Friday, May 27, 2011

Cardboard Cutouts or Real People?

My commitment to CGD is sending me along to quite a few genealogy events where I am able to hear a range of very knowledgeable speakers present on their areas of interest or expertise.

This morning I read a post by Anne Roach where she described her use of auto-tweeting to add an element of interactivity to a recent conference presentation . Anne reminded me that "Benjamin Franklin allegedly said, Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." When I was teaching I always tried to involve the kids because I believed that children learn by doing; so do adults.

When I attend some genealogy events I wonder if some presenters recognise that they are speaking to real people because they may as well be speaking to cardboard cutouts. I may be old, gray and stiff but I am not made of cardboard.

Is it because presenters draw on their experience of classrooms and universities of the sixties, where the teacher was the 'sage on the stage' and students had to shut up and listen? Education in schools and tertiary institutions has moved on from a time when learners were seen as empty vessels to be filled; it is now commonly recognised that, by involving the learner, a richer learning experience will ensue.

It is daunting to have to get up and speak to a group of strangers; it can be annoying if they continually interrupt with questions and comments and disrupt one's train of thought.  However, we as speakers, have a responsibility to our audience. We should not just tell them what we want them to know we should also try to satisfy their thirst for knowledge or information.

HINT 1: At the outset Ask a few of the attendees: Why are you here? or What do you hope to get out of today's presentation?" 

HINT 2: If it's a small group or an all day seminar invest a few minutes in finding out something about each person in the group. 
 
You will then have some information to help tailor the presentation to audience needs.


HINT 3: If a question is not of interest to the whole group offer to answer it at the end.

HINT 4: Always take a question - if is too complex to be answered immediately put it on a 'parking lot' list to be answered at the end of the presentation.

When faced with a diverse audience recognise that some people in the group may know more about some aspects of the talk than you do. Their contributions can break up the tedium of your talk.


HINT 3 : Graciously accept their contributions and involve them in your discussion. Never put them down.


There has been much written about levels of concentration and how long people can sit still and listen. Once asked what I did all day at school I said "I daydreamed."  Victims of "chalk and talk" type presentations are prone to drift off and may miss important aspects of your talk.


HINT 4: Pepper your talk with questions. Pose a question or problem and give the attendees a minute or two to discuss it with their neighbour. Ask a few to share their thoughts.


HINT 5: For longer sessions set some individual or group exercises.

Just as I love the collaborative aspect of blogging where reading Anne's post caused me to think, comment on her post and compelled me to write this post I recognise the collaborative nature of learning.

Please, genealogy presenters, recognise that learning is a collaborative exercise. Involve your students. You can learn from your them and give them and yourselves a richer learning experience. 

10 comments:

patientgenie said...

Really interesting post, summed up my experiences, well put.

Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

Good suggestions and a reminder to involve one's audience. Thanks for this.

Kim von Aspern-Parker said...

I believe that one of the reasons the lectures have become less interactive (no questions till the end etc..) is because they are often being recorded. There are time constraints on the length that will fit on the CD and they don't want material on there that can't be heard (audience/students aren't miked and the questions get lost on the recording)or that might cut off the end of the lecture (because too much material is in the middle.)
Lectures have also become more fixed behind the lectern because of the recording mike.
Just something to ponder.

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