What makes a Great Online Presentation?

With K12 online conference 2009 under way, it leads me to ask what makes a good online presentation? How do  you create compelling online content that can and will be reused. Remember these are not live sessions but rather presentations in a variety of formats intended to be used in a variety of ways by a variety of users. That's challenging to say the least. I applaud anyone who tackles such a task.

Since its inception in 2006, it's been interesting to see the presentations evolve. The decision last year to go to a more "TED-like" format was a good one in my opinion as it  addresses the amount of content in the conference but also gets presenters to get to the point. Twenty minutes is long enough in any context but on the web it's particularly daunting to keep folks interested.

There have been a number of delivery models and to be sure, and a clear winning style has not been established. However, there are a few concepts that seem to work, at least for me.

While it's hard to separate content from design, here are a few presentations that use some techniques that I think make them very viewable. I've taken one from each year, with the exception of 2006.

2009 Around the World with Skype by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano. Silvia does a number of things which makes for a compelling presentation. She's clear on the onset about what she will be talking about. It's frustrating to watch 5 minutes of a 20 minute presentation trying to guess what it's about and what will be shared. Silvia let's you know early on exactly what she'll be discussing. She uses her own images. You can spend a lot of time searching flickr for the perfect image. Her use of her personal avatar figure likely took a long time to shoot all the images but in the end helps her create a great introduction. She uses video to show examples.  Live examples not only illustrates her concept more richly but anytime you can include students in action adds an emotional connection to the ideas.

2008 Film School for Video Podcasters by Matthew Needleman. Matthew obviously possess some storytelling skills and given his topic, you'd expect that. Matthew uses a story, a 1940's detective theme to weave in his ideas. A clever twist but one that's not used superfluously but as a meaningful way to share his ideas. He does a great job of chunking ideas. There are clear breaks and transitions. Easy to review.

2007 Online Professional Development by Jeff Utecht. While this was before the 20 minute time limit, Jeff still has a well designed presentation. It may not be possible in every presentation but Jeff models what he means by have some very informal, natural conversations that truly illustrate his point. Like Silvia, he shows you exactly what it looks like.

2006 Wiki While You Work by Mark Wagner. This was again before the current time limits but Mark really explored the ideas of what an online presentation could be. He made it personal. Simply by recording his presentation from his home office, talking with his friends and wife, it invited you in, to want to learn more. I applaud Mark for being being a pioneer in the online presentation.

David Warlick and the little old lady

2006 Derailing Education: Taking Side Trips for Learning by David Warlick. Having the first Keynote for year one, must have been both pressure packed as well as the feeling of a new frontier. Like Mark, but even more so, David invited us in to his home and town to explore. David carefully used his physical space to make clear connections to his ideas. While it was largely theoretical, the use of that space and helped to forge his ideas into something that I still reflect on today.

I'd invite you to watch these if only to examine them from a presentation perspective. These may not have been your favorites or even the best but I think they do offer some techniques and delivery models that work. Creating a presentation that's worth watching is hard work and nothing any of us were trained in given the fact that the genre has only existed for a few years. 

Now it's your turn. Do you have a favorite K12 Online or other presentation that you think has a unique delivery model?

Cross posted at TechLearning.

Understanding Free

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Will Lion


I’ve been listening to Chris Anderson‘s book "The Radical Price of Free" for free. It’s a long listen, over 6 hours and I’ve still got 2 more hours to go but it’s certainly helped clarify not only how free works, but how much money is to be made by free. Sound weird? Read/listen to the book.

My financial or economic knowledge is limited at best but as a consumer and producer I recognize a few things. While I make no money from this blog directly, I’ve been fortunate to indirectly gain financially and I owe much to the work and ideas that I share here and other places. Given that was never the intent of this blog, it’s simply a nice bonus. I recognize others try and utilize their blogs for financial gain either by ads or direct pay from outside interests. But for the most part this type of free seeks no compensation, it’s just free.

As any user of the web knows, there are oodles and oodles of sites and applications that appear free. Everything from google to yahoo, we roam around these internets and create, download, consume and communicate willy nilly with nary a penny exchanged. But it’s obvious there has to be a price. The book outlines the various ways this can work and some of those ways, such as ad driven sites, seem fairly obvious. Premium services is another common strategy. Some work well, others fail miserably. I’m glad I dont’ have to make those decisions.

Every term as part of my undergrad course, I ask my students to create a blog. I’ve used blogger, wordpress.com and edublogs. Each have their own benefits and downfalls. In general, here are my assessments:


Pros: easy to setup, integration with google, customizeable, widget ready, easy to use, embedding capabilities
Cons: difficult to make pages, association with random blogs(although this can be removed), blocked in some schools


Pros: Simple to use, easy to setup, some customization, open in most schools, great for page making, better for portfolios
Cons: embedding is limited,plugins limited

Edublogs.org (wordpress platform hosted and managed)

Pros: Associated with educators, some customization, open in most schools, great for page making, better for portfolios,embedding capabilities
Cons: lack of plugins, nagging ads to support

I’m sure I have missed some things but these are my observations. Feel free to correct me in the comment section.

