Communications

I had a wonderful opportunity today.  My friend Amy asked if I would come to her school and help judge the computer multimedia entries that students in the school had created.  I was humbled to be asked and very excited to see the sorts of things that they were able to create.

The theme for the competition was timely – bullying which is a big topic of concern in all schools.  So I was geeked.

Then, last night, I received an email and she asked if I could also judge the speech competition.  I figured, no problem.  I’ve judged many a speech before and it’s the original communications competition for students.  I’m in.

The format for the day saw the entire school in the gymnasium to serve as audience and we three judges sat near the front, a bit off centre for the presentations.  That worked nicely – we were treated to the seven finalists and had to choose a winner from the Junior division and the Intermediate division.  While we retired to the staff room to deliberate, the gymnasium got a good session of DPA.  We heavily debated our favourites and determined the two winners.  Back to the gymnasium for the multimedia.

This could be interesting.  All of the content was either on the district server or on the web using a multimedia service.  As we arrived at the school earlier, there was panic in the air as the network was down.  Fortunately some distress calls to somewhere had everything running. albeit slowly.

I was very curious to see what the students had created – my inner geek.  I was also a little nervous – there’s so much that could be classified as multimedia that’s really the proverbial low hanging fruit.  I was so pleased to find out that the finalists didn’t fall into that category.  I probably shouldn’t have been worried knowing that Amy was behind it.

Instead, we were treated to a real collection of multimedia.  There was no common tool – students were using still images, their own movies, voice overs, and even a student who talked her way live through a slideshow presentation.  Determining Primary, Junior, and Intermediate winners was a challenge.  It’s moments like this, when talking with the other judges, that you wonder if we even saw the same thing.  Persevere we did and winners chosen.

When I reflect back on the day, I thought about how the audience received the two different forms of communication.  With the traditional speech, the audience was really in very quiet, attentive mode.  There were a few moments of humour, brought on by the speakers and the audience responded appropriately.

The response to the multimedia portion was different.  The audience was more active.  During portions of the presentations when text would appear in large font on the screen, they would speak the words.  There was a buzz throughout that really was noticeable.  I wouldn’t call the behaviour inappropriate but it definitely was different.  Instead of the passive listener, they seemed to be more active in the process.

So, I wonder why and tried to think of reasons.

  • The formal speeches were first and the multimedia later with a DPA session in between.  Was it the pumping blood?
  • The lights in the gymnasium were turned down for the multimedia presentation so that the data projector image could be seen;
  • Going to the movies in Windsor is always an event.  There’s always a discussion going on somewhere in the theatre.  It’s a culture that I still can’t get used to;
  • Have students become so used to media being interactive that they feel compelled to participate?
  • Is there an empathy for the single speaker brave enough to stand in front of the audience as opposed to sitting back and watching a computer paint a message on a screen?
  • Were the students coached about proper conduct for the formal speeches because we know how to respond?
  • Does music in the background make a difference?  There’s nothing but the human voice in the traditional speech but typically music or sound clips during a presentation.

I found the audience reaction to the two different communications interesting.  I wish I could nail down the “why”; the “what” was really evident.

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One thought on “Communications

  1. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to commenting on this one – left it sitting in the inbox to remind me. I was tempted to write a blog earlier this year on whether there was still a place for the traditional “public speaking” assembly – I was a judge at ours earlier this year, and while the audience did an amazing job listening – they really weren’t listening. How did I know? Very little laughter (even at the funny bits), and very little engagement. As we shift our teaching styles in the classroom, should we expect our students to be able to listen to 10 3-5 minutes speeches – without a chance for questions, or even a 7th inning stretch.

    I wish we could make the shift to the multimedia presentation as part of the speech competition – how often, in a “real-world” context will someone be expected to give a 3-5 minute presentation, with no visuals or sound at all. I think that there is a real argument for this being real-world training, and students might find it more engaging.

    It would be interesting to figure out a way to assess how much the audience learned from each type of presentation – what would the retention be like?

    Like

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