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EdTech Update





Handouts anyone?

Truthfully, I throw every handout they give me--what's the point? If you were listening, and the presenter was interesting, it's just a waste of paper...

was the comment left to my blog post about designing presentation slides a couple days ago. I am not so sure I agree with the comment, but conference presentation handouts are something worth taking a hard look at given the ease with which information can be placed online and readily updated.

I am pretty sure I once created a handout for a day-long workshop that must have run better than 40 pages. Supporting the northern Minnesota paper-mills, ya know. One of the primary purposes of a good presentation or workshop is to stir sufficient interest that the participants are motivated to pursue additional information about the topic after the workshop is over. So my handouts usually contained:

  • a rough summary of the content of the presentation
  • "activity" sheets for participants to complete during the session
  • articles and other information for people to read after the conference
  • a bibliography of additional resources

But I was too often disheartened to see lots of handouts winding up in the trash - right outside the session room door. Obviously these people did not know that all my writing as been approved by the FDA as a non-addictive sleep aid and those handouts might well have come in handy if they ever suffered a bout of insomnia.

Let me say that simple printouts of the PPT slides are the worst! Either the PPT is too wordy or the handouts are worthless.  Mary, who also left a comment, suggests typing the narrative in the notes field and then printing both slides and notes for handouts. I guess that's better than just the slides, but it still wouldn't be my choice.

Here is my plan: 


A move from everything in print, to a single page where a many-paged handout can be found, to a single page with activities and a link to a wiki that contains links to many individual sources that can be easily updated. These sources can be read online or individually printed and used as relevant. Am I green or what? (And I acknowledge that many presenters already do some version of this, I'm sure. And my conversion from handouts to wiki-based resources is just beginning.)

At the last two workshops where I presented, I estimate that 50-75% of participants had laptops and were connecting wirelessly. How long before we can dispense with paper completely and perhaps just print web/wiki links in the conference program?

As a conference attendee, do you still value paper handouts? What content makes them valuable? Or should they be regarded as a modern day buggy-whip? 

Is there no small degree of irony in creating paper handouts for sessions about Web 2.0? 

Is there a lesson to be learned here about "handouts" in K-12 classrooms? 

Or as Dean suggests in the comment below, one could always do a bookmark. Good for keeping mice out of the barn, too,



A sentimental nod to print


The print edition of Slovenly Peter my grandmother read to my siblings and me that still bears the crayon imprint of my little brother - along side its replacement?

Call me a sentimental slob, but I woke up this morning feeling sorta mournful. My Kindle arrived via UPS yesterday afternoon and I spent some time playing/learning/reading the device last evening. I am planning to take it and NO print books to ALA and NECC. The acid test.

It is eminently, uh, pragmatic.

I've been an advocate for silicon replacing cellulose since 1995. E-books hold tremendous potential for education - helping (and de-stigmatizing) struggling readers, reducing backpack weight, and even lowering textbook costs. Yet now that this practical device is actually here, I have to admit there are some important things I will miss about paper books:

  • How will you start a conversation with the person next to you on an airplane if you don't have the safe opening of "How's that book you're reading?"
  • How will you learn about the people who have invited you over if you can't peruse their bookshelves? (A LibraryThing account or Facebook book list just aren't the same.)
  • How will you impart memories of love and excitement about books in toddlers who are learning to associate reading with physical closeness, bright pictures and personal attention?
  • How likely are children to collect "e-books" that, like in my brother's case above, they make their own?

OK, I am sure when the horseless carriage replaced the horsed carriage, many shed a tear or two over the sweet smell of hay and manure. But the Kindle really does feel like the end of print books - objects that have been near and dear to my heart since I was read the horrible Slovenly Peter on my grandmother's lap.

Is this just sentimentality or will there be real loss as reading moves from cellulose to silicon?

Note to Amazon: Make the click wheel click quieter. It drives my wife nuts! 


From complexity to clarity?

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. -  Einstein
Like many of us going to ALA and NECC this coming week, I am working on the presentations and workshops I'll be giving. While I take pride in all learning events in which I participate, these two summer conferences are ones for which I really take special care. The creme de la creme of the library and educational technology fields will be in Anaheim and San Antonio. Stanards and expectations are high. I don't really want to come off as a big doofus. And that takes work!
Following the wisdom of Presentation Zen master, Garr Reynolds, I've been working to de-wordify [my term] my slides and find visual images that will make a bigger impact. I don't know that I've reached presentation nirvana yet, but I'm getting better.
I've recently added my thoughts about the difference between entertainment and engagement to one of my workshops. And I've noticed a path along how these ideas evolve.
A workshop comment, reading or news item triggers some reflection which spurs a blog entry.
The blog entry becomes a column.
The idea becomes a bad slide. (Too bad that this is the final step for too many presenters.)
The slide gets better: 
Finally the slide gets a visual designed to create an emotional connection and a "catch phrase" hook:
As slides become more visual, less textual, they have less value without the oral commentary that accompanies them. I've never been one to readily share my slides anyway, preferring good handouts, and now giving them to others makes even less sense.
Oh, and like my writing, I find endless amusement in tweaking presentation slides. Does this mean I need to get a life?
What are your rules for creating a great presentation slide?