Category Archives: Presenting

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Squirrels In My Pants

I did a presentation the other day on how one might use the Promethean software to do some interesting things with video. I don’t think the software is essential to do any of this but it did make it pretty easy and we already have it on all our computers and all our student computers. In any case, I used the video above to demo a few easy things for kids to do using screenshots from virtually any video.

Yes, it did make my kids’ day to use a Fineas and Ferb song about squirrels in someone’s pants. I’m not sure what the teachers thought of it but sometimes you have to amuse yourself.

Simplest- Visual Answers

Take video screenshots to answer questions. Easy but a different level of involvement with the video. Depending on the questions this could be low level stuff or something more sophisticated.

You could do simple things like ID the protagonist. Or you could ask harder questions like- Capture the most dramatic frame in the video.

Summarize or Cartoonize

Using simple screenshots you can add word balloons to summarize the video or just use the frame captures as fodder for comics in general. You can make it more complex by adding restrictions (see below) – things like you have to summarize the video in only four frames and 6 lines of poetry. Stuff like that. It can make things more interesting and done with the right examples it could even be at least amusing.

Scary Mary Plot Reversal

The still picture version of a Scary Mary type plot reversal. Simple stuff, I know.

Time Intervals

This is a rough and dirty way to do something similar to what Dan Meyer did with the basketball shot image (at least for the still portion). Essentially, you just hit the frame capture tool at semi-regular intervals and then lay the images over the top and mess with the transparency some. Not super, but really easy and all done in one program that we have and people use.

My example used Angry Birds. I don’t think it was the best choice. I think the basketball shot Dan uses is more interesting to most students- especially if you are the one taking the shot.


Once again, I’m just trying to find ways for teachers/students to mimic stuff Dan Meyer is doing but with as little tech knowledge as possible. I saw his use of an embedded timer in his falling rocks series. That is one nice aspect of the way the Promethean software works. I can add all sorts of useful objects from a built in library- the timer being one, grid overlays are another (it’ll default underneath objects, you can set it to the topmost level under object properties).

The main goal with all this is just to show that it doesn’t have to be hard. We can use simple software and simple ideas to do some pretty interesting things with students. All of our students have this software yet usage still tends to focus on duplicating things you might as well do in PPT.

Introducing Randomness


I had a great time at UMW’s Faculty Academy. Got to meet a number of people face to face for the first time which is always interesting.

I was lucky enough to be able to present as a plenary speaker1 as well. After being repeatedly told to “bring my A game” I had completely psyched myself out. In direct retaliation I decided to introduce as many elements of “randomness” as I could into this presentation.2 I’m not necessarily arguing that all three made the presentation better but it did make it more interesting to me and I think they did add some interesting elements for the audience.

Element One

The day before the presentation I had already come up with two slide decks with two very different themes. One, had tattoos as the visual element because I thought the idea of things people were willing to have jabbed into their skin with needles made for an interesting visual theme. The other presentation was based around the danse macbre woodcuts from the Black Plague. Neither one did quite what I wanted and the macabre one was too depressing even for me.

So I decided to do a version of Deck Wars/Battle Decks. Essentially, I sent out an open call to Twitter requesting images.

Punish me. Send me url to any image & i will use in presentation tomorrow at #umw #masochist #ds106 #begging

The idea was to have no control over which images were chosen and then to use all of the images in the presentation. I did get a variety of very odd images but did not manage to use every one. A PDF of the presentation with some rough notes is here. The notes may have something to do with what I said but, then again, they may not.

Some facts about the images-

  • 24 of 36 submitted images were used
  • 1 image advocated snorting cocaine
  • 1 image discouraged snorting bacon salt (not submitted by the same people oddly enough)
  • 2 images had profanity (1 was used in the presentation)
  • 28% of the images included animals
  • 47% of the images included humans

Element Two

I didn’t present until 2:00 so I went around in the morning and interviewed a few people. I then cut up the video to include in the presentation. This worked out pretty well and I like the end result, audio aside3. I think this kind of tight turn around using people known to the audience can be a unique and powerful way to snapshot certain conversations. I believe the immediacy makes the end product seem more pertinent and I hope it inspires some people to realize they can make video less of a monumental task while still being able to use it in a powerful way.

