Media 21/Learning 21 Students Reflect on Presentation Zen: Praise and Suggestions for Their Peers

On Friday, November 12, we had about 10 minutes at the end of 4th and 7th period after Day 3 of student presentations in which our Media 21/Learning 21 students are sharing the findings of their “Issues in Africa” research and reading experiences.  I thought it might be helpful for us to take stock of our first three days of presentations, so we used that 10 minutes to reflect on the 12 presentations each class had seen and to offer both praise and constructive criticism for the presenters this upcoming week.  Here were the directions for reflection:

1. What qualities have you seen in the first three days of presentations that have been exemplary or well done?

2. In general, what suggestions might you have for next week’s presenters to be effective speakers/presenters?

Feel free to look to our rubric and presentation guidelines to consider specific suggestions and praise.

Here are the results of the astute, honest, and insightful observations (also cross posted to our daily agenda on our class site hosted at Google Sites):

Our pathfinder I created for students is below if you would like to explore the resources, guidelines, and rubrics.  I’ll be highlighting some additional video from the presentations and slidedecks in the next few days here on the blog (with student permission).


The last few weeks have been a wonderfully exhausting roller coaster ride since returning to work on July 27; we now are starting our third full week of the 2010-11 academic year with the students, and I am pretty sure this is the most intense start to the school year at The Unquiet Library as I’ve had several teachers interested in piloting wikis and blogs as tools for teaching and learning with our students; these grassroots collaborative efforts are the direct result of my work with Susan Lester and our Media 21 students in 2009-10. While I have anticipated some challenges for the upcoming year, I’ve returned with a sense of great expectations and optimism in spite of some unknowns and uncertainties.

As I recover from the physical and mental fatigue of teaching all seven periods with no break for the first six of the ten school days of this year (a happy dilemma), I’m hoping to articulate the observations, celebrations, worries, and hopes that have weighed on my mind for the last month.  Over the next week or so, I hope to compose some mini blog posts on the following topics:

  • How our principal, Dr. Bob Eddy, has stepped up to fill the void in Tammy’s absence (Tammy is our beloved clerk we lost to district wide budget cuts) as well as what Tammy is now doing in our learning community at Creekview
  • Celebrations
  • The ups and downs of introducing inquiry based learning and cloud computing tools for learning, aka “turbulence”
  • How do we deal with pushback from students who don’t want to be engaged or who are threatened by the disruption of their “sit and get” learning style that has worked for them in the past?
  • Student and faculty guest bloggers for The Unquiet Library blog and the importance of participation
  • Update on our eReader test/pilot program
  • Media 21:  The Next Generation
  • I want my research life:  fumbling my way to qualitative research/ethnography, also known as trying to do scholarly work without being formally attached to a graduate program or university faculty
  • Collaboration and crowdsourcing with peers near and far
  • The Balancing Act
  • Choosing the Tools for Teaching and Learning and Student Choice
  • Students as Leaders and Teachers
  • What Does It Mean to Be a Linchpin or Musings on School Librarianship
  • Sources of Insight

Stay tuned for the next week or two as I try to articulate some thoughtful and reflective comments on these topics/themes and more.

What issues are weighing heavily in your heart and mind on the eve of this school year?

ALA Annual 2010 Reflections: What I Got and The 3Ps I Want for 2011

Nothing flowery here—I will just cut to the chase….

As I evaluate my conference experience, these are the two essential questions I use to measure how worthwhile a conference experience is for me:

1.  Did I leave with meaningful and powerful takeaways that will inform my practice that will directly impact the services and paradigm I offer to my patrons (in this case, high school students and teachers)?
2.  Did my learning experiences push my thinking and challenge existing assumptions?  Did it create any kind of constructive disruption for me?


