Lectures and presentations that I’ve been to have been quite predictable affairs. The teacher or presenter typically stood at the front and talked while everyone else sat quietly and listened (or nodded off). But now digital technologies are making it much easier to create engaging presentations that are more rewarding for students and teachers alike.
Stand and deliver
At this year’s Connect More events, taking place at locations around the UK during June and July, we’ll be mixing things up a little. Many of our speakers will be abandoning the old-style ‘stand and deliver’ approach, and some will be presenting in a PechaKucha format; a method where 20 images are shown on the screen with each one talked about for 20 seconds. The slides change automatically to give a total running time of under seven minutes.
The PechaKucha stops people from talking for too long or in too much detail and it pushes people to create better, more visually appealing presentations in which the key messages don’t get buried or lost – a must for audiences with smartphone attention spans. The real beauty of this approach is that it keeps the energy in the room high and encourages active listening.
Improving student presentation skills
PechaKucha is a format that can work well for teachers – students could benefit from trying it too. Distilling information into this tight format requires a presenter to think very clearly about their subject so it could help learners to develop a deeper understanding of their topic and to become more effective, creative speakers; it could also give students a much more active role in their own learning. But how can we unlock the presentation skills of more diffident students?
PechaKucha Nights, which are now held in cities around the world, are supportive, inclusive events at which anyone can have a try - like a comedy ‘open mic’ night but probably with better jokes. It’s a hallmark of these events that, once the clock starts ticking at the start of a talk, the audience is usually willing the speaker to make it through their talk in time with the slides. That’s the kind of supportive atmosphere that could get even reluctant speakers up on their feet.
Better, harder-working presentations
Creating an engaging PechaKucha talk is simple – you can use tools that we’re all familiar with, including Microsoft’s PowerPoint and Apple’s Keynote. Even though we often think of these as supporting more formal presentation styles both lend themselves very readily to this more creative and collaborative approach.
Amongst the other tools that you can use to develop all sorts of dynamic presentations, there’s Prezi, which makes it simple to produce a very conversational style of presentation and supports quality interactions with listeners. It means a talk can be adapted in response to the feedback and questions that come from the room. Where many kinds of slide presentation are linear Prezi is not – so you don’t have to scroll back and forth through your material to find the slide that will help you respond to a particular comment.
Looking to boost your hold over the audience? You could also try emaze, which makes it easy to include videos, gifs and live social feeds. A cloud-based tool, emaze allows you to access and share your presentations online wherever you are.
Using tools such as SlideShare will enable you to share your talks more widely via social networks and products such as Xerte toolkits allow you to add rich content including video and even tailor-made animations - GoAnimate can help to demystify that process if you’re a novice – and to include interactive materials like quizzes to help the audience digest what you’ve talked about.
And when you’ve created a talk that has been well received, think about how you could give it a wider audience via webinar software such as Google Hangouts or our own Vscene, and consider putting it in a repository like Xpert, which is part of the Xerte suite of toolkits. People will then be able to find and re-use the content in new and exciting ways.
We’re all aware that digital learning is an important element in the government’s higher education reforms and the findings from our own student digital experience tracker show that students want their teachers to model confidence with digital technologies and to demonstrate digital skills and good practice, so Connect More this year is focusing on how to boost teacher’s digital skills to pass these on to the students.
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from colleges and universities that some students don’t engage wholeheartedly with digital technologies in their learning - this recent article in the Guardian says that this is often because they need to see compelling reasons to do so. Teachers are no different. With already busy working lives they need a good and pressing reason to develop their digital capabilities.
Now that there is such a variety of user-friendly tools to help teachers create engaging lectures and talks, perhaps these could offer a practical way for colleges and universities to make some quick wins with developing staff digital capabilities?
You can find lots more information on more ways to do this in our new guide to developing organisational approaches to digital capability.
If you’d like information on more tools to help you create engaging lectures and lessons, take a look at the presentation and multimedia technologies pages in our guide to technology and tools for online learning.
And if you haven’t registered to attend a Connect More event yet then find an event near you.