Tuesday, February 1, 2011

PD Follies - part two, Death by Verbiage.

Professional Development Follies - part two.

Professional Development is one of those things that light up the stress meters in almost every teacher I've ever known. Bill Ferriter talks about it. So does Mr. Teachbad. Darren needed Google Translate to interpret the Educationese. What's my excuse? I have many things that trigger me and get my back up. Here, over the next couple of days, are some of those triggers. Mr. Teachbad's List contained Major Peeve #2:

Powerpoint Death Slides.
There is <sarcasm> nothing more thrilling </sarcasm> than settling in, readying myself to take some notes, and then watching the presenter click open a PowerPoint slide covered with words.

As Tufte says: "Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely." Here's the thing, people. I can listen and take notes: I had lectures all through college. I also had homework for which I was required to read and highlight, and then take notes. I'm okay with taking notes. MY Notes.

The problem with most PP is we are combining two separate and incompatible entities - a lecture and much reading material, densely packed and illegible, slammed together with cliched or cartoony graphics, interspersed with every transition possible.

Presenters, it seems that ...
  • Graphic design is an Art that you do not possess.
  • Public Speaking is not one of your skills either.
  • You have graphs riddled with errors.
  • You have abysmal spelling. Right down there with your grammar.
  • You need to buy a clicker. Do not have someone tapping the SmartBoard to advance slides.
  • You have a 200-word minimum per slide.
It's a PRESENTATION and it needs to be PRESENTED, not read. Stop right there and think about that. If you don't know it cold, inside and out, then you don't belong on stage.  Watch a TED presentation, like this one by Hans Rosling. Notice that he is presenting, not reading. If the presenter is reading his own slides, then everyone should walk out and collect a copy of the "notes" on the way.

Sure, Rosling's a pro at this and all the TED presenters are pretty awesome, but come on, the district is paying a grand or two for your time today. Spell check and grammar check are simple. If you've given the same talk before, grammar and spelling errors are inexcusable.

Stick with the fundamental designs if you aren't a PP wizard. You should be able to present the material without PP. The PP is visuals: icing on a knowledge cake, the froth on your Guinness.

If you want me to read it, then give it to me ahead of time, in a form that I can read. Paper is acceptable, but really, can't you give me a pdf so I can save and reference it? (Especially if the presentation is about using technology, you know.)

Don't get all huffy and defensive.  I want to read it at my leisure, not at the speed you choose. I also want to review it later. I have a very good memory but it's nice to use my computer's "Search" function, too.

For example, at the beginning of this year, we had a bullying workshop. The people were setting up and I wandered over with a thumbdrive and asked if I could have a copy of the presentation - for later review and for notes. After getting all huffy and asking "Who are you?", she refused. (Like the general public was coming in and demanding to see her bullying presentation.)

This was information we were getting recertification credit for, and fulfilling an important state requirement for, and we couldn't get the information in any way other than paper handouts. I still have those handouts in a file at home. A simple pdf would be much more useful.

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