Great design is about a story once again held a contest for classroom presentations. The results are encouraging – teachers are improving the way they present material to their classes. But it doesn't require special software or fancy zooms to improve your lecture slides. It simply requires an age old tactic of tapping into your students' emotions. The winner this year was a deeply philosophical lesson by Mr. Adam Griffin. He discusses the morality of choice in a way that any college student in Philosophy 101 will be familiar with, but he also uses a novel tactic to grab his students' attention. View it below:

See the rest of the contest winners at Prezi's blog: Prezi “Zoom Back to School” Contest – Winners Announced! - Blog.

Episode 5: Prof. Tony Christensen Redesigns His Slides

Nathan and Mike chat with Professor Tony Christensen of Wilfrid Laurier University who recently decided to scrap his lecture slides and start from scratch. (See his amazing before & after slides below.) Find out what convinced him to do it, what it took, and how you can take steps to presenting better in your own classroom.

Experiencing_Ethnography_Original.pdf Download this file

Experiencing_Ethnography_New.pdf Download this file

Also mentioned in the show:

Brainslides_Episode_5.mp3 Listen on Posterous

Presentation Picks:

Nathan - Presenting with Text

Mike –
Tony –, color them generator

Find more info about the hosts:
Tony Christensen @casualtaoist

Mike Pulsifer @mikepulsifer

Chris Anderson (TED Curator) on Effective Communication

Chris Anderson is the curator of the TED Conference, which I have referred to numerous times, and which is the source of the astoundingly popular TED Talks available online for free. In an interview with Charlie Rose, he discusses a bit of the history behind TED as well as the 18-minute format and other things. About half way through the interview, Charlie Rose asks a very poignant question: "What have you learned about the ability to communicate?" Chris's response contains a number of important points for everyone who needs to communicate important information, especially teachers.

Tell Dramatic Stories

The TED Talks format resembles the ancient practice of telling stories around a campfire. For ages before modern civilization, families and tribes would gather around a campfire and share stories that would connect on a deep level with each other. These stories, he says, "send fireworks exploding in the brains of everyone in the audience."

Ancient civilizations told dramatic stories around the campfire

Ancient Storytelling – Photo Credit: Flickr User ihave3kids

How different from the gazed looks often found on the faces of high school and college students! Could telling stories be an answer to improving the attention of students in the classroom? In his book, Brain Rules, John Medina explains that stories elicit emotions which have a large impact on retention. What is so impressive about TED, is that these 18 minute talks are viewed hundreds of thousands of times a day by people all over the world. Now that is a captive audience! Stories can be used in the classroom to grab attention, illustrate a point, or encourage reflective thinking.

Be Transparent

Chris says that those who want to puff themselves up tend to "switch off the audience." But people who allow themselves to feel vulnerable, who are honest and transparent about who they are, look audience members in the eye, and share their passion are able to connect with their audience. This level of connection, he suggests, actually involves neurons firing in the audience member which mirror the neurons in the speaker.

Teachers expend enormous amounts of effort trying to help their students give a damn and see things from their point of view. Unfortunately, this often manifests itself in the form of hour long lectures about a topic that students struggle to relate to. Relinquishing the desire to appear intelligent and academic allows you to become accessible to those you are trying to teach.


"A lot of people are brilliant but get lost in jargon." Empathy is a necessary characteristic for a presenter to have if he or she wants to connect to and communicate with an audience. Most effective presenters have developed the skill of simplifying their material so that it is clear enough for everyone to understand it without dumbing it down too much. Similarly, teachers must have the presence of mind to know when they are using vocabulary that is above the comprehension level of those they are teaching, and the ability to rephrase the information using words appropriate to the experience and knowledge of their students.

You can view the entire interview here:

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

Another argument for NO HANDOUTS

I'm running the tech for an educators' meeting this morning (I wasn't involved in the preparation of this presentation). As is customary, the presenter provided their PowerPoint slides as handouts to the attendees. These were printed the day before, but the presenter mentioned to me that she had made some quick changes last night. A few minutes in, she advanced to a slide that wasn't in the handout. I underestimated the repercussions – nearly every attendee began flipping through the handout searching for the elusive missing slide! Their attention was completely diverted from the presenter – who either didn't notice or didn't think to explain that the slide was missing from their handouts.

To add to the disruption, I was controlling a pre-loaded version of the presentation for a webcast. I also received the slides before the edits, and was not sure whether I skipped a slide, missed a slide, or what!

This is just another example of the drawbacks to providing handouts to the audience before the presentation. It is better to prepare a proper document to accompany the presentation (not just a copy of the slides) and provide it after the presentation.

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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