11 February 2010


In an interesting confluence of events, I have six different presentations to give at three different conferences in two different states between March 4 and 14. The good news is that all of these presentations are on topics I've delivered before. The bad news is that the information I have needs to be retooled to fit different audiences and/or timeframes (because there is no universal session length, apparently). For the most part, this is not a big deal. I have enough variety in my slide decks these days to pull samples and arrange them to fit the occasion.

But one of these events is not like the others. In less than a month, I'm off to dance at the biggest ball in education: the ASCD national conference. As I presented to a group of teachers last week, I thought to myself that my slides and materials need to be kicked up a notch. Part of this realization is driven by the shift I'm seeing from presenting to having conversations. A lot of that is due to the audience. People I see now have the basic ideas and mechanics behind standards-based grading practices and they are moving into problem-solving and deeper connections with the classroom environment. I can reorganize my presentation to be less about "how to" and more about richer questions. It's a very exciting place to be.

Beyond that is figuring out how to have these conversations in a room of 150+ people. I haven't presented to a room with more than 100. Working with a group of 75 teachers (as I did last week) was a challenge in its own right in terms of how to make the experience personal in such a large room. ASCD is a very different venue and I want to make sure I create the best learning environment that I can.

Right now, I have a bit of calm before the early March presentation storms. It's a good time to have some headspace for thinking about all of this retooling and the road ahead. If you live in the San Antonio area and/or are going to be at the ASCD conference, drop me a line and perhaps we can carve out some time for a visit (and margarita).


Nancy Flanagan said...

I've done lots of big-audience presenting (although 150 is big-big). There is, of course, the classic "turn to your neighbor for two minutes." If your audience is seated at tables (rather than auditorium style), I once saw this technique used effectively: ask audience members to get up and find someone in the room they haven't talked to yet, and come up with answers to a specific prompt (using an appropriate, but short, time frame). They return to their seats, and you put up the next slide--with some possible responses. You solicit additional responses from the audience.

BTW, I am thrilled that "Teacher in a Strange Land" is on your blogroll, but the Strange Land has moved. Could you please use this URL?



Jonathan M. Pratt said...

Hey SG,

Long time no comment, but I'm glad to have taken a moment to catch up with your blog a bit. I'm not sure I have any great suggestions to offer about how to work a crowd of 150+ other than the aforementioned "turn to your neighbors" strategy. That said, I'm wondering if you're thinking of encouraging a backchannel during your presentation, and if so, if you've thought of a hashtag so I can follow? I agree with you that there seems to be a critical mass forming with regard to standards-based grading practices ... even if reforms aren't yet being implemented, I think there's a growing body of knowledge out there regarding the limitations of traditional grading practices. I was recently part of a round-table among 10 or so schools here in Maine that are, to some degree, moving towards standards-based grading. The organizers of the round-table set up a wiki so that the schools can start sharing resources with each other, which made me think about the Ning idea you'd mentioned in the past to get a community organized around improving grading practices. Which brings me back to the presentation at the ASCD national conference ... that size audience could add some great energy to getting something going digitally that may gain traction in and of itself. I will ask the organizers of the group that I participated in if they're interested in extending the round-table / wiki beyond Maine ... if so, and if you're interested, I will share with you the URL. Let me know what you think.

All the best,


The Science Goddess said...

Nancy---thanks for the suggestion. When I had the group of 75+ last week, I used text polls with responses displayed on the screen. Not everyone texts, but I had way more participation than when I did this even 18 months ago. I will certainly update my sidebar to reflect your new digs. Congrats on the move!

The Science Goddess said...

Jon---I have thought about a backchannel option; however, I'm not sure about wifi access at the conference. I know it will be available at a price, but unsure how many people will pony up. Ditto with the number of participants on Twitter. I don't present until the second day of the conference, so I plan to scope things about a bit in this regard and adjust plans as needed.

I'd love to participate with your Maine group if they want some outside thoughts. I'm jealous of your roundtable. I think something like that would be very welcome in this state---lots of interested districts---but there is no state support system. Sigh.