Inside a Slide Deck

Dan Meyer is at it again. Stirring up trouble and asking hard questions. That’s okay, in fact it’s good. While the specifics of his post might seem targeted at the small number of educators who regularly present at conferences and meetings, I think, and I’m sure Dan would agree it’s for all teachers.

I sometimes post my slides here and even have gone to the trouble to add the audio, after the fact. I usually invite discussion but more so on the ideas rather than the packaging.

I’ll be the first to admit, the more I learn the more inadequate I feel to speak about visual literacy. I’m not trained in graphic design, but have read about it and practiced it to the point where I hope I have something to offer folks. I definitely push this the importance of visual literacy in our own school division.

Dan asked for people to explicitly solicit critique. I welcome it. When it comes to presentations, I subscribe to much of the ideas of Garr Reynolds, Cliff Atkinson and others. I spend hours and hours on each one. I recognize how it can engage audiences and provide some memorable images that can carry with participants beyond the presentation itself.  That said, I don’t think even the most compelling imagery can make up for incoherent ideas and poor delivery. I’m constantly working at all three.

So here’s a ten minute video where I describe why I make the choices I make. It was one take each so excuse the pauses and droning but maybe it will provide some insight. Leave any comments or suggestions. Don’t feel you have to be an expert to comment. Perhaps I haven’t explained something clearly or didn’t address something you felt was important. We can learn from and with each other.

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  • Paul R Wood


    I like what I see but the thing that struck me the most was why not use the actual title in the slide about learning in the beginning: “everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarden.” Or do I have the phrase wrong?

    Thanks for sharing as always.

  • Thanks Dean!

    I’ve been obsessing as of late on issues related to design as I’ve retooled the theme on my own blog. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time at Smashing Magazine combing through their archives on everything from color to typography.

    John Pedersons last blog post..Text As Design

  • Dean,

    I have seen you present several times and I very much enjoyed both the style and the substance of your presentations. The “share(ski)” slide is a nice touch. One thing that I have noticed is that the deck lacks a consistent visual thread. I don’t think that is a design issue as much as an esthetic issue.

    On a side note. Even as a teacher, public critique of a person’s work is an odd experience. Maybe our social norms on feedback and politeness have gone to far one way?

    Mark Kowalskis last blog post..David Warlick Presenting: Cultivating Your PLN

  • “Dan Meyer is at it again. Stirring up trouble and asking hard questions.”

    You’re talking about a post that calls no one out by name, that calls for increased self-scrutiny and for a more critical dialogue across the ‘net. I realize you’re just funnin’ around and all but “stirring up trouble”? Really?

    I’m with Mark:

    “Maybe our social norms on feedback and politeness have gone to far one way?”

    We’ve gotta redefine “stirring up trouble.”

  • @Mark and Paul
    I’m going to try and address those questions in a followup post if I get enough critiques. Thanks.

    Obviously it’s tongue in cheek, not meant to be anything more. I agree our social norms and feedback have gone too far one way which is why your post might be considered as pushing. I enjoy having my ideas pushed and you do that more often than most. I apologize if it comes across in any other way but the practice of opening ourselves up explicitly to criticism is not the norm. In fact, it’s one of the reasons many educators/people avoid sharing their work. I get my share of criticism and honestly try and use it to improve what I do. I don’t always like it but recognize it can be helpful.

    If you’re looking for my definition of “stirring up trouble” it would be taking people outside their comfort zone. Having folks examine your ideas and challenge you is outside the comfort zone for most, even me. But It’s good.

  • Shoot, man. Getting vaccinated by the doctor is outside my comfort zone but I wouldn’t say he’s stirring up trouble.

    Dan Meyers last blog post..Just One Example: Stock Photography

  • Pingback: dy/dan » Blog Archive » Picking Up The Gauntlet()

  • I think your phrase “I’m not trained in graphic design” is key. The vast majority of teachers and educational professionals are not. Those who are, or who are seeking to become so, are more attuned to the visual literacies of peoples’ slide decks. An english teacher friend of mine goes through handouts correcting grammar because she finds it distracting. A drama teacher might find someone’s style of speaking distracting because they’re not orating well.

