Posted by: shineonali | October 16, 2010

Book Report Zen?

As you may have noticed from my posts here and here, I have found this third COETAIL course very practical. Some of my learning has come from the reading we were pointed towards, some from the always-interesting discussions in our F2F sessions, and much from the opportunities we were given to use and create with technological tools.

What I love the most is that I have a better sense of the kind of learning to look for when students are working in the visual realm (e.g. recording video, adding images to blog posts and presentations).  I have a better sense of the component skills to teach in order to help them.  I have a better understanding of what we mean by “visual literacy”.  I feel much more comfortable asking students to give a presentation.

My final project for the course is the presentation I started to think about earlier.  After I planned it all out, creating a model, allowing periods for planning and writing, exploring in Keynote, searching for images, putting it all together and practicing…just before I introduced the project to the students, I was overcome with doubt.  This a glorified version of the dreaded oral book report!  What was I thinking?

Since I didn’t have anything else planned, I figured that I’d better go with it.  After all, I was really excited to see the students apply what we’d been learning about visual literacy.  I wanted to give them an opportunity to present in front of their peers.  We needed closure for our character unit–I already have a solid idea of how they are doing as readers, so this really can be a chance to learn about making effective presentations.

I introduced the project yesterday, giving them the background–my own learning from reading Presentation Zen and learning about Ignite.  I told them how they’d be using not only what they knew about reading, but also writing, speaking, technology, and visual literacy.  I have to say, they were super excited after I gave the sample presentation–I even got a round of applause!

Then I asked them to decide which of their books to present about, and brainstorm important ideas, looking back over their notes.  (On Monday I’ll give them the framework so they can do more specific planning.)  This is the part that I would do differently.

My thinking was that they should know what we were going to do with the book before they decided which one they wanted to go back to.  But since they’d seen my presentation, they were ALREADY jumping ahead to planning slides.  They were engaged and eager–but they weren’t really doing what I wanted.  Everything I’ve read and heard lately points to the importance of “offline” planning when you are going to create a presentation, but I think there’s a danger of misinterpreting this phase.  The point is to think more about your topic and audience, to get your creative juices flowing–so if you just sit down and write out, in order, what you are going do and say for each slide, well, you might just be going through the motions.

This wasn’t really their fault–they were just too task-oriented, too concrete in their thinking, to be able to step back and do more open-ended, brainstorm-type exploration.   I don’t think it’s a huge deal–I think they’ll still do well, but next time I would have them decide on the book first, giving only a vague idea of an end product.  I would maybe have them make a web, asking, what words come to mind when you think of this book? They’d skim through the book again, reread their notes, and think about the strategies we used for understanding character.  I could model with our read aloud book.  And THEN give the model presentation.

I’ll let you know how the rest of the project goes!

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