  • Participating on two panels and one YALSA preconference workshop with so many smart and talented librarians, including:  “”How Did This Happen” Independent Reference Publisher’s Group (IRPG); “Light, Cameras, and Booktrailers!”; and “Promoting Teen Reading with Web 2.0 Tools”.   I enjoyed not only sharing ideas from my own practice through these forums, but I appreciated the opportunity to learn from others in the publishing industry as well as academic, public, and school librarians.   I was especially thrilled to meet Sue Polanka, someone whose work informs my own and challenges my thinking.
  • Connecting with reps from my vendors and learning about new products that are rolling out for 2010-11.
  • The good vibes and super positive experience of our AASL 2011 National Convention Planning Committee.  I truly am proud to serve and to take an active role.
  • Learning about NewsTrust (this will be a resource we incorporate into Media 21 for 2010-11) and engaging in some productive conversation with Fabrice Florin.
  • Spending some real quality time outside of the conference at small group breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with colleagues and friends sharing ideas, discussing issues, and brainstorming new projects for 2010-11.   This actually was  the most meaningful aspect of  my first ALA Annual experience that will actually translate into my professional life and work.
  • Taking a day to see the historic landmarks of Washington D.C. as well as enjoying some local shopping!
  • While I heard some people complaining about wireless, it worked flawlessly for me the entire weekend at the conference center.
  • On a lighthearted note, I saw plenty of cute and comfortable shoes.

Constructive Criticism

  • I really do not need a five pound printed program—I am confident there is a way to condense the program to be more user friendly and better organized.    I also found the online program tricky to navigate (I heard others echoing this sentiment as well)—I’d love to see an easier and more searchable interface for 2011.
  • Develop more than just a mobile website for the event—if an actual mobile app was developed, I missed it somehow.
  • Don’t just privilege authors and author events—while these are certainly a draw for many attendees, I would have appreciated having an opportunity to have heard someone like Howard Rheingold, Clay Shirky, Michael Wesch, or other comparable voices speak and interact with attendees.
  • I would love to see committee meetings limited to just Thursday so that I have more time to attend other sessions; I found that the sessions that really spoke to me always seemed to coincide with my committee meetings  (as well as some of my own panel sessions).  Perhaps the committee meetings could be split between a virtual session prior to the conference and then a time face to face?  If not, maybe there could be a “no compete” time slot in which sessions aren’t scheduled against committee meeting times.  I’m not sure if logistically, these options are possible, but those are my solutions.
  • Redesign the ALA Annual site to better pull together social media streams for the conference and to better share information as the conference unfolds.   How about an ALA Connects site? (not to be confused with ALA Connect).

If we as a profession and organization say we value a participatory culture, collective intelligence, and the power of social learning (f2f as well as virtual), I think it would helpful to consider hosting fewer formal concurrent 90 minute sessions designed for 200+ people and provide learning venues that would provide more opportunities for engagement.   For me, I want a conference experience that goes back to the three Ps:  portable, participatory, and personalized.  How do  we do this?

  • Seize on the opportunity to make much better use of the Networking Uncommons and perhaps reinvent it as a Learning Commons or ALA Unplugged using the ISTE Unplugged as a model.   Rather than just a single  room, I’d love to see it as a space  (similar to what we had at ALA MW 2010 but bigger and more prominently positioned) where people can sign up to do informal presentations or just engage in spontaneous conversations about any professional topic or issue (and not just techie stuff!) much as we did at AASL 2010 .
  • Other learning opportunities I’d like to see take place at ALA Annual 2011:  events comparable to ISTE EdubloggerCon 2010 and OpenSource Con.
  • Space and creation of lounges like the Bloggers’ Cafe, Social Butterfly Lounge, Advocacy Lounge; we could even have lounges for “birds of a feather” sessions and conversations on other hot topics and emerging themes, such as division standards and ebooks/ereaders.  It might also be fun to have lounges for divisions where members can connect as well  or for people to learn more about a division and who might be considering joining a particular division (and more easily find your badge ribbons as a small bonus).

