Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Online Educa: Follow Us There!

We're going to Online Educa, 17th International Conference on Technology Supported Learning & Training, purported to be the "Largest Global E-Learning Conference for the Corporate, Education and Public Service Sectors"

This annual global virtual learning fest is held in Berlin from 1-2 December. Lizzie and I will be tweeting from the conference (follow us @GillianMMehers and @Lizzie_BGL ). We will be especially looking out for game-based learning, badging, and video learning innovations. We will also blog the conference. If you are interested in these kinds of things, they have a great online newsletter called OEB News.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Preparing a Pecha Kucha: One Pragmatic Approach

How do you go about creating a Pecha Kucha? Well, growing experience with them is teaching us that the process is often quite the opposite of what we usually see when people begin a traditional PowerPoint presentation. Are you among those who start by annotating blank slides with key words and messages and then let the presentation grow from there, hoping the logic will somehow make it work? If so, you’re not alone, and like many if you try and fit this to a Pecha Kucha format you may struggle to match your messages meaningfully across to the 20 x 20 second timed slides. How about trying a different approach? Begin by writing a story. Then match your story across to slides for a much more compelling narrative with visual support. Here’s how.

In preparation for a recent event at which we demonstrated techniques for engaging groups in thinking, learning and working together, we asked one of our favourite clients (thanks Mark!) to help us. We challenged him to create and deliver a Pecha Kucha and he was happy – if a little daunted at first – to oblige. This blog post shares his valuable, pragmatic approach.

Step 1: First determine your key messages – what do you want your audience to think, feel and do as a result of your presentation - and write your story to get your key messages across. (Click here for our blogpost on storytelling.)

Step 2: Practice telling your story aloud and tweak it until it tidily fits into 6 minutes – making sure to breathe, leave pauses, allow time for the audience to absorb what they are hearing and so forth.

Step 3: Once happy with your story, it is time to divide it into 20-second chunks. Literally read and time it out, marking into your script every time 20 seconds passes.

Step 4: Create a table with two columns and twenty rows (for the twenty x 20 second slides you will eventually have). Cut and paste each the 20-second chunks of script into twenty rows of the table. At this point, you may choose to again tweak the text so that it fits more comfortably with the slide breaks.

Step 5: For each 20-second chunk of script, find an image or select one or two key words that best support the content. Enter these into the left hand column of the table.

Step 6: Convert the left hand column of your table into your twenty slides. And, with a little practice, you are ready to go!

Now, a little anecdotal experience... if all of sudden your presenter can’t make it, they may just be able to hand the whole thing over to a trusted colleague! With a timed script ready to go and clearly linked across to the slides, a little time to read and digest was all that was needed for someone else to come to the rescue and do a truly superb job. Pecha Kucha preparation pays!


For more on Pecha Kuchas, see our many earlier blog posts (enter 'pecha kucha' in the search box - left column. Here are a couple of our favourites:

- Taking the Long Elevator: 13 Tips for Good Pecha Kuchas

- The End of Boring: Borrowing, Mashing, Adapting for Facilitators

Using Spectrums, Sticky Dots & Templates to Explore ‘What Is’ & ‘What Could Be’

Let’s take an example. Imagine you want to have a conversation about future meetings in a large team or organization with a view to – no surprise here – improving them. You likely have opinions about meetings and how they need to improve in the future. All well and good; but in order to get others on board with this change, you need to explore their opinions about meetings and what improvement might look like. So you decide on a quick and easy way to explore what is and what could be.

On A3 sheets around the room, you have converted some statements about meetings into spectrums. On one, for example, is a spectrum with two axes. At one end of the y-axis it reads: “We always get the task done” and the other end it reads “We never get the task done”; and on the x-axis: “We always feel great about the result” and at the other end “We rarely feel great about the result”. On another sheet, you might have a spectrum related to the quality and quantity of participation. On others, a grid question addresses the amount of time spent in different thinking modes (with the thinking modes – critical, creative, etc. - as the column headers and % brackets in the rows – 0-25%, 25-50%, etc.) and a multiple-choice question is about the efficiency of time spent (with different rows from not efficient to very efficient).

With your spectrums in place, you give participants sticky dots and invite them to tour the room independently, placing their sticky dots in appropriate places on the spectrums of various formats. In the first instance, they should place their sticky dots to describe ‘what is’. Next, either using the same spectrum or an identical one stuck on the same board, repeat the exercise but this time using sticky dots of a different shape or colour to describe ‘what could/should be’.

Once everyone has contributed, it’s time to look at the results. You could choose to do this in plenary, but I recommend taking it a step further. Divide the group up into a number of smaller groups (corresponding to the number of spectrums) and provide them with a flipchart template to complete. Give each one spectrum and ask them to complete the template: (1) briefly describe the results; (2) analyze / suggest reasons for the results / assumptions behind them; and then (3) suggest how to get from ‘what is’ to ‘what could/should be’. Allow them 15 minutes to do this work, and then have each group report back to the rest, providing opportunity for others to then react and provide additional ideas.

This process is a great way of generating and quickly analyzing large amounts of information in a highly interactive, participatory way. The outputs are very visual, making great reference material throughout the event that follows. It is really valuable for clarifying perspectives on what is and what could/should be, the direction that the group want to head in, as well as beginning the conversation about how to make change in the desired direction. Try it and let us know how you get on.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sustainable Development - The Words on the Lips of Experts

Every year I go to the Balaton Group Meeting eager to meet old friends, to engage, listen and learn more about what is on the frontier of sustainabilty thinking. This group of 55+ systems modellers, sustainable development experts, professors, practitioners and activists gather annually for a 5-day meeting to explore and share and ponder the past, present and future of the planet. They work to understand the dynamics, identify the leverage points for change, and search relentlessly for where the hope is.

I took pages and pages of notes this year (the 30th meeting, on the shores of Lake Balaton), and when I looked back at these notes just now I asked myself where the weight of the discussion lay - the models, the math, the crises, the peaks, the systems? When I put all my notes into a wordle, the above popped out.  I think it speaks for itself...