Archive | July, 2014

Motivation

21 Jul

As an English teacher, basketball coach, and golf coach, I spend a good deal of time thinking and learning about motivation. What will get my kids to try their best, work hard, and care about individual growth as well as the improvement of the group. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink offers a great look into how motivation has changed from a rewards-based system to a need for intrinsic motivation.

I like to take notes of page numbers and quotes that stand out to me, and I found more than usual to take note of while reading this one. Here’s a little glimpse into my summer front-porch reading.

IMG_1303 IMG_1304

The basic idea is that rewarding someone for doing an activity, that activity becomes work. We “lose intrinsic interest for the activity” (8). In order to motivate people in creative and intellectual tasks, they need to be engaged and motivated from within. The rewards/punishment system of motivation “rests on the belief that work is not inherently enjoyable – which is precisely why we must coax people with external rewards and threaten them with outside punishment” (30). I picture the lack of joy and engagement on some students’ faces, and this is exactly why.

So what do we need to do instead?

“Humans have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when this drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives” (73). Think about how so many classrooms and schools are run with a philosophy exactly opposite of this. We limit autonomy, we reward students with grades and more, and we often fear connectivity. It is no wonder we see students bored in class and just doing enough to get by. That is what our system of rewards teaches them to do! We have narrowed down our standards to encourage mastery, but “only engagement can produce mastery” (111). It is time to reengage our students in meaningful work that helps them connect to the world in their own way.

“First, consider nontangible rewards. Praise and positive feedback are much less corrosive than cash and trophies.” This will help to increase intrinsic motivation. “Second, provide useful information” (67). Give positive comments and provide specific feedback to our students.

And now for the hardest hitter of all. “We’re bribing students into compliance instead of challenging them into engagement” (174). Let that sink in a second. Instead of offering students appropriate challenges that stretch an individual’s thinking, we are rewarding students for doing just enough.

We need to help our students to answer the questions that they all want to know: “Why am I learning this? How is it relevant to the world I live in now?” (179).

Helping my students reach an authentic audience with their writing is one way that I am making a change. Writing pieces are not just for me, but for the world. Videos are to be published after a script is crafted. Presentations are to be presented to an audience, and recorded to be shared to the world. That is where we see kids make connections and find passions. Where kids see a need in the world and do something to fill that void.

That is motivation.

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Google Presentation – So what am I going to do with it?

1 Jul

For a long time I have told myself that I need to get better at creating visual presentations. That I need to stop relying too heavily on my students’ listening skills and not properly supporting them. And that it is just more fun to have images to go along with what I’m saying.

I think I was probably a little afraid to be bad at presentations, and probably slightly overwhelmed. I have used a few SlideRocket presentations that were simple and interactive, but it wasn’t often enough. I just didn’t want to put up slides of words and read them to my kids – ever.

A session from the ND GAFE Summit immediately caught my eye – Breathe Fresh Life into Google Presentations with Mark Hammons. Yes, please! So let’s take a look at the ways this presentation on presentations is going to be my biggest change for 2014-15.

One of the goals was to use 40 words of less in a presentation. If we focus on using pictures, that will allow the presenter to tell a story, and that story has the power to resonate with the audience. We even got to swear like a Boy Scout, “I vow to tell a story and not teach what can be read.” If the audience can read it, why am I there?

If you do have a slide that must have words, that can be done in a creative way with a word cloud. This will avoid the reading of bullet points that does not accomplish anything, and keep the presentation moving in the right direction.

But let’s get back to pictures. We learned all sorts of tricks with color matching and photo editing that are going to make my presentations awesome. I’ll do my best to share them! It might help to take a look at the Presentation Playground that Mark had us use. That is my copy, so you can see the few slides that I created by following the directions, but feel free to make your own copy and practice!

Here’s the first example from Google Presentations:

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 9.49.15 AMScreen Shot 2014-07-01 at 9.49.28 AM

We used the research tool that is found under the “Tools” menu. Amazing. By searching for a famous person, you will get quotes, pictures, and links to websites that make creating a slide a piece of cake! Just click on “insert” and make it look great. We used a Chrome Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 11.01.41 AMExtension for that called ColorPick Eyedropper. This allows you to find the color hex number (an ID of sorts) that you can use to customize your background to match a picture (and much, much more).

Example #2:

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 10.01.46 AMScreen Shot 2014-07-01 at 10.01.57 AMThe power of pictures was something that stood out to me during this session. When a quality picture takes over an entire screen, it is an eye-opening experience. So we resized this image of Mark’s son pretending to throw up in order to fill up the entire screen. We can then insert a text box over that to get our couple of words in.

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 10.16.39 AMTo make the text box a transparent color, click on the “Fill color” icon, go down to “Custom” on the bottom, choose your color, and adjust the transparency bar (the farthest to the right) to the level that works best. This will help your viewers to focus on the words as well as the great picture.

Example #3 – For some reason the most mind-blowing at the time:

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 10.20.51 AMScreen Shot 2014-07-01 at 10.21.06 AMThe ColorPick Eyedropper was great, but what do you do when you’re stuck with a picture that is straight up and down, but the background color is different from top to bottom?

Mark took a screenshot of the tiny sliver on the right side, being careful not to catch the finger at all. We then, following his example, inserted that screenshot into the presentation, resized it to fit from top to bottom, and stretched it all the way across the slide. Now we have a gray screen that is very similar in color to the background of the picture. So easy, but so cool!

Example #4:

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 10.27.03 AMWe used the Eyedropper again, this time go grab the color from this great picture. Copy the hex number, change the color of your text to a custom color, and paste the number in the box on the top! Such a simple way to connect your text colors to your photographs.

And example #5 sums it all up:

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 10.38.54 AMPresentations can be incredibly engaging – as long as we do them right! The most important thing to remember is that slides should help your audience connect with what you are saying. Make them funny. Make them personal. And make them great!

We can also begin to think of the power we can give our students to create when we teach them how to be confident and engaging presenters. These tools go beyond just the creation of an all-encompassing PowerPoint and require our students to deeply know the content of their presentation.

And if you want to dig a little deeper into the power of presentations with Nancy Duarte, check out this TED Talk.