K12 Online: Week One Review

The first week of the free K12 Online Conference is over and it has been great fun to download four presentations each morning and have the chance to watch them later in the day.  I also participated in the live chat at the conclusion of week one.

I am in awe of the thinking, planning, and creating that has gone into creating the K12 Online presentations and I know first hand how much work goes into creating and producing a twenty minute short film for the conference.  My presentation, Film School for Video Podcasters, goes live on the last day of the conference.  I spent several days putting my trailer together and then several more days putting together filming and editing the actual presentation (I ended up getting sick at the end of it so I don’t necessarily recommend it).   I am honored to be a part of this conference.

I must admit, however, in the spirit of NotK12Online’s request for critiques, to some disappointment in some of the presentations that suffer from what I dub powerpoint-itis. The same text heavy visually lacking powerpoints that make much professional development unbearable has made its way to some of these downloadable movies.  While the conference allows for any type of presentation, I would suggest that a slideshare might be a better format for what is essentially a powerpoint with narration.  Although I recognize the work that goes into creating an audio podcast or a wiki, I must confess that I didn’t check out any of those.

On the live chat, someone mentioned that video editing is a twenty-first century literacy.  While the technology to create movies has certainly gotten cheaper and more readily available, moviemaking as a medium has been around for over a hundred years and the concepts of editing and shot composition have had a long time to develop.  Keynoter, Dr. Stephen Heppel, says “It Simply Isn’t the 20th Century Any More…So Why Would We Teach as Though It Was?“  When it comes to videomaking I say, “It Simply Isn’t the 20th Century, Why Are We Teaching as If the 20th Century Didn’t Come Before the Century We’re In Right Now?”

Making movies is not a new medium and so I do expect a bit more from some of the great minds in educational technology in terms of being literate in the visual medium in which they’re working. If you’re able to watch a movie without the visuals or if the visuals actually take away from the audio, it’s a sign that visuals aren’t very effective. It’s a shame if the meaning of a project is obscured or unsupported by the visuals.

These are the highlights of the conference’s first week for me.:

Steven Kimmi – Traveling Through the Dark

I’m a bit biased because I feel as though I’ve been present with Steven on his journey through the dark since he reached out to me via a link to my blog from his early on on his journey. Steven pinned his presentation on an effective metaphor supported by visuals and even his chosen (albeit too loud) music. He provides a great starting point for teachers just beginning to use educational technology and not knowing where to start. If you’re brand new to the using technology in the classroom, I might start with this presentation.  Steven’s just a regular guy so he makes you feel that if he can do it, so can you.

Brian Crosby – Video Conferencing, Easy, Free, and Powerful
If you want to use Skype in your classroom, Brian’s presentation wisely starts with practical applications of the technology and he shows examples but then he also includes includes how the technology works in a concise and well organized thirteen minute presentation.  It takes restraint to stay under the twenty minute conference limit.

Kathy Cassidy and Patrick Lewis – We Like Our Blogging Buddies
This presentation shows a high tech way to conduct what we call dialogue journals in our kindergarten classes where students have an adult respond to their writing and ask them questions. In this case, pre-service/intern teachers interacted with first graders via blogs. The presentation uses children speaking in their own words about the experience. It’s hard to go wrong when you use students. I really appreciated the presenters insights they shared when they said they might focus in the future on the content of student writing and not so much on punctuation, spelling, and conventions as they did. As someone who has to constantly remind teachers to separate their teaching of proofreading from revising, I concur.  Surely the power of blogging can go beyond teaching students to use periods.  Kathy correctly identifies that the power as in giving students an audience beyond the classroom.  What a great way to have young students develop a sense of themselves as writers.

Alec Courus – Open, Social, Connected: Reflections of an Open Graduate Course Experience
I first discovered Alec when he left a comment on my Mr. Winkle Movie on Youtube. I found his clever grad school class trailer by following a link to his profile and downloaded it to my iPod. I don’t know much about this guy but I think we have mutual feelings for each other’s movie work. The content of his presentation (about open source curriculum for college courses)  isn’t entirely applicable to my work as an elementary teacher but I think it speaks to the power of visuals to make a presentation compelling. Alec didn’t make a powerpoint, he made a movie. Check out the Forest Gump/Zelig like insertions of Alec into famous situations at the end.

Sara Kajder – Promise into Practice
I had never heard of Sara before and I was sorry she wasn’t online for the live chat. Sara presents on action research, like I completed recently with Antioch University, where teachers implement a teaching strategy and collect data to see how it’s working. Although I felt like her visuals probably didn’t go beyond the level of typical powerpoint and it’s hard to read some of the text, her honesty and insights made the presentation worth listening to. Of particular interest was what she said about the struggles of implementing technology in middle school because of students reluctance to any tool used by teachers. Students felt like teachers would take what was fun and mess it up and even asked to go back to worksheets. I wished that we could have seen examples of the student work she talks about.

If you’re still with me, H Songhai’s What Did You Do in School Yesterday, Today, and Three Years Ago? is also worth checking out. Mr. Songhai has a great voice (I mean, the guy could do voiceovers) and a compelling personality that elevates his presentation to the level of poetry. He also skillfully uses pacing of his movie to allow you to reflect and absorb.  It reminds me of one of my favorite films, Sans Soleil.

I’ll be posting more on the conference and my own presentation as the week goes on.

4 Responses to K12 Online: Week One Review

  1. Matthew-

    Thank you for the overview and embeds of your favorite K12Online presos.

    And in regard to your comment about powerpoint-itis, Dan Meyer has been discussing this very issue over at his blog and I’m hoping that people charged with creating presentations will take a look at Nancy Duarte’s book slide:ology- The art and science of creating great presentations. Maybe you were the one that mentioned this book on your blog. On p. 7 in the book she makes a great distinction between 1) Document-2) Teleprompter and3) Presentation. 1) “If a slide contains more than 75 words, it has become a document…2) Presentations with 50 or so words per slide serve as a teleprompter…3) True presentations focus on the presenter and the visionary ideas and concepts they want to communicate.” She finishes with “The audience will either read your slides or listen to you. They will not do both. so ask yourself this: is it more important that they listen, or more effective if they read?” Great places to begin when creating compelling presentations.

  2. Ken,
    It takes a lot of time, effort and creativity to create powerpoint slides that are not 50 – 75 words long.

  3. Mathew,
    I was thinking about powerpoint presentations when I came across this one. It’s less than four minutes long and it’s amazing. http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/rives_tells_a_story_of_mixed_emoticons.html

  4. @Elona, that was great. Thanks for sharing.

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