When You Need Prompting

I was watching the YouTube videos on Danika Barker’s Blog of the Pecha Kucha sessions that were offered during the ECOO Conference and were quite enjoying them.  I noticed that some of the speakers had some prompting devices to keep them on the straight and narrow.  I saw an iPhone, an iPad, and some traditional paper.  Great techniques to avoid the “uh” moments and the “what comes next” ones as well.

Most speakers have some way to organize their presentations to make sure that they cover all the points and in a professional mannner.  Some have notes; some have speaker notes; it’s a matter of preference.  The key is to make sure that they don’t distract from the message.  My personal first noting of a keynote speaker using a portable device would have been Robert Sawyer in his message at the RCAC Symposium a few year’s ago.  Robert didn’t use presentation software or the like.  It was just his story telling abilities and his Palm speaking notes on the stage.  It worked very effectively.

Staying on track and presenting smoothly is something that most speakers aspire to and audiences certainly appreciate.  In the classroom, we do have speeches (the bane of most students’ education but an activity that keeps recipe card manufacturers in business) and more recently, the phenomenon of Podcasting which allows students to become the next great communicator.

One technique that I’ve used with students that really ups the interest ante when Podcasting is the use of the website Cueprompter.  Everyone has watched the news on television or a political speech at one point and note how smoothly the presentation is.  While there’s a great deal to being a terrific orator, they all know the value of a good teleprompter!  Cueprompter does the job and it does it for free!

A number of things that a good teleprompter should have is readability by resizing and customizing colours, controls for speed, and the ability to display the text in a mirrored format just in case you’re going to be bouncing the image around before the speaker actually sees it.  If you’ve got an internet connected computer, you can’t beat Cueprompter.

But, for the portable folks … there are some other options.  For the iPhone/iPod Touch user, there’s a free download of i-Prompt to do the job.  Load your text into the software, adjust the speed and display and you’re ready to go live.

For the iPad user, i-Prompt Pro takes advantage of the larger screen size and processing power.  It’s also a free product.  Both of these are marketed by i-Prompter.com which sells professional grade teleprompting equipment.

There is another alternative.  A prompter application with a little more flexibility is available for you to download from the App Store at a discount this weekend.  Normally, priced much higher, you have until Sunday to grab PromPterous for $0.99.  PromPterous does the text display thing but does allow for more functionality.  In addition to typing your text into the prompter, it supports the display of files on your iPad in .doc, .txt, .epub, and .pdf format.  That’s a nice feature that lets you edit offline and then upload for use.  It also feature pause, go faster an go slower buttons conveniently placed for your thumbs at the bottom of the screen.  For this app, I think that I prefer portrait rather than landscape mode for operation.

Now, I don’t want to see the presentation world turn to one where everyone is reading presentations when I attend conferences.  You still need the eye contact, the movement, the interaction and all the good stuff that we know makes the difference between a good presenter and the not-so-good.  But, I like the concept of these software for a number of reasons.

For students, I think this is a terrific way to organize their thoughts and then to use it during Podcasting.  Rather than stammering and having the audience lose interest, they can stay right on track and get a professional job done with no sound of ruffling papers!  When they’re podcasting, all that they have is their voice so it needs to be the best that it can be.

For presentations, it does scroll along nicely.  If you don’t have the entire speech on it, scrolling speaking points could be used to keep you on track.  Also, when time is of the essence like in a Pecha Kucha presentation, it can be your guide and timer.  No more wondering how you’re doing for time.

Also for presentations, I can see it being used for practice and timing.  I can’t recall the number of times that I’ve sat in hotel rooms the night before a presentation preparing and wondering how the timing would be.  No audience likes an unprepared speaker.  These applications could help nicely with timing and presentation.

Back to the student though, we know that technology can be engaging when used properly and with purpose.  I can see this as a motivator for those speeches – and we might just put those recipe card manufacturers out of business!

But, let’s not put all of our eggs in the teleprompter basket.  Here’s a classic!

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Using our kids

The presentation by Dalton Sherman to the Dallas ISB has sure burned up a whack of bandwidth in commentary and video views since it was unleashed in time for back to school in Texas and for all of us towards the end of August.  I blogged about it on August 26 here. I don’t think that anyone believes that this young man addressed the Dallas teachers “off the cuff”.  He was prepped and polished and delivered an important message about believing in students.  There were people, like Kevin Jarrett that blogged very positively about the event and others saw it in a different light.  Doug Johnson had this to say and Sylvia Martinez this.  All of the reading that I’ve done on this has been reasoned, well thought through and I applaud everyone for taking the time to share their thoughts.

For me, it was a feel-good message, timely delivered.  I talked to a couple of colleagues who admitted to sheding a tear during a viewing.  And yet, people are all over the map in their opinion of the video.  And, that’s fine.  I’m pleased to see that there are no comments directed towards the young man, but rather some questions about the use of Dalton by his school district.  In a reply to Kevin’s original post, I hoped that this wasn’t an 8:55 minute flash in the pan for Dallas teachers but rather a kick off to a year where professional development and offering opportunities to all students are the norm.

After I read Doug’s post, I started to think on my drive to work about how I’ve exploited my own kids.  A couple of years ago, Marc Prensky was one of the keynote speakers at the Western RCAC’s annual Symposium.  Marc did his keynote and wanted to interview some students in his breakout session.  I thought; “I’ve got a kid that foots the bill.”  And, a star was born.  Bubby, who normally was a shy, retiring young lady gained huge self-image as she was interviewed in front of a group of principals and superintendents.  She got a chance to talk and people had to listen.

A number of years earlier, we decided to get into video editing as a district and purchased a number of iMacs and mini-DV cameras.  I grabbed one and brought it home and set it up in the rec room to learn all about iMovie over the summer.  Within a half an hour of the initial chime, “The Boy” walked by and wanted to know what I was doing.  I explained what was going to happen and he said “Why don’t you let me play with it and I’ll teach you.”  Worked for me and I went swimming.  When I returned a couple of hours later, his first effort was a classic.  Everyone who has tried to fill a teenage boy will enjoy “The Boy Does Bagels…”  He went on to study in the field at Canadore College and now is a video editor for Survivorman and I’m the proud father of a young man who is part of a team nominated for three Gemini awards this year.

I’m not the only one.

This summer, one of our teachers made a splash with a home production involving his kids.  Their version of Star Wars Episode VII has been watched thousands of times on YouTube.  It’s a great watch and I would encourage you to do so.  The things we teachers do during summer vacation.

So, are we using our kids?  Probably.  Daily, they provide insights from a different perspective.  But, if they’re smart, they’ll exploit and make the most of their opportunity to shine.

As I noted in my original blog post, is it the Medium or the Message?

I would suggest that if need to focus on our kids as the medium.  They have so much to offer.  In fact, if they take it to the greatest extent, we might be asking just who is exploiting who?  I’m sure that young Dalton has added his presentation to his portfolio as it will open doors for him.  Where else has the presentation of a Grade 5 student spawned so much attention and use of bandwidth?

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