Long before Powerpoint existed I once was a teaching assistant for an introductory biology class in the intensive summer session at the University of Texas at Austin. One of my main tasks was to sit in the back of the room in a little projection booth and load in large glass slides, then shove them into view, remove the old slide and place the next one. The lecture took the form of the professor looking at the slide, slightly surprised, studying it, then explaining it.
My problem was that I could not stay awake between slides. The hot booth was sound insulated, so this ended up being a real issue since I could only grab a two-slide nap without disrupting the flow of things. With Powerpoint we have control of our slides, but can we keep the audience engaged?
I suppose I’ve discussed my feelings about lecturing before, but sometimes there is a place for it, just as there is a place for the performance I’m going to see tonight at the Gaslight Theater. If lectures are supposed to be fun, what better way to practice than to adopt one of the very short talk formats?
I hope to incorporate some talks in this format in the Fest to celebrate Alan Templeton on the occasion of his retirement (!) Monday 3 June 2013.
Five minute talks can be based on slides, or they can be without them. The key is that five minutes is the maximum, or six minutes 40 seconds and 20 auto-advanced slides if it is the patented Pecha Kucha (pronounced pechakcha as I hear it with an accent on the second syllable and a pause between the k and the ch at the end). Make it fun. There is a lot of helpful advice on how to do it here and here, or you could look at this Wired article on Pecha Kucha. Get your main point out there early. People won’t know what the background is for until you engage them with the main point. Make the main point simple, clear, and new.
Right now I’m feeling a little ashamed I took 10 whole minutes at a faculty sherry to discuss teaching with Wikipedia. Surely I could have done it in 5!
If you have your students give presentations in class, wouldn’t it be more engaging to have them give short talks more often rather than fewer, longer talks?
How about 5 short talks in 25 minutes followed by 25 minutes of discussion? If you set it all up perfectly, it would just fit in a 50 minute class.
OK, I do believe it is time to do, not tell, and post some 5 minute talks. But in a quick YouTube search, I didn’t find any that were very exciting. Help me out!