Friday, March 14, 2014

Teaching in the Dark: Learning to Love What We Fear


Yesterday, I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the 3rd Annual Tri-C eMerge Blended Learning Conference at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio.  It was a fabulous day filled with great dialogue and learning. 

For my presentation, I took the opportunity to take a risk, in an effort to model one of the main points of my presentation -- the importance of embracing vulnerability.  Vulnerability, according to researcher Brene Brown, is the birthplace of creativity and innovation.  It is also an experience that genuinely happy people regularly accept, welcome, and embrace into their lives.

So, I planned to deliver my keynote in front of a live audience using a new tool, Presentain, that I had never used before (aside from testing it out in my home office).  Presentain was shared with me by my colleague and friend, +Vicki Curtis . Vicki is experimenting with Presentain in her face-to-face ESL class with success. The concept: load your presentation onto the Presentain site in PDF form, download the free app to your phone, and when you are ready to present connect your app to the website (you do this by entering a code into the website provided to you on your phone in the app).  This generates a unique URL that you provide to your audience. The audience then goes to that URL on their smartphone, tablet, or laptop and when you click "Start" they can they see your current slide on their device, click "ask a question" which submits their inquiry to me on my phone for me to preview and decide if I wish to answer it or not, or send a message to the speaker via email. Those who send a message can ask to receive the recording because Presentain also records the presentation as I speak, using my smartphone (remember, I'm holding it with the app loaded on it) as both a remote to click through my slides and a microphone! Oh...and I can activate polls from my phone that display on each viewer's device and then display the results immediately.

Ok, does that sound cool or what? 

Well, I tried it. I took the leap. And it didn't work. Oh, well. The app started and the presentation didn't. I'm in touch with the company; they are a startup and I'm sure they are working through a lot of kinks right now. I understand the risks involved with using emerging technologies. Sometimes things don't work when you're using a tool that is brand new. But you're problems become part of their improvements.  And I intend to share my experiences with Presentain to help them improve.  And from the broader perspective of taking risks, the point is...I tried something new, I failed, and I survived. My good ol' Keynote worked fine as a back up.  And you know what? I'll try again.

From there, I went on to share this presentation, which couched a teaching experiment within the context of the human emotions associated with risk and experimentation. To me, these are the topics that are too frequently left unmentioned at educational technology conferences and I believe they are some of the greatest barriers we face in the future.

Enjoy.

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