Tag: Prezi

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Oh, No! Not Another Slide Presentation!

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When I was a child, slides were what your father used to bore the socks off family and visitors alike.  They were tiny little transparencies of the family vacation, which he presented with a slide projector (a carousel that held the little devils and frequently jammed), using a sheet hung on the wall as a screen.  He topped off the experience with an equally boring narrative of each not-so-captivating picture.

No, you’re not reading into things.  I chose my words carefully in the preceding paragraph and if you’re clever enough, you’ll get my hidden meaning.  Whether you do or not, I am begging you:

Stop thinking of training design in terms of slides!

Surely, at least some readers still remember “chalkboards” and “blackboards”.  How about “whiteboards” and “flip charts”?  In my youth, slides had nothing to do with teaching; Freelance and PowerPoint were not even ideas in someone’s brilliant mind at that time.  In my professional training career, I have used them as props, not the centerpiece of my courses.  I never, ever read the bullet points from a slide to my class.  I always paraphrased, adding my stories, my examples, my own words.  I moved around the room, I made funny faces, I waved my hands and stomped my feet.  I used other props, including toy airplanes and Styrofoam packing peanuts.

The idea of the unlimited potential of eLearning being reduced to online slides, with a one-sided narrative makes me very sad.  This was a boring and ineffective way to teach in person; it is even more so electronically.

I know it’s easy.  I know it’s rapid.  But easy and rapid are rarely used to describe something that is also great.

It seems I’m not alone in this thinking:

What?  You can’t afford to choreograph and video a dance troupe?  Even if you could, it wouldn’t be the best way to teach your subject?  That’s fine, but please don’t go running back to the slide presentation!

Now, I don’t mean to be disparaging of PowerPoint.  It’s a great program.  I’ve seen some fantastically animated presentations that I could barely tell were made with PowerPoint. Unfortunately, most of us are not terribly creative or even all that good with a computer. PowerPoint provides a “blank slate” which is great for people who know what to do with a blank sheet of paper.  For everyone else, it gives the false illusion that they’ve done something “professional”.  (Seriously, I saw that claim in a recent training course!) I have a copy of Photoshop but that does not make me a graphic designer.  Trust me, it doesn’t.

Please think in 3-D!

None of the authoring tools for eLearning content – or for business presentations, family vacation videos, or any other content you might want to share – can turn you into George Lucas.  But, they can make your presentation of any content more interesting, more compelling, and less “flat”.

Take this Prezi on Moodle by Tomaz Lasic, for instance:

Take advantage of all the options. Don’t pigeon-hole your content.

Prezi, like PowerPoint and Photoshop, is a great tool but it doesn’t magically turn a person into a creative genius.  What it does do is to provide a different blank slate, a new “dimension”, and a limitless screen similar to the physical classrooms of my youth. No matter what subject you teach, who your students are, or how “non-creative” you might feel, there are so many more options than slides sized to print on letter-paper. Prezi is just one option.  Dancing graduate students are another.  If you provide your instructional designer with good content and say “Go make this GREAT“, she’ll be able to do a lot more than if you say “Convert this to SCORM”. If you can’t afford an instructional designer, you can probably afford a starving art-school student.  Or, perhaps a starving music-school student can sing some of your audio.  Don’t just think outside the box.

Think outside the slide!

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Friday, June 17th, 2011

Dream eLearning: No Constraints

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Earlier this week I received an inquiry about eLearning design.  This gentleman said he was interested in how I would convert his paper-based training to online training, without the constraints of any particular application.  Hmmm…. 

I thought about hanging up on this obvious crank caller.  “Everything is constrained”, I thought!  Then I remembered a video that hit the training circuit many years ago.  It documented the process used by Ideo in the design of a new style of shopping cart for stores such as Whole Foods.  Constraints were not part of that process; quite the opposite.  (Like just about everyone else who has watched that video, I think this would be the coolest place in the world to work). 

So…what would be my no-holds-barred, dream design for eLearning?  If I were approached by someone who asked me what I wanted, I would say: 

  • Interaction in meaningful ways.  I like to write, but not everyone does.  I like to joke around and get to know people, but some people can do that only in person.  I’d like to be able to communicate with them in some way that worked for all of us, even if we were continents apart. 
  • Memorable lessons.  I learn best by experience and when the topic is of interest to me.  I can remember a first-grade lesson in how to use serial commas.  The exercise used Santa’s reindeer.  What child could forget that?  Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen…  If the exercise had been about fruit – apples, pears, and bananas – I would not have been nearly as interested in getting it right. 
  • Field trips.  I like to go places and see things.  I like to put learning into context.  In grade school, we took a trip to Sturbridge Village to learn about silversmithing (among other things). There is nothing quite as convincing as seeing a silver spoon come out of a mold with only a drop of silver going in.  That lesson was so much more effective than a formula depicting the yield of pure silver. 
  • Variety.  Another lesson I remember is from ninth-grade science class.  We went outside during the afternoon – when the schoolyard was empty – to measure relative humidity.  We could have performed an experiment inside, but we did that all the time.  The mere act of walking through the quiet hallways and out those forbidden doors made the experiment memorable. 
  • Blood flow.  I know that most learning takes place between the synapses.  But my brain doesn’t fire very well if my feet and butt are still.  I like to get up, walk around, ponder, dream…

How can eLearning do all these things?

Well, it can’t completely.  At least not with old paradigms.  But it can do all those things in a new way… 

  • Every course should have multiple methods of sharing, so that every student has a chance to communicate in his own way. Include forums, chats, and if you’re using Moodle, the blocks for “online users” and “participants”; enable messaging.
  • Lessons should use examples that are meaningful to the audience.  A colleague of mine mentored young girls who saw little value in learning about math. Their interest was piqued, however, when they realized that math would enable them to get the most from their shopping dollars.  Which was a better deal: A sale offering one third off the price of one pair or a 2-for-1 special?
  • Field trips can be virtual or not.  I try to build my Moodle courses with “field trips for the mind” by including links to relevant external sites.  Whenever possible, build in actual field trips.  For a class in biology, create an assignment that takes students to a nearby lake or river, have them gather plants, take pictures or videos, and post them as their assignments along with whatever written information you’d like them to include.
  • Mix it up with videos, games, flash, and reading materials.  Add a Prezi or two. Pop in some fun quizzes or puzzles along the way.  Engage a guest speaker (live or on-demand) for some of the lessons.
  • Break up the lessons into smaller chunks so that students can get up without leaving in the middle of a topic.  At the end of each section, have a note pop up that says “time to take a break”.  This is a good place to work in your field trips (the actual kind). 

Once you’ve designed these elements into your training, find the software and experts to create them.  Don’t start with software and force your design to its abilities.  For authoring tools and ideas for using various features in your eLearning courses, check out these earlier posts: 

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