organizer ever find out what Dan (and everyone else) really thinks? How would a session goer find out?
Most conference evaluation instruments are not well constructed, and the data not well used. And how does this co-exist with a blind selection process? It doesn’t!
Conference presentations are selected by a method that has its roots in academia, and it doesn’t work. I wrote about this here
Finally, the third point — most conferences like this that are trade show/conference combos attract about 50% newcomers. That’s why the sessions called, “Fifty Free Fabulous Web Sites” will outdraw more thoughtful sessions EVERY time. We (meaning those of us who have actually heard of Google) can lament this, but we can’t deny it.
The few that catch the fever and come back for more, or actually change their practice (imagine that!) are not going to want to sit through that again, and will eventually stop going to sessions. They’ve taken the first step into a new way of thinking.
It seems to me that the big question is where people go and what people do that helps them with that second, third, or tenth step. Since the numbers of these people aren’t as large as the newcomers (think of a funnel), a trade show is not going to be effective. It’s just the wrong place.
Scott McLeodOctober 19, 2008 - 12:27 pm -
So we’re comfortable rating products and corporations but not individual persons or presentations, is that it? We’re okay making lists of great posts or Delicious bookmarks or blogrolls but only for the positive, not the negative?
Nobody wants to be ‘mean.’ This means that 1) poor presenters don’t get the feedback they should, and 2) the rest of us either have to cross our fingers that we get lucky or only go to presenters who have been rated ‘Great!’ because all the rest are unknowns and might be terrible. Hmmm…
If I give a bad presentation (or class), I want to know about it so I can fix it. Don’t we think (most) other people do too?
I’d love to see a site with live ratings/reviews of NECC sessions as they occur (and afterward)…
sylvia martinezOctober 19, 2008 - 12:43 pm -
“So we’re comfortable rating products and corporations but not individual persons or presentations, is that it? We’re okay making lists of great posts or Delicious bookmarks or blogrolls but only for the positive, not the negative?” – Scott
We aren’t comfortable rating ANYTHING in education! How many bad educational software reviews have you ever seen? “Oh, they mean well” is not an excuse for bad educational practice.
Dean ShareskiOctober 19, 2008 - 5:39 pm -
Do you think the ratio of bad presentations at conference correlates to the number of bad teachers in schools?
Lee KolbertOctober 19, 2008 - 6:09 pm -
@Dean -No. Although someone may be a bad presenter, I don’t believe that translates to being a bad teacher. As a matter of fact, I would venture to guess the opposite. That it takes a really good teacher to a) venture out and attend conferences in the first place and b) to be willing to share with others in their field. Being able to present clearly and effectively is quite a task that takes practice. Presenting to adults is not the same as teaching students.
It would be a good idea to provide feedback to presenters and yes, Scott, I think most like the feedback and adjust accordingly. I know I do. BUT, I don’t think a live rating site would be a good idea at all. I think new presenters would be intimidated and it would prevent them from venturing out. Don’t you think people would tend to “vote” only when they have something negative to say anyway?
I think if we push out the not-so-perfect, we’d end up seeing the same people presenting all the time. These would be the people who already have a “following” or are already well known. I for one, am tired of hearing Mr. WinterName’s same presentations. I appreciate new blood. Even if the experience isn’t so perfect.
Not everyone is so thick-skinned but that doesn’t mean feedback can’t be handled more discreetly and tactfully.
Not to aim this at anyone in particular (because I’m guilty of this myself) but I think sometimes we forget what it’s like to be new at something and its easy to be overly critical.
danOctober 19, 2008 - 8:07 pm -
Am I alone in my sticker shock? This wasn’t some potluck dinner we just attended. Or a middle school track meet where everyone gets a medal for showing up. Cash and ideas were transacted here. The ideas, in particular, will have direct and lasting effect on our students.
So who, again, benefits when we withhold negative feedback?
I’ve written and deleted some form of this comment three times since yesterday. The through-line is this: in this particular job what right do we have to our own egos?
