MagNet Presentation on Researching Using the Web


I’ve noticed that when I speak, I have my deepest focus on what I’m saying and trying to communicate, but that I pay substantial subsidiary attention to the audience’s reaction. If they don’t respond, it doesn’t matter how good my material is and my intentions are, I feel like I’m tanking. So, yesterday, when I presented, I automatically checked the audience’s reaction.

Before I fill you in on what happened, let me describe the set up. There was a big screen at the front of the third of the ballroom we had, in the middle. I project well, but I couldn’t be heard without a microphone. I was using a PowerPoint (because I suspected the wifi would fail. It did.) so I was tied to my laptop, especially since the remote that worked before and after the session didn’t work IN the session. My laptop was on a podium, on a platform on the audiences’ right at the front of the room.

Let me clarify, My podium was in line with the edge of the audience seats on one side, the screen was in the middle of this wide room, and the audience stretched out in a slight curving layout beyond the screen. There were only a few rows, but it stretched 20 feet, maybe more, across. My over 3 feet high platform had my podium on it and a six foot table, with at least another six feet across the floor to the screen, and, as I said, the audience ranged beyond that. It was the most bizarre set up for a speaker I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve been in some clumsy ones.

Then there was the beginning as the IT guy tried to make the wifi worked. I tried to speak while I was re-starting (wifi still didn’t work) and re-setting up myPowerPont program. Not smooth. Finally I started, only to be interrupted by audience members and coached on how to position my head so the mic would work. I kept on going, only somewhat daunted.

During my talks, I usually throw out little bits of humour to get a sense of the audience. I did this to the MagNet audience a few times, and nobody laughed. Whoops. I kept going, but noticed subliminally that I was feeling disconcerted. Looked out at the audience and noted that a substantial number were highly focussed on taking notes. Decided that must be a good sign, and, anyhow, the show had to go on.

I got several positive comments after I finished, but I won’t know until I get the formal feedback, what most of the audience thought.

When I present, I love having a slideshow to help me stay on point and keep me going when I talk! It’s a great security blanket when I don’t feel much resonance from the audience, and so it was yesterday. My PowerPoint was there when the wifi wasn’t, and when I felt worried about whether the audience was with me.

I have some observations, I hate under-designed, almost anti-speaker designed venues BUT I can survive them.

Finally, in lieu of handouts, I put my presentation up on SlideShare. This morning I received an email from them telling me it would be up in their News & Politics feature page for 16 to 20 hours, (News & Politics?!?) so that’s an audience reaction I can enjoy ;->

Beyond Google featured on SlideShare
"Beyond Google" featured on SlideShare

MagNet ’09

I GO-trained into Toronto today to attend some sessions  at the MagNet ’09 Conference. I was really impressed with the excellent level of organization and with the high quality of the two sessions I attended, a session with a panel of literary agents answering questions and a session with Harry van Bommel on self-publishing. Both were excellent. Harry van Bommel speaks frequently and if you ever get a chance to hear him, do it! I learned a lot from him. http://www.harryvanbommel.com/Harry_van_Bommel/HOME.html

Harry van Bommel's Home Page
Harry van Bommel's Home Page

It was a lovely day to be in downtown Toronto:

Torontos Old City Hall
Toronto's Old City Hall
Toronto's current City Hall

Tomorrow I give my presentation on researching using the web.

iQ mobile Search - an iPhone Screenshot
iQ mobile Search - an iPhone Screenshot

I worry a little because the audience will be doubly diverse. They will have many different angles on what they want to research and what for. Plus, today I noticed a wide range in web awareness and know-how in those attending the sessions I was in. As well, I’ve been tweeting using the hashtag #MagNet09, and when I’ve searched, very few seem to be using it. I’m hoping I’ve got something for everyone but tomorrow will tell.

I’m using a PowerPoint, for three reasons.

  1. I like KeyNote better, but if anything went wrong with my laptop, there might not be another Mac handy and a PowerPoint file will play on a Mac or a Windows platform. (Not that I’m paranoid ;-> but I’ve emailed a copy to my Google mail, and I have a memory stick with my presentation on it which I carry separately from my laptop,)
  2. I’ve just found PowerPoint’s Presenter Tool –  something I thought only Keynote had – and that will make my presentation easier to run.
  3. I don’t trust hotel wi-fi having had previous bad experiences with giving web-based presentations where the promised wi-fi was down more than up.