I think these suggestions related to learning and networking the conference experience would go a long way in taking what is a huge conference and giving people options for personalizing that conference experience in meaningful ways so that they can take advantage of the traditional conference elements while tailoring their learning experiences as well.  I think that by incorporating these elements, we can make “unconference” more than just a one day event and give people the option to participate in learning spaces of comfort and interest while providing a menu of learning spaces to help us all step outside the echo chamber that often pervades traditional conference.  In addition, I think these kinds of less formal events would not only be powerful learning experiences, but they would also provide a space for librarians from all kinds of library environments to interact on a more personal level and to crowdsource ideas on specific topic/theme while possibly helping us all to better understand how our corners of the library ecosystem matter to each other.

And yes, I am more than willing to be part of a team to facilitate these kinds of experiences at ALA Annual 2011.

Reflect and Share

If you are were at ALA, what did you enjoy most?  What were your highlights?  What suggestions do you have to build on the positives of the conference to help create an even better ALA Annual for 2011 in New Orleans?   If you were attending virtually, what ideas jumped out at you from someone’s blog, Twitter stream, or other form of social media?  Or what seemed to be absent?

If you are posting your own reflections, please also feel free to share those as well!


Teens Embrace Presentation Zen

Our culminating activity of our Issues in Africa research and reading experience was for each student to design and present a talk on his/her learning experiences using the presentation zen style.  I collaborated with Susan Lester, my co-teacher in the Media 21 project, to show her the benefits of presentation zen style and created a pathfinder to guide conversations with our class and to provide resources to facilitate this new learning initiative.  All the handouts and rubrics you see on the pathfinder were co-created by Ms. Lester and me; many thanks to Kim Cofino for inspiring my own use of presentation zen and to Joyce Valenza for her model of avoiding “death by PowerPoint.”

When I first introduced the concept of presentation zen, the students seems intrigued but slightly skeptical.  After all, this concept was a far cry from the endless parade of bulleted PowerPoints they had created in their previous school experiences.    In spite of any initial doubt they may have harbored, the Media 21 sophomores jumped right into the work, first creating a loose “storyboard” or outline of the big ideas they wanted to emphasize in the presentation.   It was not until they had fleshed out the major talking points and ideas that they got the green light to start looking for Creative Commons licensed photos.  We used the “Advanced Flickr search” and students learned how to discern Creative Commons licenses and how to provide image attribution.

Our workshop time, in which students had eight working days in class, was sprinkled with mini-lessons on tips for delivering an effective talk; some students also used this time to do a “dress rehearsal” in which they practiced in small groups and provided feedback to each other.  Part of the presentation requirement was to use no or minimal (1 small index card) notes; this requirement was in place to encourage the students to speak off the slides rather than reading the slides or reading from notes.   I was pleasantly surprised to see that out of roughly 45 students, only about 5 actually chose to have a notecard in hand, and even then, the students did a terrific job of using the notecard minimally.  During our workshp time, we also spent time helping allay fears about speaking in front of classmates—most students had little experience in presenting to fellow students, so we understood that many felt some degree of anxiety.  What struck me was the care students seemed to take in selecting their images and how engaged they seemed; on several days, many students seemed to lose track of time because they were so engrossed in their work.

It took about three and a half days to complete the presentations in each class.   We used the big screen and seating area in the library to host the actual presentations so everyone could sit more comfortably and have easy visibility.   I served as timekeeper (students’ were to keep presentations in the six-minute range) and “clicker”, which worked well for the most part although I will purchase a remote clicker for students who may feel comfortable being in control of their slidedecks.   Some presentations were exceptional while some were less than stellar; most, though, exceeded our expectations, and more importantly, what the students thought they were capable of doing!    We also did private “debriefing” sessions with students to emphasize the strengths and to provide verbal feedback on what they could do to make their presentations even better; this feedback seemed truly important to the students.  Because of time issues, we were not able to provide each student a copy of his/her assessment rubric, but each student will receive this after the holiday break as well.

