Presentation Preparation & Tips

Ann Macbeth's "The Sleeping Beauty"

Ann Macbeth’s “The Sleeping Beauty”

I’ve been off routine for a few weeks as I recover from surgery to remove my gall bladder, but I’m slowly trying to get back into work mode and first up (you know, other than job letters and putting the finishing touches on my latest chapter) is preparing for my colloquium presentation at the University of St. Thomas in a few weeks.

I’ve been going back and forth on what format I want to use for the visual aspect of my presentation: PowerPoint or Prezi. I’ve never really been a fan of PowerPoints. They always felt a bit unwieldy and in the classroom I’ve found I far prefer using a couple wiki pages that allow for easy transitions and scrolling rather than flipping through slides to return to previous info. However, I’ve never had such a long presentation (~40 minutes of me talking) to plan for, so some kind of visual component is a must and the wiki isn’t going to work.

However, it seems more and more like PowerPoint is rather passé. I can’t guarantee that my Prezi will be anything more amazing than PowerPoint slides would be, but I figure it is still my best choice. There is at least the opportunity for more creativity and to learn more familiarity with a new visual presentation system.

So I’ll conclude this post with a Prezi offering presentation tips which I found helpful. In particular, the information regarding the number of slides (minimum and optimum) for the length of the talk was eye opening. Perhaps I’ll share my Prezi when it’s complete and/or any new Prezi tips I come across as I move through the process.

http://prezi.com/yyqttpipui4h/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

http://prezi.com/embed/1vno843ijfdz/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=0&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0&features=undefined&disabled_features=undefined

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Genre Activity: 19th C. Periodicals & Dickens Journal Online

While I have incorporated fairy tales into teaching genre in a composition course, below is an excellent “genre activity” that pulls from my field of 19th century British literature. It is an actual competition, if you are interested in writing for Dickens’ Household Words, but the instructions seem to also fit a writing assignment emphasizing genre, audience, and publication format. It also encourages the use of technology and the exploration of Victorian culture and literature. Moreover, at least until Nov. 15, 2014, it is a real-world writing assignment, writing that serves a purpose outside of the classroom. I could envision using this writing assignment in a general composition course, but also in an introduction to literature or 19th c. survey course. Has anyone taught a similar assignment? If so, was it successful?

Competition Announcement–Deadline Extended!

Written by John Drew

We are delighted to announce our first LITERARY JOURNALISM COMPETITION. Write an article (reportage, sketch, exposé, informative factual account, digest, etc.), short story, instalment of serial fiction, or poem(s), suitable for publication in a weekly number of Household Words or All the Year Round. If you are not sure what to write, browse the contents of either journal, using the navigation tools above. Minimum word-length is 1,500 words/60 lines of poetry; maximum word-length is 2,000 words. No author’s name should appear on the pages of your entry: name and contact details should be supplied as a separate final sheet, to permit anonymous judging.

Send your entry to djo@buckingham.ac.uk as an e-mail attachment, by midnight on Saturday, 15 November 2014; at the same time, make the minimum donation using the ‘Charities Aid Foundation’ widget on the right of our homepage, to cover entry costs. Once your entry and your donation have been matched up, your entry will be passed to an expert panel of judges. Short-listed entrants will be informed by the end of November; winners will be announced during the Festive Season Details of prizes given on website; winning entries will be typeset in an ‘Extra Twenty-First-Century Number,’ available by Christmas. We hope you enjoy participating!

via Welcome to DJO.

Technology in the Classroom: Infographics

I have a love-hate relationship with technology, as some of my previous posts on the topic may suggest, but I’m trying to overcome my knee-jerk rejection of technology in the classroom, which seems to be largely caused by my frustration with trouble shooting technology problems. As usual lately, this post was inspired by my Pinterest addiction (a good indication that I am an all too frequent user of technology outside the classroom). So today I’d like to share some thoughts on how I can envision using infographics in the classroom.

Because of my Pinterest addiction, I’ll begin with an infographic entitled “Professors, Peers, & Pinterest.” 🙂

Okay, back to infographics in the classroom!

Assigning students (or groups of students) to create their own infographics seems to me to be a fun and useful assignment in an English classroom. In terms of the composition classroom, infographics are a unique form of communication, incorporating images, charts, and researched statistics or other information to educate and inform an intended audience (general or specific). Infographics thereby become a distinct genre of communication, with a specific purpose and audience.