So tomorrow, I will be looking at this screen –

PowerPoints Presenter Tools
PowerPoint's Presenter Tools

Wish me luck ;->

MERLOT 2008, Web 2.0, Part 2

I’m home again from the MERLOT Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and found it exciting for a number of reasons, especially as it was the first academic conference I’ve ever attended that had a strong focus on the importance of web 2.0 for teaching and learning. I think the MERLOT members are ahead of many other educators because they are most concerned with distance learning, and the possibilities of web 2.0 are really useful in making online courses rich and lively.

Here are some of the presentations I attended:

The 12/10 Conspiracy: Guiding Faculty and Staff Exploration of Web 2.0  as Learning Tools – Fritz Nordengren gave a highly polished performance using the 12/10  tarradiddle as an amusing shell for valuable suggestions about how to encourage exploration and adoption of web 2.0 applications to support learning and teaching. I found his reference to the PEW Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users especially helpful. I agree with him that people have individual needs and often require individual coaching, and that we are still defining what the basic technology skills are. Very enjoyable and informative.

ZSR Library Presents: Blogs & Wikis @ Wake Forest University – Susan Smith, Lauren Pressley and Kevin Gilbertson, from the MERLOT 2008 program:

Blogs and wikis are valuable communication and educational tools. These technology-enabled instruction tools can supplement or replace the traditional LMS. To provide the faculty with 21st Century educational tools, Z. Smith Reynolds Library offers locally hosted blogs and wikis for classroom use. This service supports the university’s academic mission, as well as allows the library to fulfill its mission of collecting, indexing, and preserving local content. To create a successful program, library staff integrate instructional design and technology training for faculty. This presentation will provide a program overview, explanation of the instruction, and the specifics of the open-source technology implementation.

I like their approach of hosting WordPress – http://mu.wordpress.org/ and MediaWiki http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki installations on their server for multiple accounts. WordPress is a highly regarded free blogging application; I use the WordPress.com account myself, while theirs is the WprdPress.org version. MediaWiki is the wiki used for Wikipedia; I prefer wiki applications that are totally WYSIWYG while MediaWiki requires some wiki coding. Intelligent and interesting presentation.
Talking with Technology: Asynchronous, Synchronous Communication and Beyond Using Free Software – Takako Shigehisa. Of special interest to teachers and learners of languages. In this excellent presentation, the following applications were introduced: Audacity, which I use in my own Oral Communications course, Photostory3, SkypePowergramo, and Chinswing, plus Gizmo ProjectVoiceThreads and iVisit – A rich selection of very useful teaching/learning tools.
Facebook and Podcasting: Convergence for Freshmen – Peter Juvinall suggests going where the students already are:

Facebook provides a unique opportunity for educators in that it enables a convergence of communication technology. This presentation will cover the benefits of using Facebook as a classroom management solution, the lessons learned from a freshman-level class, and a proper approach to using it in a classroom environment in conjunction with podcasting and traditional means of classroom communication.

Interesting approach, although I’m not sure I’d want all my students on my Facebook account, and not sure they would want me on theirs. Juvinall, however, makes sophisticated use of Facebook Groups and other possibilities. Very interesting and student-oriented approach.
eLearning Strategic MERLOT – Robbie Melton is an amazingly skilled speaker, and I found her strategies fascinating and practical. As the chief academic officer for the 5th largest system of education in the USA, with a 29% increase in online learning this year, she has her institution use MERLOT as an integral part of faculty development. As a teacher of rhetoric, I was deeply impressed by her speaking skills, and personally envious. As a teacher educator, I admired her sensible approach for involving both teachers and students using MERLOT.
Wikis and the Pressure of Public Writing – Dorothy Fuller case study on having groups do collaborative research and writing using wikis was very valuable. Her description of how inhibited people are when editing other people’s text, matched my own reactions to using wikis. This is an important aspect to using wikis for collaboration; we, as a culture, have to learn the ‘skill’ of sharing writing tasks in a public space. An informative piece of research.
Web2.0, the Social Media and Academia: Using Personal Learning Environments to Expand Teaching and Learning – my presentation – described by blogger Lauren Pressley http://laurenpressley.com/library/?p=623 She kindly didn’t mention the technical snafu when the Hotel Hilton’s irritatingly weak wireless system caused my computer to crash, leaving me to talk through the last third instead of showing. My PowerPoint can be found on SlideShare here – http://www.slideshare.net/vinall/merlot2008-vinall-cox-j-presentation

So I learned a lot at MERLOT – check out the richness of the program if you like, – http://conference.merlot.org/2008/Program2008.html – and I met people interested in the web applications I find both useful and fascinating for teaching and learning. Some people I will encounter again on the social network based on Ning called MERLOT Voices – http://voices.merlot.org/
I recommend MERLOT membership –  http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm