Dance for your Ph.D. – Replacing PowerPoint with Dance

Not only am I passionate about improving the way presentations are delivered, but as a professional ballroom dancer by night, I also happen to be very passionate about dance. As you can imagine, it's not very often that those two passions meet up. Which is why I was ecstatic when I came across this fabulous TEDxBrussels talk about using dance instead of PowerPoint. John Bohannon – a.k.a. the Gonzo Scientist – is a biologist, writer, adventurer, and creator of the Dance Your Ph.D Contest. He masterfully demonstrated the technique of presentation via dance at the recent TEDxBrussels event as he shared the stage with 10 dancers from Minneapolis' Black Label Movement dance company. Watch the 11-minute presentation below.

While hiring a dance troupe for each presentation you give may be a little unrealistic, what I love about this innovative idea is that it contains all of the key ingredients or an effective presentation: engagement, novelty, repetition (albeit simultaneous repetition rather than sequential), and concision.

What other creative presentation methods could replace PowerPoint?

Amazing Lecture – Richard Dawkins

The first installment in my Amazing Lecture Series comes from a well-known and controversial individual. From the YouTube description:

Oxford professor Richard Dawkins presents a series of lectures on life, the universe, and our place in it. With brilliance and clarity, Dawkins unravels an educational gem that will mesmerize young and old alike. Illuminating demonstrations, wildlife, virtual reality, and special guests (including Douglas Adams) all combine to make this collection a timeless classic. The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for Children were founded by Michael Faraday in 1825, with himself as the inaugural lecturer. The 1991 lecturer was Richard Dawkins whose five one-hour lectures, originally televised by the BBC, are now available free online, courtesy of The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Wherever you stand on the issue of Evolution vs. Intelligent Design, and no matter your religious beliefs (Dawkins is a militant atheist), it is difficult to deny that Richard Dawkins has prepared and delivered an amazing lecture. Dawkins elaborates upon the theory of evolution in five installments, each building upon the content of the previous lectures. While he doesn't have the most exciting personality, or energetic voice, he does use a wide variety of teaching tools to compensate. Yes, he uses slides, but very few. He also uses toy dinosaurs, live snakes & bugs, microscopes, guest speakers, paintings, videos, fossils, lasers, smoke, and more! Students are frequently asked to participate, not just by answering questions, but by coming to the front of the class and performing a task that illustrates or demonstrates an important point, such as working a scanning electron microscope.

Of course, Dr. Dawkins isn't quite perfect. The authenticity of his lecture would benefit if he relied less on his notes and spoke more naturally and spontaneously. Yet, it is obvious that the amount of preparation that went into 5 hours of classroom lecture far exceeded the average for college professors. Teachers would improve their lectures by implementing only a fraction of the teaching tools employed in this series.

You can watch the full series here: Growing up in the Universe

Bill Gates - The Little Nerd that Could

As a self-admitted, die hard, Apple fan-boy, it feels a bit strange for me to recommend a talk by the chairman of one of Apple's biggest rivals. But I respect improvement, and from what I've seen of Bill Gates, he is my top pick for Most Improved in the area of presentation skills. Not only does he now have great slides, but his delivery was much improved. It appears as thought Bill has taken the time to prepare the content of his talks, put forth the effort to design them well (or, more likely, the money to hire someone to design them), and accepted help from a speaking coach.

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Amazing Lecture Series

Things have been slow here on Brainslides as I have been transitioning from being a full time student to being a full time employee. I often hear bloggers promising that they will be better about posting every day or every week. I'm not going to go there just yet, because the transition is still in full swing and I feel it is important to give priority to other things such as my social life and physical fitness (I did graduate in Exercise Science, after all).

However, I do have a set of priorities outlined for this blog, one of which is to introduce you to a series of amazing lectures or lecturers that I have come across in my personal experience or that I have found on the web. I hope to show educators that there are alternatives to the monotony of reading PowerPoint slides and that it can be done in the classroom. I will focus on sharing examples of other teachers who have found ways to use slideware or other technology to enhance their teaching and improve their students' learning.

[caption id="attachment_103" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="BYU Professor Lectures on Finance ©2010 BYU Photo"]Image of professor lecturing on finance[/caption]

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