Yet it is a genre quite different from the typical kinds of writing I usually assign in my composition classroom (think summary, analysis, and argument). Although related to summary (info graphics are, after all, a summary or even synthesis of information and research), communication in this genre occurs not through sentences and paragraphs but mainly through images. It appears to be a more obviously creative form of communication that I think might appeal to students with a creative bent, as well as an opportunity for students to consider the creation, layout, and appeal of a visual form of rhetoric.

An infographic assignment could be a welcome break from the typical written assignment and seems an ideal way to transition to a researched argument paper. It would offer students an opportunity to practice their researching skills, including the evaluation and citation of sources, and it could even accompany (or replace) an annotated bibliography.

An infographic assignment is a bit more difficult to incorporate into a literature classroom, but I think there are still some available options. I’m intrigued by the idea of using infographics to present reader-response information following each text. For instance, groups of students would be responsible for creating a survey for their classmates to complete after reading each assigned text; survey results then would be transformed into infographics to be presented to the class and/or uploaded to the course wiki or blog. Surveys could ask questions regarding the speed of reading (such as whether students read only assigned pages or read ahead–and even why they read at that speed) and/or students’ enjoyment of, comprehension of , completion of, or agreement with the text. Whether students are reading a bound or digital copy of the text would also be interesting to know.

If someday reading speed could be calculated as it was for this “How We Read Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice” infographic, it would be an amazing tool. But as an instructor, I think it could be helpful to receive such anonymous feedback concerning my student’s interaction with specific texts. For instance, a text that is more appealing to female readers, as the infographic suggests Pride & Prejudice is, would preferably be balanced by a text more appealing to male readers. Moreover, knowing whether students finished reading or understood the text is equally important, and I think students would be more likely to admit such information to their peers in an anonymous survey than to me in anonymous feedback submitted to the instructor.

Or infographics could be created to provide background information on literary texts before or while reading. Such an assignment in the literature classroom would practice many of the same researching and citing skills discussed previously concerning infographics in the composition classroom, as well as provide fellow students with important contextual information on assigned texts.

Finally, infographics could be used in the classroom not as an assignment but as a way for the instructor to review information and skills. In this way, instructor-produced infographics would become a quick reference for students in the course. Although the last method to be discussed in this post, this is probably where I would begin incorporating infographics into my classroom practices, if only because it would require that I become familiar with the creation of infographics, thereby allowing me to help my students create their own as well as more effectively evaluate and assess their final products.

10 Free Tools for Creating Infographics” seems to be a good place to begin playing with the creation of infographics.

I would greatly appreciate any suggestions and/or reviews of infographic creating applications (preferably free and user friendly). I’d also love to hear from anyone who has used infographic assignments in their classrooms.

Note: I have not checked the veracity of the infographics included in this post.

reading statistics, book facts

Source Unknown

Response to “How E-Reading Threatens Learning in the Humanities” (with Class Activity)

For the past five years, I’ve been examining the pros and cons of reading on-screen versus in print. The bottom line is that while digital devices may be fine for reading that we don’t intend to muse over or reread, text that requires what’s been called “deep reading” is nearly always better done in print.

Naomi S. Baron via How E-Reading Threatens Learning in the Humanities – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Baron’s short discussion of digital versus print texts in the humanities classroom caught my eye, probably because it reinforced some thoughts I expressed in a previous post when a family friend urged me to purchase e-texts so he’d have less books to move for me. In that post, I commented that bound books are easier to use in the classroom, and Baron supports that statement in “How E-Reading Threatens Learning in the Humanities”; she writes of the results of a survey taken by students on the pros and cons of bound books and e-books:

Several open-ended questions on my survey were particularly revelatory. I asked what people liked most (and least) about reading in each medium. Common responses for what students liked most about reading in print included “I can write on the pages and remember the material easier” and “it’s easier to focus.” When asked what they liked least about reading on-screen, a number of Japanese students reported that it wasn’t “real reading,” while respondents from all three countries complained that they “get distracted” or “don’t absorb as much.”

My all-time favorite reply to the question “What is the one thing you like least about reading in print?” came from an American: “It takes me longer because I read more carefully.” Isn’t careful reading what academe was designed to promote?

Which brings us back to the humanities.

Readings in the humanities tend to be lengthy, intellectually weighty, or both. The challenge of digital reading for the humanities is that screens—particularly those on devices with Internet connections—undermine our encounters with meaty texts. These devices weren’t designed for focused concentration, reading slowly, pausing to argue virtually with the author, or rereading. Rather, they are information and communication machines, best used for searching and skimming—not scrutinizing.

