Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Learning to Present to Adults

Over the weekend we had the opportunity to present at the Podstock conference in Wichita, KS. We chose to discuss why and how we have our students blog in our classrooms. Blogging has been around for a while now so this was nothing revolutionary. But, it is a simple starting point for teachers who want their students to be more engaged in their writing and it is great practice for interacting appropriately online.

This was just our second time to lead a presentation at a conference so we have a lot to learn about the art of effectively communicating to a group of adults.

What we know so far ...
  • Discussion rules. Questions are difficult to frame well, but very important.
  • Blended discussion (verbal and using a Google Doc) appears to be a great method to involve all participants.
  • Allow the group to learn from each other. Provide a backchannel opportunity to foster interaction among participants. Don’t pretend that we have all the knowledge.
  • Keep it simple. Avoid the theoretical and the education jargon and just talk about what works in the classroom.
  • Be a learner before being a teacher.

What we need to learn more about ...
  • How this format will work with other topics. We have the student blogging presentation down at this point. But, will this format work well for other tools?  
  • Working with larger groups of adults.  Both of our presentations have been between 20-40 adults.  
  • Differentiating technology.  

Reflecting on this experience I (Jon) am struck by what I have learned can be applied to the classroom. Far too often I will get in a rut of gushing out information at my students. This year I will strive to involve my students more the learning process. I would like to have a Google Doc serve as a discussion platform and backchannel throughout the day in my classroom.

Reflecting on this experience I (Britt) find myself mulling over all of the professional development I have been a part of at the building and district level.  I wonder if this more interactive approach would enhance those times.  There is a significant difference between the voluntary mid-summer conference and the mandatory, district inservice in February - but I am not sure the mid-summer conference holds the advantage.  I believe teachers would thrive in the interactive learning environment, and make strong connections to their own rooms (as Jon did).  I mostly wonder if the average professional development session involves enough learning to inspire the kind of discussion we got to be a part of?


  1. Great post and wonderful reflection. I love the idea of using a Google doc as a backchannel in the classroom. Are you in a 1:1 setting with your students? If not, how do you plan on going about giving kids access to the document. I have only 5 student computers in my room, so I'd love your ideas.
    Another question...for your Podstock presentation, did you use the Google document as your backchannel, or did you backchannel in some other way?
    Thanks for your feedback.

  2. Thanks David. I am not in a 1:1 school per se but we do have laptop carts we can check out so at times my students each have a laptop. Britt is in a 1:1 classroom with each student having an iPod Touch.

    With five it would be tricky. Is there any way to have students bring in cell phones or something like an iPod touch? If that isn't possible I think I'd put three students per computer and at least have 15 kids able to participate.

    Also, for our presentation we did just use Google Docs for the backchannel. I have also used Today's Meet ( for a backchannel and it works well. We chose Google Docs because it is easier to answer questions there and see everyone's replies in an organized way.

    Let us know how it goes!

  3. David, one quick idea I had while reading your comment was to have just a computer on a doc for a day. Allow students, maybe a class job or two, to go type something they learned from the lessons throughout the day. That GDoc could be just for the day or for a week or two, but at the end of the time the class could look over the doc and create a 'learning reflection' in a journal or on a blog.

  4. Britt, I really like that idea. Thank you for the suggestion.
    The whole notion of having a class backchannel is so brilliant and I'm a bit ticked at myself for not thinking of it on my own! Students start school next Tuesday. I truly look forward to giving it a try with them. Thank you both for wonderful ideas and a great blog.