Element Three

I had the groups talk in groups at the table and then had the tables submit the top 3 ways that student skills seemed to be deteriorating via a Google Form. My plan was then to put this into a word cloud and break down what aspects of the standardized testing mentality created these issues. Part one and two worked well but for some reason my end goal slipped my mind and I didn’t explain how we got to those problems at all. I think in part because I didn’t ask people to stick to short phrases and the tag cloud ended up being messier than I would have liked. I should have used something from ManyEyes and done something more sophisticated (like what I embedded below). This should have been the best and most important element had I not botched it. Basically, I ended up doing what I had intended to do here in the workshop on the next day.

If you share my masochistic tendencies, the full presentation is below. I’ll warn you I start off rough but do improve some.

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1 I had to look it up. It’s Higher Ed speak for “Second Tier Keynoter.”

2 Amateur psychologists please feel free to run with what that indicates about my personality.

3 Reasonable, non-frightening mic will be ordered soon. Recommendations for a DSLR mic?

Miami-Dade Workshop 6-11-09

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Picking Up Gauntlets is Heavy Work

So Dan threw down a challenge as he tends to do. I did the easy part but also felt I should do some critiquing to maintain some credibility in my own mind.

I’m taking a shot at how I might change Ms. Mercer’s Powerpoint presentation. The main thing that made this difficult is I don’t know what she says during this presentation and that stops me from really considering how I might change things more fundamentally. So the following is given in the hope of providing helpful and positive feedback for Ms. Mercer. Please excuse any mistakes I make while attempting to determine intent.


Here are the two title slides. Ms. Mercer’s slide will always be on top.

I found that slide to be a little heavy and dark for my tastes and wanted to go with something similarly humorous but a little cleaner. I found a warning slide about killer electricity and dropped the background in Keynote using the Alpha Channel tool1


Here I’m just simplifying. If I’m going to be out there talking, I don’t feel I need any more specifics than this. I might drop the slide altogether.

I’d probably use this slide to get the audience talking about why they use presentations. Get some top answers and then move on with what I’d bill as pedagogically and brain based rationales for using presentation software2


I’m sure Ms. Mercer has a story to go with the chair image but I couldn’t figure it out (which might be a good thing). I like the chairs- the colors are interesting. I’m not sure the rationale for having the flickr rating in the image.

I opted for these crazy looking poodles. I might opt to make this an animation slide starting with a small picture of an innocent looking poodle and mentioning that I’m terrified of poodles. I’d ask the room who else might be scared of poodles then switch to these crazy looking animals and say that visual support is often essential to proving one’s point.

I like the image because it’s dramatic and with or without the story it’s fairly humorous to see poodles as scary (at least to me).


The kids are cute but the image is blurry. I’m not sure it gets to the point I’m guessing is being made- which is that PPT is a good way record pair shares and story talks.

I went with something fairly simple. Mic = record. I didn’t really even want to limit it to pair shares and story talks but just emphasize that the software does a good job recording things in various ways. The image is mine and was used partially out of laziness and partially because it was in the image bank in my head as something that would fit. It’s not bad, but there are better ones out there.


Ms. Mercer now had a few slides in a row of ways to use this to capture and display student work.

I opted for the idea of presentation as refrigerator. You know, the place you put up the great work your kids bring home. You could also use it as a digital bulletin board. That type of thing. I might show some pieces of student work. I’m not solidly sold on this concept as I’m interpreting it but, once again, I don’t have the full story.


Here the idea is that to make good presentations you need a solid, recognizable goal. I didn’t like this shot because the goal was kind of hard to make out and I am in VA so a hockey goal would be somewhat confusing3. The blur and the brightness of the background didn’t help things but that may be my wannabe photographer self coming out.

