Friday, 16 October 2009

Wild Idea on a Friday Afternoon

There's a particular style of presentation, called Pecha Kucha. With this you have 20 slides at 20 seconds each, meaning you'll be talking for 6 minutes and 40 seconds. And each slide changes after a fixed 20 second period. Maybe suitable for creative sales pitches a la Dragon's Den, but how could that possibly work in an educational setting? For one way to approach this, you might want to listen to this 6:40min YouTube clip:

Now, having a number of different people present in a single lecture slot is probably not feasible. But what about 4 individual, separate short lectures? You simply(!!!) take your lecture topic, and identify the four most important individual points you want your students to take home. Then you have the first talk. Maybe that's an overview talk, giving some context on what is to follow in the other three talks. Then a short break, and perhaps a few questions from the audience (being optimistic, student participation is anticipated...).

After that, you fire up the next talk. Again, just 20 slides at 20 seconds each. Just under seven minutes later you stop again, fielding another set of questions about the talk. Rinse and repeat.

I have no idea whether that would work. It could be great, in that it keeps the students' attention going, as there are breaks; no continuous talking for long amounts of time. It forces the lecturer to be well prepared, decide carefully what to talk about and how, and – as mentioned in the clip – lends itself nicely to podcasting. Bite-sized chunks, just right for the facebook generation?

It could also be a complete disaster. A choppy lecture, stop-and-go, artificial constraints, innovation for the sake of innovation, strange concepts, violating students' expectations on how to absorb information, potential for a stunned silence after 6:40mins, topics might not lend themselves to being presented like that.

One way where it might just work are workshops or mini-conferences. There would be a genuine reason for having such constraints, as there wouldn't be any pre-specified 50min slots, and you would have more than one speaker.

When starting this post I was all enthusiastic and willing to give it a go, but the more I think about it the more skeptical I get. Maybe I will give it a go some time. Maybe it's best to try it out at a low-stake event, such as organising a mini-conference. Especially in the English department this might work well, with a mixture of different subjects, from Linguistics, to Literature, to Old English... or at School/College level. A more varied set of topics would mean you could get a good overview, and if you weren't interested in a talk you'd just wait until it's over. While waiting you might find that it's more interesting than you initially expected.

Now how would that be for Open Days...?!

1 comment:

  1. Not so wild - I think these kinds of arbitrary limits can be a good discipline (think Twitter and its 140 characters) - going to suggest this method for end of course web 2 presentations... :-)