Monday, September 29, 2008

Another Dreadful Presentation

I used to love district inservice days. It's nice to be in the school building with no kids and no pressure to teach. The day seems to be relaxing in a way. However, my tune is starting to change. Today the teachers in our district were forced to sit through a three hour presentation on culturally responsive teaching that was in a word, dreadful.

Don't get me wrong, the presenters obviously knew their material and had given the presentation multiple times (or at least it seemed). They were articulate and, in general, very good public speakers. But they had a great deal to learn about preparing and delivering a quality presentation.

First of all, although we were supposed to be learning about culturally responsive teaching (the new buzzword for multicultural education, or teaching in a manner that respects the culture of your students), we endured 2 1/2 hours of information dumping on the flat world and the importance of teaching 21st Century skills to prepare our students for it. Most of us were already VERY familiar with these concepts. In addition, we were given no strategies, and only three basic example lessons. Obviously, the presenters did not know their audience very well--we were already familiar with the information and as anybody who works with teachers knows, we want to know how to apply what we are learning in our classrooms.

Second, the presenters could have improved their delivery dramatically. On a few occasions, one of them actually read from the slides. This is excusable if the text is short, but the text covered almost the entire slide. They also made very little effort to engage us, to get and keep our attention.

Finally, the design of the slides needed work as well. Most of them had very little visual support for all the text and bullet points. The visuals that were used were often clip art (yikes!). During the presentation, I took some time to look through the handout and think of ways that I could improve some of the slides. Simplicity was clearly missing. Many slides could have been improved by removing some of the text and rewriting it as one sentence that made a simple statement for the presenters to work from. As a result, we in the audience would not have been spending our time reading the slides but listening to what the presenters had to say.

One of my goals this year is to incorporate many presentation strategies into my teaching. I've stated before that my teaching has become a little more traditional because of my SmartBoard. It's important then that I make every effort to design my lecture-based lessons so that they incoporate as many strategies as possible to grab and keep the attention of my students so that they actually learn what I'm teaching.

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