Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A Happy Presentation

As a continuation from my previous blog, 'How to make complex, simple,' I decided to give it a real test and see what I could apple fromGarr Reynolds, Presentation Zen, book. I took one of my 'complex' slides from a lesson on 'Happiness' in my Emotion unit of the Theory of Knowledge (ToK) class. Above is the original slide I've been using for some time now. At a glance it appears a bit dense, but it has worked for me in the past by using a 'screen shade' on Smartboard, and going over each part of the concept one a time. Since Jeff Utecht, our COETAIL instructor, tasked us with doing either a 'zen presentation' or a 'digital story,' I took a look over my slides and when I came to the 'Happiness' slide, I knew this was the one to play with. For one thing, it's among my all-time favorite topics and for another, in essence, it really is a presentation to the class, rather than a lesson. Whenever I use the slide, it's not a matter of 'what do you think' kind of interaction with the students, it's more the 'stand and delivering' of information.

I thought that what might work to start off is Shakespeare's Bassanio from The Merchant of Venice, asking whether what he's about to do will bring him pleasure or happiness. I realize that sometimes I get too quickly into the explanation of the types of happiness, and that I forget about Bassanio. And he's what sets the stage really. So, he starts off.

From there, I could easily set out the two underlying assumptions: baseline levels of happiness appear to be genetic and that we all naturally seek to find happiness. Then for the types/ levels of happiness I selected to move from fleeting to enduring types. Daniel Goleman's Destructive Emotions and Paul Ekman's work on emotion were two important sources in the development of the chart. Jeff suggested the use of a meaningful-type transitions in Keynote as a way to show how the different levels deepen in sustainability and fulfillment, and I was able to find one among the array of novel transitions available.

I ended with the Chinese proverb that simply sums up the movement from fleeting to enduring types of happiness.

Apart from the transitions, and after reading over Presentation Zen, I grabbed onto 'simple' and 'story-telling' as two important concepts. Thus, the theme I chose was 'simple' and the colors matched the feeling of 'happiness'—muted hues of yellow. I made sure there were few words on each slide—the essence of the type. I wrote a few notes for each slide and even printed them out before 'presenting' to the COETAIL participants, but I realized later that I just needed to get into 'the flow' and tell a story about each concept. I knew the basics by heart, but could, in the moment, decide what the audience might respond to. Thus, I felt comfortable relaying a couple of relevant anecdotes, which I hope made the presentation more meaningful.

I'll be giving the presentation a real try next week in ToK. Then, I'll be telling my students this tale of moving from complex to simple, and will ask them to evaluate the 'zen' approach. In turn, given that they're about to embark on presenting themselves for their internal assessment, maybe we will have all learned something about visual literacy.

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