    Unfortunately, we can’t all be experts in all areas (although we should strive to at least spell the text on our slides correctly, I suppose). Perhaps, while we seek to improve our presentations, we should be mindful that we are not going to be perfect in every aspect. If we accept that we are going to distract someone all the time, maybe we can be a little more forgiving of those who distract us with our own particular pet peeve.

    Ian H.s last blog post..Another Great Environmentalist Story

  • I wrote up a list sometime ago, a brief brain dump compiling the skills that comprise the job “teacher.”

    No doubt there will never be enough time in the day to be good at all of them. But, like I said at the end of that post, I would much rather know my deficiencies and pick ’em off as I find the time than proceed through my career blissfully sure that I know what I am doing, resentful of anyone — on the Internet or otherwise — who contradicts me.

    If anyone left me corrections on my handouts I would find that person and hug her.

    Dan Meyers last blog post..Picking Up The Gauntlet

  • @Dan

    I guess you’re still hung up on the use of the words “stirring up trouble”. I wouldn’t argue with you one iota on your call for openness around critique. I can also honestly say that if we were in a room together and you brought up the same ideas I would be likely to use the same phrasing to enter the discussion. The initial charge, while not targeted at any individuals, certainly struck a nerve with me as well it should. It was a fair and helpful concern.

    You have stated clearly that you’re very happy to have people point out your deficiencies. I’m not sure if you realize it or simply choose to ignore it but most teachers, most people are not. Thus my phrasing is designed to break the ice. It’s not a matter of a fact nor can it be assumed that people are okay with open critique. It obviously doesn’t resonate with you but this is my way of broaching the issue. You tend to go straight for the jugular or the heart of the issue when you blog. That’s not a criticism, simply an observation. By jugular I mean you don’t mince words. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it can come across as harsh. I know you stand by your approach and well you should. I just don’t write the same way. I’ll stand by my approach as well, even if it comes across as folksy or whatever. After 4 years and 700+ posts I think I’ve been able to establish my writing style and personality for better or worse.

    I hope you don’t get too bogged down by that intro and can actually move to the intent of the post which is exactly what you called for in the first place: the opportunity for others to ask question and have some discussion around the use of visuals.

  • Dean,

    I’m not hung up on your intro but I am interested in nailing down the tacit code of conduct for the edublogosphere, which I have tripped over more than once, the code that determines when someone really is stirring up trouble in the edublogosphere, for instance. I realize that wasn’t the point of this post so I’ll find somewhere else for it.

    Dan Meyers last blog post..Picking Up The Gauntlet

  • Design matters. It’s why Apple is simply kicking the market at the moment with their products. It’s why a presentation like yours will make me sit up a little straighter and prick my ears up, whereas a presentation that starts with the requisite bullet points on a useless background will make my heart sink and have me looking for a seat at the back of the room so I can tune out without offending anyone.

    Once you have had your eyes opened to Presentation Zen and Slideology and the like, it ruins you for all traditional presentations.

    On top of that, I love the way my classroom door is being shown to people on the other side of the world. Brilliant!

    Your presentations are worth the hours spent on them.

    Keri-Lee Beasleys last blog post..He Tangata (People)

  • I find your behaviour immensely strange and frustrating Dan. You write blog posts which are intentionally provocative, then get touchy about the way people respond. In other contexts one would describe this behaviour as trolling.

    Robert Joness last blog post..A New Role

  • I would think “hypocrisy” more apt than “trolling,” except that I’m unbothered by anything Dean has said. It would seem useful, however, if we’re going to promote a more critical dialogue across the edublogosphere, to define the terms.

    Dan Meyers last blog post..Picking Up The Gauntlet

  • @Dan

    Shoot, man. Getting vaccinated by the doctor is outside my comfort zone but I wouldn’t say he’s stirring up trouble.

    sounds like you were at least a wee bit bothered. I agree though that hypocrisy is closer to the mark.

    @Dean It’s fascinating the hear you explain your thinking in producing the slideshow. Very helpful. Thanks to Dan Meyer for eliciting this from you 🙂

    Robert Joness last blog post..A New Role

  • The visual consistency is something I struggle with. Sometimes the stock photo thing makes that worse, because you go from authentic, and imperfect, to shiny and perfect?

    A. Mercers last blog post..Student Blogging: avoiding potholes on the way

  • nice blg thanks
    .-= barkod´s last blog ..Üretim Barkod Sistemi =-.