Redesigned: Darren Draper

Darren Draper posts a slide for review:

Michelle Baldwin, dissenting from the comments:

In considering Dan Meyer’s arguments, I don’t really agree with him. At all. It’s all about finding the “right” photo to enhance the text.

Is that what presentation is all about? Witty aphorisms and inspiring photos?

You have a thesis. Let’s assume there are very real, really real real-world implications to your thesis. Why not cut to that chase? Why make an abstract matter like edutechnology even more abstract with dramatic photography and 140-character pullquotes from your Twitter feed?

  1. Show me something real.
  2. Give me a space to interact with it.
  3. Let me have your thoughts on it.

In this case, if learning really is social, please show me examples of that social learning. Or show me examples of how dangerous it is when that learning is taken out of a social context. If you find it difficult to connect your thesis to video or screenshots or sound clips (“multimedia,” basically) then it’s possible you are chasing down the wrong thesis or that your thesis doesn’t lend itself to a presentation mediumI caught David Jakes’ Black Coffee presentation on Slideshare last week and was impressed that something like 95% of its 63 slides were screenshots, archival photos, YouTube videos, newspaper clippings, etc., etc. Jakes had done his groundwork..

I like that Darren modified the stock photography (adding the “Learning Is Social” placard) to connect it better to his thesis than the average stock photo slide but I wonder if we’re approaching the question, “What is presentation?” along two different vectors.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. I agree with your comments, Dan, but I’m not sure “Redesigned” should be in the title of this post. Perhaps dissected, analyzed, criticized, given ideas for how it could be redesigned, but I was hoping for a before and after when I saw redesigned. It’s not too big of a deal, but I was hoping to see some of your magic.

  2. We meet again, ever working to understand and perfect the “presentation”.

    Depending on how you define “Give me the space to interact”, that’s really what I try to do when designing a slide. Just like in any piece of content, be it music, video or text, you don’t want to overuse any element for fear it loses its impact. There is no loud if you never have quiet. So I’m not going to create a presentation full of this type of slide.

    However, when I use the slide quote it hopefully is done to bring out what I think are the key or salient concepts. While I’m no expert in cognitive load theory, I do try to consider that and provide a certain amount of dissonance with a useful metaphor that will allow the ideas to stick. In this sense, that’s the space of interaction I’m thinking of.

    Maybe you see it differently.

  3. You know, Dan, I think we are riding two different vectors here.

    When you discuss “presentation,” you seem to be inferring that along with image comes external discussion – kind of like the discussion that can take place while giving a presentation. For example, haven’t you found Jakes’ slides to be great because he is able to orally elaborate on their content?

    On the other hand, when I’ve posted these “slides” to my blog posts, I’ve had a different purpose. My sole purpose in adding them has been to serve as a garnish (parsley, if you will) to attract people’s attention to what I have written. In an attempt to make my posts stand out from other bloggers’ posts in my readers’ aggregators, I’ve consistently tried to include an image or video that related to the content I’ve written – something with pizzazz, that jumped out at my readers, possibly sucking them in to reading what I have written. Adding quotes and inspirational thoughts to the images has only seemed to help me in my cause.

  4. @Darren:

    I don’t mind seeing these visuals in a blog post because I have a little more license to dodge around them than in a conference presentation. So if that’s working for you, Darren, then go in peace, my blessings, etc.

    I seem to find these endorsed most often as presentation aids, though, so …


    I don’t mind still images at all. I’m not advocating exclusively video or exclusively audio. I’m advocating the real over the fake. I realize that people can interact very well with an abstract simulation of a real thing. I’m just suggesting that they can interact even more meaningfully with the real thing itself.

  5. @Dan

    I think there can be a nice balance of abstract and real. However, I’m moving much more to using my own images, videos and other “stuff” because they are real, at least real to me and I can speak to them much more passionately even if they lack the polish and finish of a professionally done artifact.

    I’m trying to avoid “gloss” for gloss sake.

    Maybe defining “real” a bit more might be useful. If by real you mean, literal or direct, again I think that can be very powerful but I also think there are times when dissonance and abstraction can be useful as well. But you’re right when you say it can be overdone and overused.

  6. Generally, when I’m taken somewhat out of context, I tend to ignore it– but it’s obvious I need to clarify something.

    If you had posted the entirety of my comment on Darren’s blog (or did you read anything past the point where I said I didn’t agree with you?), you would have noted that the rest of what I wrote spoke more to the power of images with minimal or no text than “witty aphorisms and inspiring photos.”

