May 07, 2006

Blogging Academic Lectures

It's late, I'm tired, but I've just read John Dale on Laptops in Lectures and it reminded that I meant to post about my experience of blogging the OU Learning and Teaching Conference a couple of weeks ago.

So, for what it's worth, here's an off the top of my head list that I'll try and tidy up if I get a chance:

1) slides with lots of text on are a killer - you try and read the text, you try and listen to the speaker, you're trying to type notes. Confusion results and the blogging is painful.

2) slides with just a couple of words or a short phrase are a joy - they give you a sub-heading and are easily copied; this leads into:

3) it's easier to type while listening than copying stuff from presentation slides; it's also difficult to type everything the speaker says, so donlt even try; listen for key points, summarise and add short asides/private notes to yourself as well as things to pick up on/develop/challenge.

4) screenshots of websites, and websites demonstrated live, need the URL visible. That way, the audience can play along, take a bookmark and so on. A quick play might also give you inspiration/ammunition for a question;-)

5) In the link mentioned above, John Dale wondered:

t's possible in principle, I suppose, that a wifi–equipped laptop could be useful in allowing the student to look up additional content relating to the lecture via Google or whatever. But I bet nobody actually does this effectively; it would be too difficult to multi–task the searching, the listening and the note–taking.

Not necessarily true, though I guess it depends on the nature of the presentation being blogged. John was referring to a lecture, whereas I was in a conference situation. In one of the sessions I was in, a question was raised from the floor (Chris Pegler) picking up on a point of fact made from the stage after checking it over the net. (I've also been to some conferences where people are IMing real time in a chat room about what's being said from the front. Rude,possibly, but value adding too. Turns the presentation into something more like Speaker's Corner!)

One of the things that comes out from the above is that lectures and conference presentations are perhaps different beasts. But I wonder if the idea of a lecture delivering a litany of facts to receptacle students is another model of communication that will be disrupted by technology and the ease with which students can access linked information (I seem to remember it was always a chore going off to the library for a short library loan... but where's the problem if the paper I need is online?)

In seminars, too, I wonder if having occasional sessions where everyone brings a laptop could be a useful exercise, particularly if the discussion involves ambiguous claims that can be checked (via the web), but often aren't...

(Are political press conferences changing, I wonder, with the press being increasingly able to look up facts and challenge podium claims - or is wi-fi banned from them?;-)

Anyway - my take home for presenting to bloggers was: go for few and simple words on each slide (these provide cheap and easy subheadings); make URLs known (especially if you don't mind the audience wandering off their. On a couple of occasions, I found it quite enjoyable browsing through a site while the presenter was talking about it, each complementing the other. (Hmmm - there's (here's?!;-) that partial attention thing raising it's head again (here in the sense I'm minded to go off an have a quick refresher on it, paying attention to revising my notion of partial attention, as well as to finishing this post. A partial attention aside, no less!) It'd be neat if I could have a collapsible element button in Performancing/my blog for this asides...)

Anyway - back to the main thread. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are some strong similarities in the list of things that I perceived made life easier for me as a blogger of a conference presentation to the things I've been bookmarking as exemplars of presentation+bestpractice. Certainly in my own presentations I've started trying to keep the word count down.

Posted by ajh59 at May 7, 2006 11:32 PM