Each of our ideas and opinions and methods exists on a continuum between mediocre and meritorious and if we are ever going to help each other from one point to the other, it won’t be with comments that begin, “That’s an interesting point but in my opinion ….”
I would rather someone approached my ideas and opinions and methods directly, outlining their disagreements clearly, without regard to my emotional attachment to them. Because that emotional attachment is what makes me a flabby, stubborn educator.
JoeOctober 19, 2008 - 8:35 pm -
Emotional attachment to our ideas is what makes us human. I would agree that no one benefits if all that is given is positive feedback or no feedback at all. However, feedback is most useful when it is constructive. If I don’t know you and after my presentation you come up to me and say, “Your presentation sucked because….” I imagine a few thoughts would pop into my mind. These might include, “Who’s this guy and what makes him the official expert?” Immediately, I would be turned off to any feedback you might provide, regardless of its quality, because you dismissed the emotional connection to my idea. Since it was originally my idea, chances are I feel quite strongly about it.
On the other hand, if you were to approach me after a session and say, “Hey I liked what you had to say about such-and-such, but have you ever thought about…” I would probably be a heck of a lot more receptive to what you have to say. Chances are I would also improve future presentations by incorporating your ideas. The only difference is that you validated the emotional connection to my idea and treated me as an equal.
Perhaps I am a “flabby, stubborn educator,” but I have found that few moments of graciousness can go a long way towards providing effective, constructive feedback.
sylvia martinezOctober 19, 2008 - 11:08 pm -
You may have paid cash to attend, but the session presenters weren’t on the other end of that transaction.
Maybe the only ones that deserve intense scrutiny and public critique are keynoters, since they are paid to deliver something special.
We’re all used to seeing restaurant reviews, but when you go to your friend’s house, you probably don’t tell them the pasta was overcooked and the dessert tasted like a Twinkie. Plus, we read these reviews in publications who hire and manage critics who supposedly have some expertise and no vested interest.
There is no such edited publication for education, especially ed-tech. All the major trade publications are bought and paid for by advertising, so there’s obviously a point of view that comes along with that.
danOctober 20, 2008 - 8:34 am -
Sylvia, is it of no consequence that the session presenters’ fees are waived?
Joe, obviously tact is essential, especially in a face-to-face interaction. But what I’m really driving at, what really scares me, is the intellectual equivalence we’ve built into the dialogue on education, particularly on these blogs of ours, particularly in this culture of participatory media where everyone gets a medal for showing up and showing off their podcast.
You’re a good sport for hanging with my exhaustive rant this long so I’ll keep the rest brief. What concerns me most isn’t some difference between my opinion and a presenter’s, something I could approach her with, couch in a compliment, and then walk away from.
What concerns me most is the lack of diligence on the part of people who have voluntarily submitted their work (for compensation) to a place where diligence matters. It’s galling that these people haven’t availed themselves of the vast Internet stores of free information on presentation technique. It’s frightening that these people likely dozed through dozens of presentations themselves and then when it was their turn to submit work to a place where diligence matters, didn’t bother to ask themselves, “would I enjoy this?”
I don’t know where to start with that. Especially with educators, where we should expect better.
kenOctober 20, 2008 - 8:55 am -
@ Dan: “emotional attachment is what makes me a flabby, stubborn educator,” you say.
Well I guess I was a pooh-y educator when I used to tell my students, “I’ve been Mr. Rodoff for x years but Ken for thirty.”
This whole dialogue makes me feel like I have a right to demand more adroit, high-skilled professional baseball players.
Or an increase in better business people.
No one should be average. Maybe I’ll go read some Vonnegut. I love ‘Harrison Bergeron’.
But then I remind myself that not everyone is good at everything. That some people, pardon, are the epitome of suction.
So they chose to present, but I’d have to agree with Scott that there needs to be some process to trim the superfluous fat.
A selection committee that ‘allows’ / ‘chooses’ people to speak at a conference is no different than teachers continually assigning over-inflated grades for pooh-filled work.
sylvia martinezOctober 20, 2008 - 9:04 am -
Dan – I was just proposing a compromise about who to critique in public. Even with a waived registration, most presenters are still paying to attend, or in the same boat as most attendees, as most have their expenses paid by their employer.