My experiences is that most of them use this as a disposable learning experience. As much as I would love them to continue blogging, the vast majority do not. Some, pick up after a few years but by then they’ve moved to a new platform. For a new blogger, they have no idea of all the advantages or disadvantages of a particular platform, they just dive in because of an assignment or recommendation.

There have been many discussions about the value of institutions providing their own spaces for students.  Sometimes this isn’t an option and so part of my thinking is to provide pre-service teachers with the chance to discover alternatives.

This term I decided to have my students use edublogs. I know many teachers in my district who used edublogs a few years ago but have left because of performance issues. I was informed the performance issue had been resolved and was tipped off to the changes in the business model. It wasn’t until I began to have my students use it did it really hit me. The embedded ads make you feel as if someone else controlling your space and lack of plugins take away from the customizabilty.  I understand they need to make money. We can’t expect folks to continue to support these projects for Starbucks cards (although I don’t know how David Warlick does it) My issue is, and again, I’m not business person, just a consumer in this case, I personally will choose another option for my students to begin their blogging journey.  This is only my opinion and as much as I admire the work of James Farmer and Sue Waters, I’m not a fan of the free offering in this case. I’m not able to suggest a better, more viable model but given there are alternatives, I wonder if they might have to. Just one person’s humble opinion.

IT Summit Summary

I’m just back from the IT Summit conference. In general, it was an outstanding conference in many respects.


Without trying to list the names of everyone, it’s apparent for most users of social media that face to face gathering times have changed in the past few years. I used to go to conferences and mingle with local colleagues and a few others I’d met a various functions and committees but there wasn’t much of a community. Now we meet people we’ve never seen and can enter in to meaningful discussion since all the banter and small talk takes place  in other spaces.

This conference brings together not only educators and administrators but also IT. I certainly commend our own IT team for focusing on students but not all do. This is a great way to have them understand that their clients are students and it’s a highly complex task to provide safe, secure environments that also enable them to have the access needed to use the tools that help them learn.


I’ve heard David Warlick live a couple of times but I must say this was worth seeing. David is a gifted storyteller but certainly connects to many outside of educational technology.  Carlene captured the essence of it well. It lead to many meaningful conversations and insights for many including my superintendent who said, “I know you’ve been talking about this for years but it’s finally starting to click”. What’s the phrase about being a prophet in your own town?

Being able to provide a keynote with Clarence, Kathy and Darren was truly a treat. Once I get the audio from Rob, I’ll post it but it was a privilege to facilitate these three tell their stories.


So many of the sessions dealt with what’s best for students and how does any of this help our students learn more. The phrase “How does the technology support the practices that lead to student achievement” rang through my mind many times. I heard more praise from various sessions than I have at many conferences.


Nothing is perfect and there were a few things that I’d like to see change. Wireless continues to suck. Why? Last year the wireless at another venue was much better. The hotel did not have wireless so someone had to install a temporary system. It was lousy. This has got to be resolved. I would also like to see more built in opportunity to network. Not a big deal for me personally since I have many connections and can steer informal conversations to meet my needs but for many, they need a time and space to ask questions and contribute ideas.  I mentioned the idea of a “linkable” keynote. A killer opening that had many components that could be explored deeper in follow up sessions or simply building an open space style based on the ideas in the keynote and interests of the participants. Then culminating the conference with a sharing time of what was learned and what plans were made.

19:53 minutes worth of goodness

Alec Couros‘ presentation Open, Social, Connected really delivers on how to present for an online conference. The challenge of creating content for an online conference is a daunting and exciting adventure. While this year’s presentations were limited to 20 minutes or less, they weren’t and aren’t restricted to any specific format. We’ve yet to develop too many standards in what makes a good online presentation. I’m not ready yet to thrown down the rubric. There’s too much to be explored.

Where Alec wins is in his wise mix of media including public domain video and audio, thoughtful graphics and animation, green screen, humor and a personal touch. I’ve always enjoyed presentations that show me context. Who are you? Where do you live? David Warlick did a great job with this in prior keynotes and Clarence Fisher focused largely on place in his keynote last year. Alec begins his presentation by providing a context and allowing us to get comfortable with his content.

Since his content is about open content, Alec uses video from public domain to create transitions to his piece. In this way, it’s easy for us to follow.

His feature on twitter might challenge Common Craft as a visual way to explain twitter. Not the same style but equally effective.

I could go on but you’d be best to watch it yourself. Again, whether you are watching because the concept is intrigues or not, watch as one way to deliver an effective online presentation.  The bad news is this kind of work takes more time than most are willing to offer. But good work requires this. Nicely done Alec.

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