Tag Archives: Garr Reynolds

Nuggets on preparing/giving Presentations

Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter “to whom it may concern…” Ken Hammer, AT&T

For several years in my 20s I worked first in the publications area of an organization and then for a printer-broker. The printer-broker shared office space with a graphics company, which gave me occasion  to help with layout when the company was short staffed. My interest in graphic design and layout stemmed from being Copy Editor for my high school paper, followed by Copy Editor for a short-lived student-found college magazine. That interest also manifested in the decoration of my bedroom walls. To feed that interest, I took a class or two at the School for Visual Arts.

Years later, as a teacher enmeshed in computers and computing, I refound my interest in the form of digital layout and publishing possibilities, made multiple presentations (informal and formal) to teaching colleagues, and discovered Garr Reynolds, blogger at Presentation Zen.

Having purchased all of Garr’s books plus a few that he recommended, and devouring  everything I could on the topic of presentation (and the brain!), I am now at the paring down spot. The place where it is time to pass along these informative and always-timely references to others, and save the nuggets here. I’ve mentioned Garr multiple times in posts and now add to that collection by recommending his Thoughts & Tips on Presenting Naked, from his February 2007 talk at the Apple Store in Osaka, Japan.

Here’s some of the advice I give when teachers ask me for advice on computer projects.

Any computer project always takes a little longer than a  non-computer project, because the computer lets us revise and experiment endlessly.

When creating a presentation:

• focus on the content first (text to convey facts, images to convey emotion)
• keep transitions simple & limit to just a few styles
• skip the special effects; they often detract from your message
• keep the number of words to a minimum; YOU are the story teller, not your text
• text should be large enough to be seen from the back row of a reasonably sized room
• have consistency of fonts, style, color and layout
• imagine you are creating a children’s picture book; they have few words & lots of images

When giving a presentation:

• take a deep breath
• ground yourself
• look around at your audience and make eye contact
• smile
• speak clearly (enunciate)
• speak expressively (elocute)
• speak so people can hear you
• talk to the audience and not to the screen

And I could not leave out this comment from my brother, paraphrasing the advice of my Uncle Leo, who was a full colonel in the US Air Force (and had been an Acting General), on telling my brother the best way to present:

Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em – Tell ’em – Tell ’em what you told ’em


Garr Reynold’s Lessons from the bamboo

Garr Reynolds, of Presentation Zen fame, recently presented at TEDxTokyo 2011: Enter the Unknown. Each of his three books about design and presentation are imbued with a Japanese sensibility towards nature. In his TEDx Talk, Garr shares lessons he has taken from the hearty, flexible bamboo. Given that Garr has lived in Japan for probably close to 20 years, yet grew up in Oregon, it is no surprise that he is strongly influenced by the teachings of nature.

I grew up in Oregon, in the United States, so there’s  lot of tree karma in me.

In the words of others: Reynolds & Sousa

Picture 1I’ve mentioned Garr Reynolds before, so many times, in fact, that he is even included in the Tag Cloud at the right. Garr writes an informative blog about presentation design at Presentation Zen, and while I initially found his writing (both his blog, and his book of the same name) enjoyable and accessible for learning about presenting and design, he often includes references to, and whole posts about the brain. So it is with his June 17, 2009 post The power of emotional contagion. Garr does a lot of traveling and presenting outside of Japan (where he lives). This current post finds him visiting Tivoli Gardens after presenting in Sweden, and he writes about mirror neurons, yet another topic that figures in my Tag Cloud.

Picture 2A colleague who I met at the AIMS Technology Retreat twittered me an article in ASCD by David Sousa: Educational Leadership – Brain-Friendly Learning for Teachers. Sousa, who has also written an information packed book How the Brain Learns, discusses professional development that is geared towards learning for the participants. He references current brain research and provides practical suggestions designed to help make PD opportunities useful rather than onerous. Especially since I am knee deep in co-planning a full day’s worth of opening meetings for the fall, this article is a welcome “hand to the forehead” reminder of what will make the day worthwhile.

Digital Wave – Students on Tech

This has been a remarkably productive and enjoyable week of professional development. Special kudos to those brave and incredibly PATIENT students who were on the other side of the help desk, helping us get up to speed on their favorite tools.

Hands on work, lots of time to practice, good company and able, caring facilitators and teachers are the best elements in a successful PD experience. They have all been readily available! (Head Librarian)

I thank you for all your support! What sources of information you were for me, as well as for the participants. Your ability to jump right into any situation… you were eager, polite, and so friendly.… each and every participant thanked me over lunch, telling me how wonderful you two were, and wondering how RCDS had such nice kids…with fabulous backgrounds in technology. (3rd Grade Teacher and Facilitator at our Smart Board Conference)

…thank her for empowering our students. Yesterday’s student sessions were amazing. I learned so much about Twitter, Pulse Pen, I-Phones, Facebook, etc. We have an incredible number of incoming 9th graders [and 10th graders] who are going to amaze you with their knowledge of technology! The world is ever changing…use our students to help adapt to all the changes. You won’t be sorry. The students are so easy to work with and they enjoy helping. (US Math Teacher)

These students were/are AMAZING!!!!! I went home thinking a few things: Like, why are they still in school when they could easily be running their own corporations, and …how can we keep up with them? …and…we have much to learn about the world of tomorrow from them! Thank you, I loved every minute of learning from you!! (MS Learning Specialist)

Thanks…for recruiting and organizing this talented group. I attended Monday’s workshops and came away with a better understanding of how students are using and enjoying technology. These students piqued my interest in expanding my own use of the internet and technology. Thanks to everyone for all the time you put into preparing and presenting your technology insights. (Art Department Head)

I attended some of the Monday workshops and am totally impressed with the students’ knowledge as well as their poise and superior pedagogical skills. They were amazingly patient, knowledgeable, interesting, relevant, intellectually curious, and with-it. I want to sign up for any future workshop that may be offered by our students. (LS Learning Specialist)

Well, the faculty reviews above should give you a glimpse into the reception of our faculty to the Students on Tech sessions this past Monday. Seven students kicked off Digital Wave by sharing their favorite apps with faculty in thirty minute sessions. The goal was not to proselytize, but rather to answer the question “Why I use this app (or tool)?” and give a brief demo of it. In addition to the applications already mentioned, students covered Google Docs, Tech Tips (an in-house podcast created by one of the students), iChat, and blogging.