And yes, we should expect better. The question is… is there a way to engineer such an outcome?
Jon BeckerOctober 20, 2008 - 2:39 pm -
Sylvia, what’s wrong with Twinkies?
mattOctober 20, 2008 - 2:49 pm -
I don’t have specific knowledge of ILC. But if it is like similar conferences then very few of the presenters “get paid” to present.
As sylvia martinez said, usually only the keynote gets any real money. The rest of the presenters just get their registration fees waived.
And of course, here in lies one of the problems.
Who is making money from education conferences? The venues and most of the money they make comes from rooms and meals. So the venue will let almost anyone present, ’cause each presenter still earns them money. And teachers come to these things for many reasons and the presentations are frequently not the main reason. So a conference with a lot of dead wood is often still successful.
I know it is shocking, but some teachers look forward to going to conferences as “paid vacations” of a sort. I know one conference around here is very popular because a) timing – three of four weeks before Christmas, b) location – close to a major shopping areas, c) cost – the school will pay for it, and d) easy – you can go to one session and have that satisfy a teacher growth goal.
I wish the presentations as a whole were better too, but I just don’t see it happening. But there are always one or two that are great.
I learned about delicious at the conference I mentioned above. That changed my life. Yes learning that one thing was worth 2.5 days.
A. MercerOctober 20, 2008 - 5:43 pm -
@Matt: There are folks who get paid (modestly) other than the Keynotes. I filled in for someone doing a paid workshop. I’m sure it varies, but there was a stipend, and travel and hotel were supposed to be covered for that (it might have just been the arrangement my friend had?). I imagine they are VERY picky about who they have do that, because if I wasn’t filling in for someone else, I wouldn’t have been doing it at ILC.
I wonder what other educational conferences are like? I have never attended one because I’d have to pay my freight, and that was never possible or palatable until I was going to have the chance to meet folks I only know online. When I taught in a regular elementary class, I always wanted to go to the math conference that Dan will be presenting at. He now tells me that I might have some of the “just right” session problems because a lot of it is pretty high level stuff.
I just received a link to a Google form survey from CUE about ILC, did anyone else get this, or is it only for CUE or CUE Ning community members?
ColetteOctober 20, 2008 - 9:22 pm -
I attended the conference and I read a lot of blogs. I am intrigued by the differences between your blog, Dan and the blog of Joe Wood on that topic. One might think that the two of you attended very different conferences.
Toni Morrison talked about the transaction between readers and writers in her Nobel Prize address in 1993 (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1993/morrison-lecture.html). Her point, in an oversimplified nutshell, is that readers and writers hold equal responsibility in creating meaning.
I think the same holds true for presentations. Presenters don’t hold all of the responsibility in creating meaningful presentations. Those attending have to do their part. And quite frankly, I found behavior of the audiences pretty appalling. I don’t think any of us would tolerate tweeting, surfing and conversing during our classes by our students. In fact, I think we’d find it pretty difficult to muster the level of enthusiasm and energy needed for a dynamic presentation.
I appreciated reading Joe’s blog entries because he looks to make meaning from his experiences. His cogent, professional and gracious entries about the conference provide a useful reference to highlights and a model for professionalism.
I’m glad I attended the conference Joe went to because otherwise I’d be sad that I spent nearly $295, 9 hours of commuting time, 2 class days out of class, 1 testing day, and 5 hours catching up on work.
Scott McLeodOctober 21, 2008 - 1:02 am -
Colette, I appreciate your thoughtful comment and I think that it’s neat when folks like Joe put a lot into their conference attendance and then share it with others.
That said, however, I still lean toward Seth Godin on this one:
“If your target audience isn’t listening, it’s not their fault, it’s yours. If one story isn’t working, change what you do, not how loudly you yell (or whine).” (Small Is the New Big, p. 14)
Lee KolbertOctober 21, 2008 - 1:46 am -
I think our interpretation of what is rude needs to be updated. Aren’t we advocating for teaching students the way they need to learn? Students are multi-taskers and yet we force them to comply to our linear view of how they should learn.
