Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Presentations: Square One. Again.

The 13 year-old arrived in the living room last Sunday with a wild look in his eyes.
"Mom, I have to do a presentation on my Math Problem of the Week. Can you teach me Powerpoint?"

[NB: Once upon a time, I was, in fact, paid to teach people how to give presentations. So there's some precedent to the request.]

So we sat down at the table, fired up the computer, and I asked him what he wanted to present. In order, his answers were:
1. I need to show all of the content from my math assignment, because that's what the teacher is looking for.
2. I need to do something that will keep people awake, because this could be boring.
3. I want to do some cool transitions - do you have any with flames?

He's only 13, and already he's been taught that presentations should reflect all of your content, and creativity is limited to how you get from point to point.  On the plus side, the idea of "keeping people awake" had some merit - although I think it had more to do with him not liking math, than thinking about presentations.

45 minutes later, he had 19 slides - all text, with 1 thought per slide. As we were editing for font alignment, I decided to try again - "How are you going to keep people awake?"  We brainstormed, and he loved the idea of framing the problem around creating a new Olympic sport.  All the math calculations could be brought in as "supporting material" for presenting to the IOC on safety standards.  We started changing graphics, adding new images, and talking about the difference between the Story, and the Slide Content.  We finished by finalizing the math components, and agreed to practice the story on Monday.

Monday night. 8pm. "Mom, I know we had a good idea, but I watched the smartest person in class give her presentation today. She had all of her information on the slides, and just read them. So I'm going to do that, too."

Sadly, it'll be a while before the IOC gets to learn about para-skiing ... however, I now know where to find animated slide transitions.  Maybe I'll throw in some flames the next time I'm low on inspiration!

[Image from Chris and Laura Pawluk. Used under CC]   


Anonymous said...

Such a shame that the school reinforced the "read your slides" approach. Oh well. Nice story - I was just hoping for the triumphant, "We used [Made to Stick/Presentation Zen/Slide:ology] and everybody cheered! Hooray for us!" ending.


Gaurav Bansal said...

huh! No matter how good you are, the teacher always wins.