Teachers and scholars must look beyond today’s career-mindedness in talking about challenges to the humanities. We need to think more carefully about students’ mounting rejection of long-form reading, now intensified by digital technologies that further complicate our struggle to engage students in serious text-based inquiry. (Baron)

As a student, I can testify to the veracity of Baron’s survey results. Texts that I read via a paper copy (whether a bound book or printed article) invariably taught me more and stayed with me longer than those texts read digitally. In fact, as a graduate student, I would frequently make decisions regarding whether to purchase print copies or digital copies of a text based on whether I thought the text would (or could) prove to be significant or relevant to my personal research interests and fields of study; texts that merely fell into required reading for a course were downloaded digitally as not being worth the (extra) money spent.

Kindle App, e-texts, technology

Screen Shot of my Kindle App for Mac

But as a graduate student in English literature, I am far more aware of my personal reading habits and reading needs than first- or second-year undergrads.

I think Baron’s short essay may prove useful in introductory English classrooms, particularly those introducing students to the study of literature (although it could be equally relevant in the composition classroom if reading skills are being stressed). This is not to force my students to purchase paper copies of texts, but to at least get them thinking about the difference medium can have on their reading practices. Such a discussion could easily be used to transition into a discussion of close reading strategies or even active reading and learning; it would also offer students an opportunity to reflect on their current reading practices.

Furthermore, an activity whereby half the class is asked to read Baron’s piece (or an assigned short story or critical article) online while the other is given a paper copy to read could prove both interesting and enlightening. Would the students with the paper copy of such a short piece prove more able to discuss the points in detail than those who read online? Or would the results of such a small sampling prove to be inconclusive, or even the opposite? No matter the result, I think such an activity and discussion could function as a simple and productive gateway to what we mean by “reading” in the English classroom. Moreover, I think this activity would urge students to reflect on their own reading practices and encourage them to make thoughtful choices when it comes to reading medium and their learning in general.

Technology in the Classroom: HabitRPG.com and Code.org

I’ve recently come across two websites that seem potentially useful in the classroom but that are definitely intriguing in their own (non-classroom) existence. I’ve been enjoying them outside the classroom for very different reasons, and while at this time I can’t say how they could be used in a college literature or writing classroom, I do think the potential is there at least.

HabitRPG.com

This attempts to be a video game. That’s right, I’m writing about video game technology. Kind of. Somewhat. This website, as the name suggests, is a Role Playing Game that is intended and created to encourage the acquisition of good habits and the loss of bad habits.  Habits are absolutely individualized; this could be used by players who want to eat healthier or exercise more or those who’d like to quit smoking. For the student, it might be used to combat procrastination or encourage better writing practices (writing everyday, planning out the steps for a project, etc.). The site is very loosely a game; each player has an avatar that they can customize and purchase (with play money) armor and weapons to equip their avatar, there are quests and challenges that players volunteer to complete (although I’m not quite familiar with this aspect), but the main point of the site is that you create your own list of habits, daily activities, and to-do lists and your avatar gains experience points, health, and play-money as you record your good habits/actions or loses health and possibly dies as you record your bad habits. Obviously, the site depends on self-recording and honesty, so as a classroom tool, this will only work for students who are actually interested in stopping habits of procrastination or creating more effective writing habits. But it is an interesting and fun way to keep track of one’s actions. Moreover, one component of the game is the forming of communities to support each other (via chatrooms, for instance), so students can join student or writer communities already created on the site or could potentially create a community specifically for each individual class section.

Currently, I’m using the site to track my dissertation writing progress, as well as encourage healthier eating habits and less soda consumption. I’ve only been at it for a couple days, but I’m so far enjoying the easy tracking ability. I’ll have to wait and see how long I stick with it.

Code.org

CBS This Morning had a piece on this website during their broadcast Wednesday morning, May 7, 2014. This site is intended to encourage the teaching and learning of computer science (coding) in K-12 classrooms. It contains several video tutorials, class activities, and online games to teach young students about coding and as far as I can tell, all the content is free. Again, I’m not sure how this might best be incorporated into a college writing or literature classroom, but I can see potential and am enjoying learning about coding myself. I could see potential use in a technical writing environment that focuses on composing clear, repeatable instructions since that is in effect what coding is (giving the computer clear and repeatable instructions). There could also be potential in regards to an exercise emphasizing the need to read, comprehend, and follow directions as students (and future employees), and the activities also encourage the development of basic problem-sovling skills.

As with the previous site, I’ve only used this for a short time (about a day) but wanted to take note of a potentially useful online tool.