doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts


In high school, one of the courses that I took in English was entitled “Speech Arts”.  It was all about analysing public speaking and tried to teach us the art of speaking in front of groups of people.  I specifically remember one activity that we had.  We were to write speech ideas onto a piece of paper and they were put into a box.  One by one, we would draw the paper to read the idea and then had to speak about it for 3-5 minutes.  I absolutely remember one of the topics I drew “Where does the white go when the snow melts?”.

The course was one of the more enjoyable ones that I took and I still remember much from it.  Even though I was 16 or 17, I had no idea how valuable that would be later in life when my profession would have me standing in front of diverse groups of people teaching/talking/presenting on all kinds of topics.

These days, the art of public speaking has reached new levels and popularity with things like TED talks and Ignite talks.  Many teachers are experimenting with the techniques of PechaKucha in the classroom.  Quite simply, students 20 images put in a slide deck and talk about each of them with 20 seconds devoted to each image.  My first experience with PechaKucha was actually sitting in the audience while friends @brendasherry and @peterskillen used it to introduce the concepts behind a day of Minds on Media.  It was there that I realized how powerful the technique is through their demonstration and Peter shared how he’s seen it used in the classroom.  Indeed, a very interesting activity.  I remember thinking this is like “karaoke for speakers”.

So, when @cogdog was responsible for the development of PechaFlickr, the concept was not new to me.  In fact, I immediately saw all kinds of applications for it.

It’s easy to get started.  Just visit the site and enter a keyword to begin the display of the random images.  Perhaps a theme from a unit you’ve just completed?  Just for the heck of it, I entered the term “programming” and had an interesting display of results.  Yes, this could work!  Even the image of assembly language code could be fun.

  • in the English classroom, a chance to shake up lessons with a little impromptu speaking.  But don’t limit it just to English class – this could apply anywhere;
  • at professional development events to introduce the concept to a group in a short period of time;
  • at a professional conference as an activity to bring the group together (and introduce the concept).

I shouted this idea out to @brendasherry, @peterskillen, and @msjweir who had organized a PechaKucha event at last year’s ECOO Conference and it came as no surprise that we were all on the same page with it.

The resource is designed for a traditional format with one speaker but I could see it even being a bigger hoot with more activity if you have a pair of speakers “on stage”.  Since all the images that are presented are randomly selected, it would overcome the potentially dangerous moment of total brain freeze.

Kudos go to Alan for the brilliant idea and well crafted presentation.  If you’re looking for a little “karaoke for speakers” to shake something up in your classroom or at your next professional learning event, give it a try.


Please share your thoughts here. I’d enjoy reading them.

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