“Let’s take a five minute break.”


These six words can invite chaos into the classroom. Whether you’re teaching online or in a more traditional setting, getting adults back to class after a five or ten minute break can be a challenge.

A few years ago I came up with a simple remedy. When it’s time to take a break I start a simple PowerPoint timer I created that counts down from five minutes to zero, accompanied by a song that is just under five minutes. Everyone can see how much time is remaining and when the music stops, people tend to find their seats.
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Here are links to five and ten minute versions:
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You’re welcome to use, share, or modify them, just don’t try and sell them. They are free for everyone. To start the timer open the presentation and click on the first slide. It’s that simple. If you want to add more slides for a longer break, remember that only the first slide is set to begin with a click.

Choosing the right song is up to you. I’ve used music by Vince GuaraldiHenry ManciniElizabeth Mitchell, and Big Audio Dynamite. Music is powerful messenger so choose carefully.
Regardless of whether you use music or not, see if these timers (Or others) can make a difference in getting people back in the room and focused on the content.

Don’t shoot: Stop Bullet Point Overkill

Bullet Point OverKill 

Bullets points are not the answer. What value do they add to a presentation when the text is already in a 28 point font and is the only text on the screen?

If you must use bullet points, use them sparingly and use them well.  Here is one slide example (Click once to advance the slide).* 

PowerPoint presentations can shine without bullet points.

Think before you shoot.

*The animation is better in PowerPoint, NOT PowerPoint Viewer.

The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen — New Eyes for Old Data

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The Universe is filled with infinite data and our access to that data is begining to blossom. In the past decade an incredible amount of information has been placed within public reach. Once the wow factor of endless access has worn off, making the old numbers relevant and bringing the digital archive to life is challenging. Can new tools bring life to old data?

A hand full of designers are successfully pulling back the curtain to reveal hidden beauty in the numbers. Here is a synopsis of what a few of them are doing.

Hans Rosling has created something brilliant with Gapminder World. Visit his site and watch each nation progress as statistical data changes (Additional data can be displayed by clicking on the words “Life Expectancy in Years” on the far right of the Gapminder screen). To hear Dr. Rosling explain Gapminder, watch these entertaining presentations recorded at TED (June 2006, June 2007).

Amnesty International gives us an interactive bird’s eye view of the destruction in Dafur with Eyes on Dafur: Satellite Evidence.

For violence in the United States see what the LA Times has done with public data and Google maps to track every Homicide in Los Angeles County during 2007 (708 victims as of 10/30/07).

For a less detailed look into history view the interactive maps American Leadership and War and History of Religion by Maps of War.

100 Years of Interactive E-Learning

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E-learning is not new. It’s been around for a hundred years, only for the first 90 years we called it “radio.” Now we’ve added slides, lost the bumper music, put it online and it’s become a mystery. Suddenly everyone seems to have forgotten the power of story telling and few have been successful at making driveway moments into desktop moments. Driveway moments; those moments when stories on the radio are so compelling you stay in your car and listen. Moments when the learner really does ignore incoming e-mail, instant messaging, and the temptation to surf the web.

So leave the bullet points behind and focus on capturing what been right in e-learning for a 100 years. Focus on true connectivity.

Their Dreams are more Beautiful

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Their dreams are more beautiful than yours. You’ll never be able to create an image of something your audience knows well, better than they can. If you ask them to imagine a wonderful dinner, you can describe the setting, the food, the drinks, but the minute you show them a picture of that dinner you’ve ruined their image, and perhaps their appetite.

So pick your images wisely and let the audience dream and imagine in those realms they know best. That’s what often makes the book, better than the movie.