Archive for May, 2008

Future of education is the history of education

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

I like to state, that the future of education is the history of education. Bruce Sterling writes in his visionary book entitled Shaping Things, that “the future composts today“. When looking at the models of the current, you will see them in a mutated form in the future. Therefore, much of change is incremental in the core. What is hard, is to articulate what course would future take. Studying the future is to study multiple futures. What we can do for a certain, is to shape the future through our actions today.

Researching the history of the future is the same as researching the history of the past: you can only interpret it by looking and recognizing the signs you find in the current. Explorers of the future extrapolate weak or strong signals today. Explorers of the past go through archives and ruins today. In other words, both are studied by researching the now.

When formulating any meaningful paths to the future of education, we have to research the now, understand the past and see what patterns might recur in the future. George Siemens does a very good job with this in his talk about a World Without Courses. Got the link from Eric Davidove, check it out.

ICT Forum 2008 blogging activities

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

I just finished a blogging spree at Elisa ICT Forum 2008. The main theme of the event was Green IT and many of the talks featured future trends. We must be crazy, but we managed to blog every single presentation. In the end of the day, all of the posts along with photos were online. Truly real-time, once again. Most of them are in finnish, but there are two posts in english, too. You may see them here.

I’ve now done this blogging thing at several different events and this was the first time I was able to capture each single one as a blog post. It keeps you easily awake for the rest of the day, but the speed you need to crunch words doesn’t really leave much time for reflection, just enough to form coherent sentences. Therefore, it was more of a reportage, than opinionated commentary. I believe if I had just a speed writer along with me, I could easily capture ideas and reflect them in real-time.

We also featured a video blog kiosk, where people were able to try video blogging for the first time with simple equipment you can pick up at a local store. Truly, it was a lot of fun.

Presenting with style

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Have you ever been thanked for a great presentation? I certainly have. Some might think that I’m a good speaker and that the content is interesting, but I don’t think I’m that good, if I compare my style with some of my own gurus. I believe that some of my results often have to do with the style on how I use my slides. I’m confident that even uninteresting content can be presented in an interesting way and language barriers or poor speaking skills can be complemented with great presentation design.

When I say presentation design, I’m talking about the approach on how you create your slides to complement (rather than overload) your story, how simplicity is applied and how metaphors or visuals are used to support your message. You might also consider the flow of your presentation, when you throw jokes, when you go into details, when you ask the audience a question, how you develop the story, when you add some audio or video and how to apply some cross-media feats.

This sounds quite simple but it requires a lot of practice, time and patience. Anyone can be a great presenter, even if you believe you don’t have any sensibility for visual communication. By applying some simple steps of advice you can get so much better results. Here is what I would suggest in order to improve an existing slide full of bullet points and corporate branding:

  • Drop the bullet points to the notes section. If you know your stuff, you don’t need them. If you really must, split the slide so that you have a slide for each bullet point
  • Think of a metaphor that could illustrate your point to draw the picture in the mind of your audience just as it is (think Jesus, much of his success is based on inspiring metaphors)
  • If you cannot come up with a metaphor, use a simple photo to illustrate your point (see istockphoto.com for examples)
  • If you need to add words, use a 2-5 words or use a short quote, if possible
  • Never position text over a detailed part of your image, because it interferes with the background and reduces readability. If you need, edit the photo by reducing detail on certain parts with fades or blur, or cut it into pieces
  • Use high quality photos. If the photo is a bit dull, use the built-in features to cheer it up by adding contrast or fiddling with gamma and brightness settings
  • Remove all slide numbers, corporate branding, visually unnecessary elements and links. You can have those on their individual slides (e.g. on the beginning and end), but not on every slide
  • If you really need motion, add slide animation that makes sense and supports the image (say, if you have a picture of a book, use a page flip transition)
  • Make sure all elements are lined up symmetrically to slide borders or other considerable boundaries
  • If your presentation has some identifiable major sections, you might want to use some slides to identify change of phase. Use similar style on each that stands out of the rest
  • Use the largest font size you can afford with a readable font (arial, verdana, gill sans…)
  • Use font color that sticks out of the background. With dark backgrounds use white or a very light color, with white backgrounds use slightly gray black or any almost black color
  • If you have a Mac, use Apple Keynote to get really professional results with less work
  • Be proud to do things differently than anyone else in the conference

With this approach you will get slides that do not interfere with your speech (avoid all situations where people start to read your slides or need binoculars to make sense of it). When using images and less words, the photos as metaphors give you much more freedom to modify your presentation on the fly if you need to.

The next step is to forget slides altogether, maybe even making your presentation completely non-linear and spontaneous.

For more advice, see the following excellent presentation by Garr Reynolds worth every minute of your time:

Super learning?

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

My friend Eric Davidove from London made a great presentation on effective learning, as it happens today. Well, Super Learners do not use the 70s method called superlearning to acquire and remember a lot of information, but rather the 21st century method of messy Web 2.0 spaces to actively remix and co-create knowledge to reach even greater results. The term has been defined before, and Eric’s new definition is completely opposite of the original meaning of superlearning.

Coming to thing about this, original superlearning as a concept is so school 1.0, where you acquire as much information as possible, so that you can reproduce it in various contexts…and bore yourself to death in the meantime. We have moved forward since, let’s call it superlearning x.o, where you no longer acquire as much as possible, but share as much as possible in a two-way environment.

Eric encourages sharing and high-density communication, both by learners and organizations to empower themselves through various unguided serendipitous activity. Super learners see clarity in noisy, messy and information-overladen environments. Well, that’s my gobbeligoo of the topic, Eric has a very down to earth and easy to understand presentation (about 7 minutes) on the topic: