Tuesday, January 15, 2013

PowerPoint, It’s Not You, It’s Me

Dear sweet PowerPoint, technology of my youth,

Is this it for us? After years together, so many are encouraging us to part ways. So many are lamenting our time together and speaking of the slow death that you caused them. Worse, some have called for your death. “The slow, painful death of PowerPoint,” was one wistful wish.

But I can’t help to think that maybe it’s not you, it’s me.

Maybe I could have done more.  Maybe I could have done better by you and we wouldn't even be here.

If I had embedded live webpages that were working in my slides, I could have been more engaging.  A static, fixed screen is like staying home on a Saturday night. Sorry about both.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so complacent and used the standard templates and backgrounds.  Maybe I should have created my own.  Maybe a picture of my chalkboard, or whiteboard blurred a bit would have done the trick.
Screen Capture of PowerPoint Slide

If I would have taken those pictures and stretched them across the whole screen, it would have been a dynamic, meaningful background. A screenshot with minimal amounts of text fading in would have been a nice, relevant touch.
Screen Capture of PowerPoint Slide

Perhaps I was too brash. Using those bouncing letters and spinning words seemed like such a good idea at the time. I shouldn't have tried to be something I’m not. You know I always say, “I put the ‘b’ in subtle.” I should have stuck to that.

On the other hand, I can’t even bring myself to discuss the times when I wasn't there for you at all. No transitions. No moving text. No background. Just words on a screen. Just going through the motions.

I could do better.

Had I embedded twitter hashtags into the slides we would have had updates in real time with real people all over the world. I know some places it’s blocked, but we can work on that. I want to work on it. I want to make it all better.

Maybe I should ask more questions. www.polleverywhere.com would let me embed text, web, or twitter polls right into the slides. All I have to do while in my poll is click the "download slide" link. Where have I been?

What about a video? I could embed a short video right into a slide. That would be engaging. Can I take you to the movies?

Screen Capture of PowerPoint Slide
Or I could just tell good stories to make my points and use the slides as an outline. Or use humor. Or include pictures of my kids for fun and cuteness.  Or include important text in unconventional ways. Or have a backchannel going using www.todaysmeet.com  All these would be engaging and they would improve our relationship.

You see, it hasn't been you. It has been me.

Oh, there’s so much I could do to make this right. I’m going to start tomorrow…if you’ll still have me. Maybe we don’t have to part ways, and we can just start small. We can see others too. That would be OK.

And don’t worry about what people have said.  I understand where they’re coming from. They just don’t want us to settle. They don’t want us to get too comfortable or complacent. They want us to do it the right way. I get it and I’m not mad at them for it. I respect their ideas and I know their hearts are in the right place. They want what’s best for us. Who knows, maybe they’ll join us.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

When my 3 year old poops in the toilet, I think of my high school students.

So during the break my three year old son suddenly started using the bathroom the way it is intended to be used.  Consistently and without urging, he decided to go there instead of everywhere else.  It wasn't necessarily the bodily functions that made me think of my students.  It was, in fact, the reactions that the little guy had after his accomplishments.

He was joyous and seemed to have a great sense of satisfaction with himself.  He had conquered something difficult.  He had done it on his own time-frame, on his own terms, and by taking control of the situation himself.  He had done more than go to the bathroom like a big boy.  He had taken control of his own life, his own actions, and he realized the power of self-determination.

But enough about my philosophical toddler.  My thoughts go to my students.  High school.  Advanced Placement.  I want for them that same sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and self-determination.  I want them, like my son, to take control of their own destiny and face what is difficult.  And conquer it.  I want my students to understand the importance of making a conscious decision to be in control of their educations.  That it is theirs, and they SHOULD be in control of it.  They should shepherd it to where they want it to go.  It is not the role or the responsibility of someone else to be in charge.  They should take hold of their educations, nurture their learning, and realize the power of self-determination.

And let me add just one more thing that I realized after sharing these ideas with my students.  We had tried for many long months to get our son out of pull-ups.  He was routinely bribed with his favorite candy.  When successful, he triumphantly proclaimed, "I get M&M's."  Nevertheless he was inconsistent.  It didn't stick.  What did work was that he decided he was ready.  No extrinsic reward improved his behavior on a regular basis.  It was the intrinsic value that he saw in doing it the right way for the sake of doing it the right way.  Now he emerges from the bathroom and doesn't mention candy.  Instead, his nakedness walks from the bathroom and simply says, "I did it."

In most learning, the intrinsic reward of doing it right and doing it well should outweigh any extrinsic reward.  Don't learn to have someone else give you something.  Don't do it because of what you are going to earn.  Do it because of what you are going to learn.  Learn in order to know and to do.  Do it the right way for the internal satisfaction of doing it well.  Your learning process will be more effective and your life of learning will be deeper and more meaningful.

And when you hear those little feet slapping their way back to the bathroom, realize that we all make decisions to do it the right way consistently, or to just let it go.