I am so proud of these students, who presented like professionals and managed to model best practices of presenting, sharing some impressive slides that would make Garr Reynolds quite happy. (I think that some of the students may have learned their presentation skills from years of watching Steve Jobs keynotes.) 😉

As if Monday didn’t keep them busy enough, these students returned on Tuesday, along with three others, to assist in our hosting of a Smart Board Conference. More on that tomorrow!

Creating Off the Grid

Garr Reynolds writes about “going analog” during the beginning process of creating. In his June 17th post, Creativity, nature, & getting off the grid, he even shares a one-minute video of his favorite “off the grid” location, which is on the coast of Oregon.

I’ve been thinking about that for the past few days as I’ve kayaked on Long Island Sound, just out of Mamaroneck Harbor.

Otter Creek, behind our house, is a tidal creek that serpentines out to Mamaroneck Harbor:

Some of the many types of birds and water fowl that hang out on the rocks:

Long Island Sound, facing Long Island – Larchmont, New Rochelle, and eventually NYC to the right; Rye and Greenwich to the left:

Greeted by an egret upon returning to Otter Creek (yes, it’s said there used to be otters swimming in this creek):

There’s no doubt that my most creative thinking happens when I am not thinking about the topic in question. While that could be during any number of activities, it typically seems to be during recreational moments, such as kayaking or lap swimming or taking long walks. Interestingly, when I’m fully engaged in yoga, the breathing has me so focused that there is no room in my brain for any other thoughts to enter. The same is true for when I’m drawing or sketching; I am so absorbed in the process that my brain silences all other thoughts.

The June/July 2008 issue of Scientific American Mind includes a panel interview with three people who focus on creativity: John Houtz, psychologist and professor; Julia Cameron, poet, playwright and filmmaker; and Robert Epstein, former editor of Psychology Today and currently a visiting scholar. How to Unleash Your Creativity is an interesting discussion between the three of them and interviewer Mariette DiChristina, executive editor of Scientific American and Scientific American Mind.

Each of these individuals has similar approaches to stimulating their creativity, and all of them seem to get off the grid, meaning they walk away from whatever it is they are thinking about. They “take breaks and learn to use them strategically; use daydreams as sources of new ideas.”

I spend a lot of time using my computer, not only related to school but also writing and blogging, and communicating with friends and family via email, iChat or web pages. In this past year much has been written in the press about email and related technology information overload; it’s even become a big topic on the tech listservs I read.

The solution – Get Off the Grid. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds, but for those who manage to do it, I’m willing to bet all sorts of interesting ideas will pop into your head.

Brain Imaging from the Inside–>Out

This morning I clicked on over to Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen blog, the way I do most mornings. His post, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s amazing TED presentation, describes Dr. Taylor as a brain scientist who will move you to tears. That was all it took – the combination of a brain scientist and something emotional – for me to sit glued to my computer screen at 6:32 this Saturday morning.

I’ve watched Jill’s talk and I was moved to tears. And now, before the sun has even tickled the horizon, the birds are chirping. This Wednesday past, true as clock work, the Osprey who summer on the creek behind our house returned to their perches. And I thought of my Dad at King Street Nursing Home…how his brain is humbled by Alzheimers but his heart still smiles with song. Unable to speak many words, he tells me he wants to go home, and he can still respond to family news with “That’s wonderful.” And Frank Sinatra or any of the Columbia University fight songs can still elicit from him a hum or a phrase of song and a twinkle of recognition.

Mel meet Ken, Ken meet Mel

Just imagine a conversation between Dr Mel Levine and Sir Ken Robinson. They’d both be telling stories about individuals, education, and the process of learning. They really should meet each other, if they haven’t already, as they both advocate for finding your passion and pursuing it, and they both would like to see education change to better serve all students.

Mel Levine aims to help demystify kids and youngmellevinephoto.jpg adults to themselves, so they better understand how they learn by understanding their strengths and weaknesses. A person’s strengths can serve as the foundation around which their learning and maturing take place. Sometimes it is difficult to assess one’s own strengths, though, particularly when one’s weaknesses can seem insurmountable or simply overshadowing. The goal of Mel’s program is to assist individuals in overcoming or circumventing their weaknesses, while highlighting, enjoying and celebrating their strengths.

Ken Robinson believes that individuals should pursue their passions, sirken.jpgand that many times in education the educators school individuals out of their passions. Schools should retune themselves to place equal emphasis on the nontraditional areas, such as the arts, thus permitting students who enjoy or excel in these areas ample opportunity to pursue their studies while being lauded for those skills, regardless of their aptitude in more traditional areas.

Both Mel and Ken feel that having a passion and being able to pursue it are highly motivating and important aspects of education, and are often downplayed (when not in typical academic areas) in favor of more traditional areas. I think they would have a fine time chatting with one another!

Don’t take my word for it! Here they are, in their own words (except for Garr’s blog entry.)

On his Presentation Zen blog Garr Reynold’s has an excellent summary of Sir Ken Robinson on the art of public speaking.

Interviews with Ken Robinson

Interviews with Mel Levine