We also had some teachers and our principal, Dr. Eddy, who dropped in to hear a few of the presentations.    All seemed impressed with how well students delivered their “talks” and the slide design.  Dr. Eddy was particularly impressed that the students were not reading off the slides or any kind of script; Susan and I responded that was exactly the point of this style of presentation!  I also now have at least one other teacher on board for going with the presentation zen style for next semester—I am hoping that through word of mouth and a presentation we will share with the faculty next semester (which will include some of our students actually redelivering their presentations), we will get more buy-in for interesting talks rather than dull presentations that are mere readings of regurgitated facts.

Students were asked to complete a post presentation self-assessment of their presentation and slidedeck; this self-assessment form, created using Google Forms, was embedded on the pathfinder page as well as the class agenda that is hosted on Google Sites.

Creekview High School LibGuides – Presentation Zen: Issues in Africa Presentations – Self Assessment via kwout

I have found the responses to the self-assessment to be particularly revealing.  The responses were overwhelmingly positive, and several students even shared that they were now eager to try another presentation because the zen style made the process more meaningful for them.

I’d like to share some of the responses that struck me as particularly interesting here:

I like that I cannot rely on my slides as much.  It requires me to actually learn what my project is about and not just copy and paste a whole paragraph into my power point then read it right off the slide when I am presenting.  I felt that I was more connected to the class while presenting and I really liked that, it made me feel better about myself while I was actually up in front of the class.

I love the presentation zen style because I noticed it kept my audiences attention. Also I was able to elaborate on the different topics without having to read paragraph after paragraph from slide after slide. It was more fun for me to present because I got to find pictures that reminded me of my information and I could add anything that “popped” into my head without people saying “hey that wasn’t on the slide”.

I would enjoy doing another presentation zen project. This style of project allowed me to freely talk about my topic since there were no set in stone bullet points. I also would do it again because the audience was more concentrated on what I was saying rather than the slide itself.

I like it SO much more. You feel so much more comfortable and relaxed when you can just look at your audience instead of reading bullets off a power point.  Thank you to Mrs. Lester and Mrs. Hamilton. I know that my grade does not match with how much I have learned. Even though my grade isn’t what I would hoped it to be, the learning I have received will be with me forever, and for that I am strongly appreciative.

I liked the fact that there were minimal or no words at all. I liked that we could use the pictures to tell the story. I have never done that before and I will do it more often.

Using the “presentation zen” style, I actually had to understand my findings. Because I couldn’t use bullets in my power point, I was forced to really connect to my research to talk about it during my presentation.

I like the whole “simple picture, simple text” concept. I think this method actually gets the presented message across to the audience more powerfully and emotionally than busy, chaotic slides. This method also forces the presenter to present to the AUDIENCE and talk from what he/she knows rather than look at the slides and read right off of the slide with no communication to the audience.

This has been an amazing experience. I cannot wait to start another project similar to this one. This project has even opened a doorway to what classes I might want to take in college and which way my future job might take.

I seriously liked the new style of one or two words to convey the ideas as well as the one picture. The overall feel of the presenting was different like that because it wasnt just straight reading facts off in bullets, I felt with this style I was more in control of the audience rather than all of them reading the slide before I had read it to them. Also, it was more varied in the ideas without the facts. Every presentation had its unique style and ideas.  I loved the presenting despite my nerves and I would love to conquer the fear of presenting, so the more we have, the better chance I can improve!

I would absolutely love to do another presentation using this style. This style is more entertaining while also being educational and fun.

We are still in the process of uploading our presentations to Slideshare, so once the entire class is represented, I will create a post highlighting and embedding some of the actual presentations like the one below.

I am incredibly proud of the students’ first efforts and proud that they were willing to stretch themselves as they tried something completely new.  I am looking forward to us building on our successes and polishing our weaknesses next semester.   We are also going to explore some other presentation style elements, including Ignite style talks, lightning talks, and Pecha Kucha. I can’t wait to see what the students create next semester!