Is tweeting and conversing really not paying attention? Who’s to say that because I’m tweeting, that I’m not engaged? I’d say the opposite is true. If I’m tweeting during a presentation, I’m reaching out to others who may or may not be present, sharing the content with them, offering my take on it and encouraging them to converse with me (giving me more to think about).
Is the conversing also rude? I believe if people are distracting or loud, yes. But, how many times have you turned to the person next to you to ask a relevant question or make an engaged comment?
As for surfing, I’ve been known to “surf” during a presentation to check on facts and to refer to sites mentioned in the conversation.
Perhaps we need to not just SAY what new learning looks like, but “forgive” it when we see it.
sylvia martinezOctober 21, 2008 - 7:56 am -
The difference between Joe Woods blog posts and Dan’s actually help make this issue clearer. Dan’s posts were a critique. Joe’s contain uncritical reporting. There’s a place for both.
I agree with Scott, however, and think you have misinterpreted Toni Morrison. There is no responsibility of a reader to appreciate and praise writing that does not resonate with them. It’s nice, however, when a good critic can explain why or why not.
Criticism is not bad behavior.
Jason DyerOctober 21, 2008 - 8:16 am -
Is the conversing also rude? I believe if people are distracting or loud, yes.
Yes, you may be able to multitask and talk about the presentation with your friend at the same time it is being presented and be able to concentrate. But it is rude to presume the other person next to you has the same capability.
I don’t see this equally an issue with Twitter or liveblogging, though.
JoeOctober 21, 2008 - 9:34 am -
Now I know why I was getting so many hits on my ILC posts! :-)
Yes, the purpose of my blog and Dan’s blog is very different. My blog has always been used as a tool to share information. This comes from it’s original mission to be used as a tool for sharing ideas with the teachers at three sites where I was somehow supposed to be a tech coach for everyone in just two free periods. It has continued to be a place for sharing ideas. I tend to limit the critique because I always felt it distracted from my original mission of trying to get teachers who were using no technology with their students to use some. However, as someone who is personally beyond that phase I appreciate critique blog like Dan’s.
Last week my goal was to share ideas I picked up at ILC even if they were ideas I was already using. I was writing for my readers not for me. There were sessions that were awful (about 4 out of the 15 or so sessions I attended) in terms of style and engagement, but all of them had some useful content. I thought
it was important to reflect that. I also had issues with a couple of statements made by certain presenters, but I shared those either in person or through that person’s blog.
Yes, as a presenter my registration fee was waived, however I don’t consider myself or the other concurrent session presenters more that appreciated volunteers. I know it’s tough getting people to present who aren’t trying to sell a product. To make conferences better every single person on this comment thread should be submitting proposals to present on a regular basis and signing up to review proposals. One of my friends just had to review and rate couple hundred CUE proposals the other night.
On the topic of computing while listening, I don’t consider you rude if you’re blogging, Twittering, or Facebooking while I’m speaking as long as you give me a little eye contact and feedback. If you are all looking at your screens I start to wonder if I’m bombing. :-)
danOctober 21, 2008 - 4:41 pm -
I’m a little surprised to find the argument that “if the audience is bored then it needs to engage more” arising from the ashes of the Innovative Learning Conference. (Emphasis on “Innovative Learning.”)
My sympathy for this argument is edged further away by the fact that the school change movement is founded (in part) on the observation that our kids are bored and, as educators, that’s on us. Also, as I said in the post proper, if I can engage an antipathetic, compulsory audience, why can’t presenters do more to engage a sympathetic, voluntary audience?
I’ll stop dogging the ILC presenters shortly but it’s worth mentioning that the only handouts I received were PowerPoint print-outs, the sort of supplement that quickly lines recycling bins after sessions.
Well-designed handouts offer a place for the audience to engage with the content, to journal, or draw, or reflect, or read tables that are too dense for PowerPoint, all the tasks the presenters should have assigned us if they didn’t want us Tweeting away.