Monday, July 20, 2015

Session Formats & The Grade Divide #flipcon15

Lindsay Cole and I led a session at #Flipcon15 on the great divide between grades and learning, entitled "The Grade Divide"  (get the pun?).  When we first wrote up our proposal for this session, we envisioned small group / roundtable discussions where participants shared their opinions and best practices with getting students to focus more on learning and less on the grades.  When we learned that we were a featured session held in the large lecture hall being streamed to the virtual audience, we recognized that our original session format needed to shift.

When my students write, I constantly have them focusing on the Task, Audience, and Purpose (TAP) of the writing: What are you writing? Who are you writing for? Why are you writing this?  The same questions apply to giving presentations.  What are you presenting? Who are you presenting to? Why are you presenting? The answers to the TAP questions will drive the session format.

Lindsay and I knew that we did not want a "sit and get" type session, nor could roundtable discussions work in a lecture hall of static seating with a virtual audience viewing the live action in the room. We decided to try a talkshow style format: pose a question to the group, poll the physical and virtual audience for their general reaction, share our specific stories, and have audience members volunteer to share their stories as well.

The greatest fear for the talkshow style session is that no one will show up and no one will participate.  As you can see from some of the tweets, people showed up AND participated. If you view the archive of our session, you'll see me dashing about with the handheld mic.

In order to engage our audience, we took a different approach with our slidedeck, as well the session format. When thinking about how to design your slide deck, answering the TAP questions will determine the type of format for your session.

Lindsay and I realized that this session couldn't be "death by PowerPoint" with gobs of information on the slides. So to spark participants, each slide had a meme and guiding question.  We were purposeful in our selection of memes--the meme had to work with the guiding question and be school appropriate.  Additionally, to give us something to talk about and engage the audience, we added in polls and discussed the results. So the gist of our format was: poll audience, tell our stories, view the poll results, and have audience members tell their stories. By asking a poll we could have everyone participate and then focus in on specific folks to share their stories. What was the purpose of our session?  Get people talking!  We couldn't get them talking if we were having them read slides full of information.

Reflecting on the session, I think it went very well, although it was a bit rushed at the end.  We could easily have stretched this 60 minute session into 90 minutes without editing the slidedeck. And as evident from the tweet below from flipped learning pioneer and band leader Aaron Sams, the virtual audience was having a very lively discussion.  Our moderator, Dan Spencer, did a great job keeping Lindsay and I informed about the virtual audience, even stating at one point the stream was flowing so fast he could barely keep up. I'd like to figure out a better way--other than on Twitter-- for the virtual attendees to interact with the physical audience in the room. It would be cool to somehow have them share their stories via GHO during the session.

If you were in the audience for this session, what did you think?  Anything Lindsay and I could have done differently/better?

Whether or you were there or not, how do you create conference sessions that engage the audience?


  1. Kate,
    I love the format of your presentation! It's so difficult to include the audience when you have 90 minutes squeezed into a 60-minute slot! If you had GHOs with those in your virtual audience, you would've had to make the session longer... If you had a tech person helping you set those up while presenting, it might work, but I think the people in front of you should get the most attention. ;) I like the "turn and talk" way of engaging the audience, and maybe have on hand some whiteboards and markers for them to share their phrase or words with each other (I just thought of this!) or use Answer Garden for live-time answers going up on the big screen. I loved your polling ideas!

    I worry so much about adding photos that are not mine to my presentations. I take or make my own graphics/photos for them. I don't want to be getting paid for a session that has someone else's work in it. How do you handle this issue? I have never created a meme, but would like to, as they are so engaging. Is it okay to take someone else's photo and adapt it for memes? I wonder what the copyright is on those?

    After just presenting in Boston, I found out this about my own style - I need to add more photos of my students, and even videos. I really enjoyed the sessions that had "real kids" in them on the big screen. Music is always a plus, too - I include it for the lead into my presentations, and I have a clip (I used TubeChop) at the end for a point I want to leave the audience with, as well.

    Thanks for reflecting! I just did the same. I think it's so important for both teachers and students. I really need to remember this once school begins again... :)

  2. Thanks, Joy!

    I will have to check out Answer Garden.

    As long as you cite sources, it should be ok for stuff found on the web. We did not make a single one of those memes and I should add our works cited to the slideshow. Foot notes on each slide would also work.

    I don't usually include pictures/videos of my students in my presentations unless they are shots that the student faces aren't seen clearly or if I'm spotlighting specific people, I get consent from the student and parents. Folks in my district sign a media-release form, but since I'm not technically working for my district when I present, I can't use their images without permission.

    Thank YOU for commenting! :-D