I’m not sure I’d keep the text here or in the previous slide but I left it in to keep things a little more in line with what Ms. Mercer’s original line of thought appeared to be. Once again, this is one of my own shots chosen out of semi-laziness. I just wanted a clear, fairly plain picture of a goal. That’s all.


I was fine with this picture. I don’t love it but I’ve got no issues.

I ended up just putting up the word plan. I initially had blueprints. I then went with a picture of Hannibal from the A-Team4 and then finally I did a hand made drawing with the vector stuff in Keynote to do a bunch of loops ending in a red X. I didn’t like any of them that much so I just went with plain. It’s ok.

This was another decent picture and I liked the goal. I just found the scaffolding harder to make out because of the color and pixelation of the image.

I went with something I felt was a little more dramatic. I like how this image allowed you to clearly see what the scaffolding was supporting. The imagine did not initially fill the page, so I took a quick screen shot of the outter left edge and copy/pasted it until it filled in with the solid gray that it now has.


Here I felt the Bloom’s diagram was too complex for people to get anything out of it. I’d include it on a hand out if I felt it was key to the final understanding. I figure the main point is to talk about higher order thinking skills . . . so I used the mountain shot. I played around with some meditation shots and probably would have used one if it had been decent. I was going to make it look like the kid was hovering a good bit off the ground but the shots all would have taken a fair amount of work to crop out the background and I am doing this for free in spare time after all.


From here on I skipped around a bit and went to slides I felt a little more strongly about redesigning. Doing this, especially this way, takes some serious time and effort. Seriously.

So the first image didn’t really say feedback to me. It looked more like a teacher telling students stuff but that could be because of my own deeply buried educational baggage.

I thought about it for a while and decided a Post-it style note symbolized feedback to me. To get this I used the note feature in Keynote and then just took a screenshot of it and put it in as an image. Simple, easy, quick. Fairly acceptable visual result.


Here’s one where I think what I did actually makes something of a difference. Ms. Mercer is talking about quality vs quantity. She uses the rose as her analogy which I think works for some but not all. My bet is that everyone can relate to cupcakes. So here is one small, beautiful cupcake sitting in lonely isolation. It is clearly a work of art. That’s also probably what I’d say when showing the slide.

It was set small and isolated on purpose. It’s meant to be. If you made it larger you’d be ruining the point. This is one small, exquisitely crafted thing.


The problem Ms. Mercer was having was that some people were saying they liked this yard better than the rose. So I’m working the inner guilt path. Even if someone would rather eat the 15 or so odd horrific looking snack cakes here, they know that the quality of the single cupcake is superior and a better choice. The few who will definitely say they prefer the mass of junk will really only reinforce the point- it’s better to have students work on making superior products than to have them churn out masses of garbage.


I think the marine guy would be usable if you had him on video saying something nice but in a drill sergeant’s voice. The text gets too confusing as it is with the other competing visual elements.

I changed the statement to some extent to reflect the way I see visual design. It is what you’re saying and how you say it. This would give me a brief chance to talk about color and font. I don’t know if I’d have to be this heavy handed. It actually hurt me to make this slide but anything in the name of ending the scourge of bad fonts.


I changed Ms. Mercer’s original photo so the top one is one I put back roughly the way it was. I’d use the fact that it doesn’t initially follow the rule of thirds and just show how you can enlarge and shift it some so that it becomes a stronger photo. Looking at it now, I might even move it farther to the left.

If the people know you I’d keep this for sure. If not, I’d probably go with another photo or mention that it’s your son explicitly and that you took the photo to get that emotional linkage going. Photo wise, it looks like the background is actually in focus and your son is slightly out of focus.

So there’s my $1.50 worth of comments and at least a few alternate ways of looking at the presentation visually. My guesses could be way off but they were done with a pure heart and for the good of the cause. Hope they do something good for you and maybe for someone else out there.