    When I think about using images and text with people of any age, I consider the audience, and how that image might provoke thoughtful reflection and discussion. I try to avoid the typical over-hyped windbag-on-a-stage that students and educators experience in most “presentations.” It’s more about the audience and their own discovery and learning than it is about what I, or any other present, might bestow upon them.

  7. Michelle Baldwin: When I think about using images and text with people of any age, I consider the audience, and how that image might provoke thoughtful reflection and discussion. I try to avoid the typical over-hyped windbag-on-a-stage that students and educators experience in most “presentations.”

    I take no exception to any of that but I fail to see how a) the quote/photo genre and especially b) the quote/abstract-stock-photo genre lay claim to that kind of interaction. Why still images at all? I don’t care if it’s a still image or a video or a sound clip or a handout or something scrawled on the back of a paper sack. It needs to connect as directly as possible to the real experience of teachers. Abstraction is a distraction. I wish I could believe this was just a matter of taste.

  8. All I can say to that, Dan, is that I have been an educator for 15 years of both children and adults (I’m currently in Prof Dev but moving back to the classroom next fall). In MY experience, I have had much success using images, videos… whatever… within a presentation or class as a SUPPLEMENTAL piece to the lesson. Whether it’s a break from an activity or a transition to the next concept, my audiences appreciate the time they’re given to absorb the concept of the image and then discuss what it means to them.

    Of course it needs to connect to the audience. I don’t pull some stray image and slap a quote on it for aesthetics only. AND- taking into consideration the immense number of images humans encounter on a daily basis, I like the fact that my audience has a chance to think and process what images mean to us now.

    Check with someone like Meg Ormiston who uses digital stories in her presentations so effectively- whether with children or adults- and tell me that this is too abstract.

    “Why not cut to the chase?” Because different people process at different rates… and sometimes the journey to that discovery is where the real learning is found.

  9. Perhaps we are talking about image or video authenticity. Sure, we can go on some stock photo or video site and use such media in our lessons, but isn’t that similar to simply using the images from our textbook?

    As Dean said, when we take our own picture or make our own video then “they are real, at least real to [us] and [we] can speak to them much more passionately even if they lack the polish and finish of a professionally done artifact.” When students see something they recognize like a local store front or landmark, then perhaps they may intrinsically become more interested in an open discussion about that image or video because they have, perhaps, personal experience about that thing to build a mathematical structure upon.

    Stock photos and videos, even those from textbooks, save the teacher time, but at what cost.

    Maybe we need to start making stock photo and video sites for every local community so teachers can save that time later to pull local images and videos as needed. However, this may not yet be practical. One can dream though.

  10. I can’t seem to find much more on Meg Ormiston than some workshop descriptions. If you have a link to anything more substantive than that, I’m interested.

    In MY experience, I have had much success using images, videos… whatever… within a presentation or class as a SUPPLEMENTAL piece to the lesson.

    Let’s just call it “multimedia,” then, and I’m thrilled to hear you don’t have any particular prejudice against media that isn’t still imagery. But how else would multimedia be used in a presentation if not supplementarily? What is your misapprehension about how I use multimedia in presentation?

    I try to curate media in my presentations that begs a question so loudly that I don’t (usually) have to ask it. And then I inflect it as little as possible. I try to remove myself as much as possible from the process, asking questions, facilitating discussion, nudging not pushing.

    But these abstract visual metaphors are pushy. They impose the presenter’s will on the audience’s learning process. Instead of asking “what do you think about this real-world, high-bandwidth problem?” they ask “what do you think about what I think about this simulation of a real-world, high-bandwidth problem?”

  11. I think we’re back to “keeping it real” here in this conversation again. And by keeping it real, I’m referring to what we do as teachers/presenters for the learner.

    With that in mind, I think it’s very important to continually consider what is being learned when we are teaching – you know, examine the environment we are creating for the learner(s) from their point of view.

    If there’s anything that distracts from or is irrelevant to the message we are attempting to bring across as the teacher (whether it be content within a stock photo, unrelated video, or even noise in the hallway), then most likely the extraneous should be shunned. Refusal on the part of the teacher to eliminate noise does nothing but disservice to the student.

    Keep it real – which is far easier said than done, considering the wide range of our audience (also which, I believe, is Michelle and Dean’s point).