Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Presentations... It's About The Narrative

Wendy James, Curriculum Renewal Technology Consultant and soon to be Coordinator of Curriculum and Instruction for the Saskatoon Public Schools, presented  at the IT Summit on the Power of Presentations.  The following are some of the great points from her presentation.  I just couldn't type fast enough for more!

She showed us Google Search Stories, which took only minutes to learn and create, allowing the students to concentrate on the narrative.  After placing a series of search terms, Wendy suggests working from a big Idea to a more specific idea, I video is created.  Students can search the web, images, maps, news feeds, blogs products and books.  Goggle Search Stories can be found at:


Wendy stress with students to think about what the main idea I am trying to get across and how am I going to get this idea across clearly.  Google Search Stories works well to keep these concepts in mind.

Wendy uses ShareTabs to provide handouts for students.  This way students always have the materials on hand and can not lose the handouts!  The ShareTab for this session is located at:


Having a backchannel, like http://typewith.me/, allow students to provide their thoughts and prior experience while a presentation is ongoing.  Students can then review this material.  Teachers and see which students contributed, allowing for Assessment for Learning feedback and evidence of learning.  Wendy does recommend keeping a copy of the work generated so it is not lost, whether it be copying and pasting or taking a screen capture.  Some other backchannel options include http://primarypad.com/ and http://titanpad.com/.  When using a backchannel, it is important to refer to it during the presentation or the information located on the backchannel is not utilized effectively.  While shifting every 15 minutes, usually from the individual to small groups to the large group is a commonly suggested structure, this may be a dissatisfier for those students who want to dig deeper.  Backchannels allow a blend of these groupings.

Consider who the audience is.
The traditional model of a presentation is for the audience to face the presenter.  We are conditioned to sit and listen to the speaker in this environment.  But, with a computer in front of the audience members, Continuous Partial Attention can interfere with learning.

Creating a rapport with the audience.
You need to show that you are ready. You need to show respect. Audience members do not feel respected if they are forced to speak but not asking questions lowers learning in a presentation by 32%.  A balance needs to be struck to maintain respect. Also, audience members want to know they are taking away new information.

Google Jockey
Having a Google Jockey allow someone in the room to fill gaps and additional provide information.  Even if it is only a photo of what the presenter is discussing, the material provided by the Google Jockey will increase the audience's recall by 50%.  With Google, various new search options, such as the Wonderwheel and the Timeline are powerful tools that can be encorporated by the Jockey.

Clearly articulating your message.
Images do generate interest and allow us to bring our prior knowledge to the topic more quickly.  We pre-process the concept.  The image can take us to a specific area of a topic.
Noises and flying words are a distraction.
Full sentences should not be used. 
There can be too much information on a slide.
The most powerful position is the top left and should be reserved for important information.
The maximum number of bullets on a slide should be 3 to 5.

Image Pitfalls
Complex Images.
Too much cognitive effort.
Distracting or misleading.
Not appropriate.

Points to consider for your Powerpoint.
No more than 30% of your content should be on your PowerPoint (max.  5% would be great)
At least half the area should have anything on it (Chunking and whitespace).
Keep a consistent look
Most importand points should be highlighted.
Keep your layout audience appropriate (more text for over 40, more images for younger students).
Pause more for older audiences.  They are more apt to write things down and need the time.
All detail should be verbal.

Copyright Issues
When using a photo from the web, Wendy posts a link to the original photo.  She also suggests using a site like Flickr where photos listed under a Creative Commons Licence can be specifically searched.

  • Label
  • Expand
  • Evidence or Examples
  • Tieback to main point
Often, when speaking, we skip the Expand step.  To practice meeting all these steps, record yourself with talking with a slide you are going to use for a presentation.

Hand Jestures
People often have a hand jesture that is distracting to the audience, but there are jestures that can help, along with moving forward to emphasize a point.  This is a heavily researched area in sales and politics. Destracting jestures create a version of white noise.

Loaded Language
Putting the subject at the beginning of a sentence is 3 times more persuasive than having the object at the beginning.  Another way to be persuasive is to incorporate larger concepts to draw in your audience.  It can create emotional appeal.

Wendy provided a ton of great ideas and concepts for presentations, both useful for presenters and as points to teach students.  I only was able to record a few of her points.  I would encourage you to check out her handouts from this session (and maybe even book her to speak at an event).



  1. I hadn't investigated before, but share tabs looks awesome. It's like a great outline that the smart kid in the class took notes on while you copied over her shoulder :)

  2. Thanks for blogging the session for me, Scott. At the end of session I was talking about how to extend the conversation beyond the presentation and brought up the blog to show the group. There was Scott's post - it made the point perfectly.