I’m in an art gallery in Halifax when I realise I’ve been planning murder. Not only that, but my love affair with screen beans and embedded video is over, finished!
The realisation was brutal. I’d been a role model, an actor in ‘Death by Powerpoint.’ Yes, it was annie in the classroom with the projector. Also in the lecture theatre, conference room and in the words of the King (aka Yul Brynner) et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!
I’m wrung out after a nightmare journey over the Pennines to Yorkshire. In Snoopy’s own words “It was a dark and stormy night.” Whilst driving my mind is engaged with practising scenarios for room entering and apologetic scripts as I know I’m going to be late. I’m hijacked by shyness. I needed a small bubble, a space simply to be, as both my exterior and interior worlds were dangling precariously over a precipice. Awash with adrenaline how I found a space, a seat is blurry, but I’m glad my instinct to fight rather than flight won the toss as I’m enthralled by Powerpoint presentations. Images, timing, narrative, storytelling and personal voices of the presenters were utterly engaging. Six presentations later and I wanted more. If like me, you watch and assess tens of student Powerpoint presentations over an academic year, you know how crazy this sounds.
It’s one of those experiences which lingers, smouldering, colouring my days and filling my notebooks with pencilled scratching’s of thoughts and exploration. I wonder how I haven’t come across these forms of Powerpoint presentations before:
2. Ignite presentations – 15 slides which advance every 15 seconds.
Perhaps James Gleick is spot- on when he describes students of the digital age as having ‘ a visual language made up of images and movements instead of words and symbols … along with reading in short snippets.’ Skills of précis, summary writing, frameworks, overviews, even advance organisers (Ausubel) seem highly relevant for a digital future or even a digital now.
I find myself revisiting Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and mapping across the extremely challenging craft of knowledge distillation, differentiation and reconciliation with experience and theory in order to identify the core, the essence of a topic. A sure-fire way for students to achieve the bulls- eye of analysis and even synthesis.
But there was a snag, what I was trying to surface, to identify remained hidden. In true contradictory fashion it arrived when my mind was empty. In the art gallery presentations I had a peek into whom the presenters were. Yes, I learnt about artists, techniques, concepts, thought processes and experiences. But it was the connections, the flow, the fluidity between the recesses of their conscious and subconscious minds and artist spirit which gave them voice. We may have read Gert Biesta arguing for “… education as being first and foremost concerned with the opportunities for human beings … to find their own voice…” But, have we heard?
A group of students and I had a class joke recently when I responded positively to a question about interpretive dance being a possible presentation format. They kept reminding me throughout the semester, and my response was always ‘yes, you can dance if you want to (but remember the steps of the learning outcomes). And it matters hugely when the second assessor commented that many of the students “… had clearly found their voices.”
There is no one way of seeing a thing. We find ourselves caught up, enslaved by ‘how things are usually done.’ It’s very hard to see things differently, to see Powerpoint as an agent of student voice, teacher voice too. It’s a revelation to me. Thanks to Lauren, Harriet and the artist presenters for sharing their voices and helping me see Powerpoint and voice.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to know about your experience of short and sweet Powerpoint techniques. Oh, and if you think I was joking about interpretive dance you should take a look at this, and he’s a scientist.
Just in case you want to read a little more:
Catherine Cronin’s blog is also worth a look – a compendium of links, explanations and resources.
Gert Biesta: Beyond learning. Democratic education for a human future