Sunday, November 09, 2014

Today's Reads, Views, & Links

Thanks to the @entreleadership podcast, I came across the author Carmine Gallo, and his new book Talk Like TED.

I bought this in part because if I'm a better public speaker, my classes will be better.  Plus, I bought it with my two presentations at this year's TIES conference in Minneapolis in mind.

Gallo watched over 500 TED Talks to analyze what makes the most successful so successful.

Just a few early takeaways: the power of story.  

First,  it always pays to tell stories.  The power of story telling is the #1 factor in a successful public talk.  Regardless of how complex the data is that you have to present, it always comes down to connecting the data to a story.

This is one reason I'm a supporter of the use of narrative over the thesis-support format.  

The trick, though, is to not overuse stories.  If you just tell stories, they obviously start to lose their effect.

Second, rehears and rehears and rehears.  When you're struggling to find your spot or to get the words out, the audience will struggle with you and you've lost them.  

Third, mix it up.  No one ever is excited to watch a pre-made slideshow.  Those suck.  Period.  

They can't be optimal for your audience.  The one thing my students tell me over and over again about the classes they dislike: the Powerpoints are boring because they're just the notes typed up and put up on the SMARTboard.

Likewise, since everyone has gone through hundreds of Powerpoints, sometimes it's an effective approach to go back to basics during a presentation. Use the white board or use paper to illustrate your idea.  Even those these aren't "new," they're still fresh and engaging because they aren't used very often anymore.


I'm not sold on the last two ways the author has to improve student writing, but her first one: Student talks, teacher writes, has proven effective for me.

I use this when we craft effective introductions.  I'll ask the class to come up with dialogue to begin a rite of passage.  While they give examples, I type them up and project them on the SMARTboard.  Then I'll ask them to come up with a snapshot lead for the same essay.  And so on.

From there we will craft a rough draft of an essay together.  For the most part, I stay silent and just type.


Just read the first three paragraphs of this article (How One Teacher Changed for the Good of Her Students) and tell me you don't want to read the rest!

Four years ago, I realized that I needed to take responsibility for the damage I had done to students who came into my room loving (or at least liking) school and left diminished in some ways. Those kids who loved math until my long-winded lectures about process left them confused and bitter. Those kids that loved to read until my strict book report guidelines and reading logs devoured their curiosity for great stories. 
I had to take responsibility for what I had done. There was no one else to blame. Just as important, I had to make sure that my future students would leave our classroom still loving school, with passionate curiosity, not afraid to try something new.
How do we make children hate school so much? I now teach 5th grade, and by the time they reach me, certain subjects have already landed on their top 10 list of most dreadful things to do. Math tends to top the chart, but social studies usually is close behind, and some even hate reading (but may read many books outside of school). Most students confess a love of recess, art, music, and sometimes even science. PE is always a crowd favorite as well. But math and social studies, yikes.

Sometimes we have to change for our students. After all, the students in front of us today are not the same as they were 10 years ago.  Thus, we have to approach our teaching differently.
What is good for teachers is not always what is good for our current students.
This is one reason I embraced the use of cell phones and social media in my classes.
The counter argument to this is, "yeah, it's fine to engage and entertain the students now.  But what about when they get to college and the professor just lectures all the time."
Well, I have a couple ways to counter this -
1.  Just because they suck, doesn't mean we have to suck.  I mean what happens if our elementary school teachers took that approach?  "You're teachers in high school are just going to lecture, so first graders, you better get used to it, so sit still and here is a 25 minute lecture on reading."  That's stupid.
2.  We have to engage students now so that they better master the skills they need to be college and career ready (and this is something we don't do at LHS very well at all).  When students have been engaged and mastered the skills to be college and career ready and head off to college, maybe they will be more mature and ready to handle their college chemistry class where they are lumped in with 450 students and lectured to for three hours a week.  But even colleges are learning that this isn't an effective way to instruct students.  That's one reason two thirds of all college chemistry grades are Ds or below.
3.  And colleges, I would argue, need to actually teach their professors how to teach rather than just do research.  Why else are up to 70% of all college students leaving without degrees?  
4.  When I was part of the RRVWP with several English professors from UND, they were very cognizant of crafting engaging lessons. In fact, that was how we spent much of our time over the four weeks we met: studying best practices of engaging methods to teach students how to write.

Here is a great article from one of my favorite authors, Steven Johnson, 4 Critical Mistakes All Inventors Make.
My favorite two - failing to anticipate the response of the market.
Johnson's example is of one man's quest to ship ice to tropical environments.  He jus assumed people in warm areas would naturally realize the benefits of ice.  And be willing to pay for it.
However, the audiences didn't know what they were missing, because they weren't really missing it.  So the Frederic Tudor had to create the market first before there was any demand. In other words, he had to make his audience want ice.  No easy feat.
This happens with products all the time though.  No one realized they wanted digital music on their phones until Steve Jobs showed us how cool it would be.
Another example where this failed was Tivo.  Without a doubt Tivo is one of the best DVRs in the business.  However, their marketing campaign didn't resonate at all with their audience.  Thus, Tivo, despite being the superior product in the market, has never made a profit.
Creating a device that changes the world, but for completely different reasons than they themselves imagined.
There are several examples here -
Twitter.  This initially was simply a way for users to post their thoughts on line and share them with others all in 140 characters.  When Twitter came out the concept of hashtags to organize commentary didn't exist.  That was something not really intended. In fact, the inventors of Twitter decided to go ahead and put Twitter on line even though they knew that it would be used for completely different reasons than they intended.
They didn't know it would help market products, allow teachers to teach more effective, enable people to "live tweet" events, and even bring down governments (such as happened with the Arab Spring rebellion).
When Thomas Edison created the phonograph, he purportedly concocted a list of ten things it could be used for.  The first? The one he thought would be most successful? To record the last will and testament of the dying.  Cheerful, right?  The last thing on this list was the one that made all the difference: to record and play music.
Another (far more tragic) example was an inventor who was horrified when the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank.  He worked to find a way to send sound waves through water to detect ice bergs. This would go on to become sonar.  That - over the years - would be used to detect the sex of babies and to spot potential health hazards of fetuses (sonograms).  The inventor couldn't have foreseen that the Chinese - under their one child policy - would use ultrasounds to detect the gender of their infants and then - tragically - use that knowledge in deciding to abort the female fetuses.
The brilliance of a master craftsman

鳴子系こけし/こけしの岡仁 from dmp on Vimeo.

There are just some things 3D printers won't be able to replace.

Here is another example of a craftsman

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