1 This aspect of Keynote alone makes me so happy it’s hard to verbalize. Sad but true.

2 I do some stuff on neuroscience and presentation so that’s probably why I want to go into that channel so readily.

3 That is opposed to my hometown of Hunstville, AL- the hockey capital of the south (really).

4 The “I love it when a plan comes together” guy. I have to keep a close watch on my own odd sense of humor in most of my presentation.


Information Fluency Presentation-Old Skills, New Applications – Part 1

We’ve been working a lot with 21st century skills and trying to figure out how to make them make sense to ourselves and to teachers in the classroom. It’s been interesting in some ways and incredibly frustrating as well.

Here’s part one 1 my best shot at explaining how both the rate and the way information is created and published changes what we need to teach our students. No doubt some of you will find this rather obvious and boring but it was meant to be presented to teachers as way to encourage reflection in a non-intimidating way and to get a conversation going. By the way, I tend to freestyle my presentations based on audience reaction and interest so the text is just a rough attempt at getting the gist of each slide.

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To get anywhere with intelligence you have to know two things. Where you are and where you want to go.
Let’s take a minute and look at where we are when it comes to our world and information.
Question to the audience- How has the way you have to deal with information changed in the last ten years? Talk to your partner, you’ve got 2 minutes to come up with ans many differences as you can. I’d then call for volunteers to talk about their more interesting examples.

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We are living in a world built on and around information. A world where information is available faster and faster in larger and larger quantities. There’s good and bad in that.
Schools have always been based on information, but the way we have to deal with information has fundamentally changed.

I’m going to start off talking to you about two facts and their educational repercussions.
1. Information is being published in increasing amounts and with increasing speed.
2. The barriers to publishing to a world wide audience and the vetting necessary before reaching that audience have both dropped to near zero.

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Let’s talk about information creation first, but I want to do it in a way that makes it make sense. (possible aside – we are now routinely dealing with such enormous numbers our brains can’t process them so they just get lumped into the “really big” pile, coming up with ways to make them more concrete is important)

This is an image of the Library of Congress. It has about 650 miles of bookshelves and 32 million books. That’s enough bookshelves to get us from Richmond to near Daytona Beach. That’s a lot of information.


Now let’s take 2002. I know it’s ancient history but it’s the most recent date we’ve got decent information on. It takes a while to figure all this stuff out.

Here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll pretend the Library of Congress is a cup (a big cup, capable of holding 650 miles of bookshelves).

Now we’ve got a coffee pot. A really big coffee pot and in this pot is all the NEW information created way back in 2002.

My question is this. How many times can we refill our LOC cup before we run out of new information? 1 time, 10 times, 100 times. Keep in mind this is just new information we’re talking about. In the presentation, clicking will reveal the 37,000 times number. Pause for a minute. Just think about this. That was way back in 2002.

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Ok, so we know we created a huge amount of new information back in 2002. 5 exabytes worth (now you know why I went with the LOC metaphor). What percent of that new information do you think was printed on paper? Think about all the books, newspapers and magazines printed in the world. What percent of new information waaaaay back in 2002 was printed on paper? Get some guesses and then reveal .01% with click.

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While that’s going on 92% of new information is on some form of magnetic media – like the hard drive you see here. Do these facts change how we need to think about how students will interact with information? If so, how does it change the skills students will need?

I’ll do some more of this tomorrow. Even if it’s useless to others, it helps me further refine the ideas and I’ll take any constructive criticism anyone wants to share. The facts here are from the How Much Information? 2003 study out of Berkeley and the LOC stuff is straight from their page.

I did this presentation with Adam Garry for an ISTE School 2.0 workshop not too long ago and was semi-happy with how it went. The audience was fairly diverse and there were about 70 people present.

1 it’s late and it’s taking forever to write this in a readable form, I had planned on doing the whole thing tonight