School’s out Friday

I can so relate to what Shonda Rhimes is saying in this TED talk that was delivered at the TED Conference being held this week in Vancouver, Canada. In it, she talks about the hum of work, of being caught up in your career, of loving the work that you do. The dilemma occurs when the hum stops, when you realise the cost of the work, the relationships you sacrifice when the work takes over and you’ve lost sight of what truly matters.

I love work, always have. But this week my eyes are suffering, my husband has been calling me at 11.00pm telling me to tear myself from my computer to get some sleep and I can feel my amygdala moving into flight or fight response.

l know what my problem is. I want things to work. I hold myself responsible for a project’s success even though I know it is dependent on the will of all for it to succeed. I am giving my all to lead effectively and I know you can’t make everyone comfortable or happy about change. I know all of that, and the rational part of me can speak those words in my head, but the emotional and irrational part of my psyche ignores the logic.

Sleep. Rest. Family. Friends. Tonic for the soul. Give me a good dose this weekend.🙂

Is your school missing the future?

“The main thing that has caused companies to fail, in my view, is that they missed the future.”

Larry Page at #TED2014

Screenshot 2014-03-20 20.47.08

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/larry-page-at-ted-2014-3

Apply this statement to schools.

Is your school missing the future?

Are your students being exposed to the notion of cloud technologies and anywhere, anytime access? Or is that reserved for their personal life?

If it is, then maybe you should be asking questions of your school administration, IT Directors and Teacher Librarians.

We can’t afford to let our students find the future outside of the school experience. There’s a fair bit of guidance necessary to help them navigate this future and our schools should be leading the way, not impeding access.

If you’re not giving this some thought, then you should be.

How do you prepare for a TEDx talk?

Last month, I delivered a talk at TEDxMelbourne: Education Leadership. It should be online in the next week or two at the TEDxMelbourne YouTube channel, so you can make your mind up then as to what you think about it. I haven’t spoken about it at length here, but I thought it might be an interesting exercise to analyse the process I went through  putting a talk like that together. It may help anyone who is asked to do something similar.

Find your story

First up, there are time restrictions on your talk. The premise of a TEDx talk is to present an idea worth spreading in 18 minutes or less. I’ve watched my fair share of TED talks and know that the ones that grab my attention are often those that have a thread of a story running through them. When I first started presenting, I found the work of Garr Reynolds invaluable. Garr speaks often of the need to tell a story when you are presenting and I try my best to do that using techniques he recommends for slides that accompany my talks. So, I knew I needed a story thread that could run through my talk and bind it together.

Getting your ideas down

Once I had my idea, I then needed to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard to be more accurate. I use Evernote for most of my notetaking now, so I set up a folder and started jotting down ideas as they came to me. I’m not sure if this is true for everyone who delivers a talk like this, but for me, it occupied much of my available thinking time in the weeks leading up to it. My thinking time is often restricted to moments of solitude, and they are not all that frequent in my busy life. Some of my best ideas come to me while getting ready for work in the morning, when everyone else is asleep and there’s nothing that can distract me. I had to take to having my iPad or phone close by at all times so that I could jot down lines on the fly. Some of the key ideas came while I was standing under a hot shower; I’d have to repeat them over until I could grab the iPad and record them for posterity.

Understanding the format

I’m used to using a slide deck to guide my presentations. I don’t use notes when I present; I have my ideas running through my head and the impetus for the next idea is prompted by the next slide in the deck. I’m used to presentations of an hour or so in length, and know that I have room to ad lib or embellish, or speed the presentation along if I’m running out of time. A TEDx talk is very different given the time restrictions. I was also pretty conscious that it was going to be filmed and I didn’t want my speech to be sloppy or to fall into habits that I know I have when I’m speaking in front of a group. I tend to say, ‘you know’ and sometimes lazily abbreviate words eg: say ‘gonna’ instead of ‘going to’. I’d reconciled that notes weren’t going to suffice; I was going to need to write this out as a speech.

Find ‘airplane mode’ (Literally!)

My dilemma was finding time to write. In the lead up to this talk, I had an ISTE presentation and a Keynote to prepare, as well as marking and end of semester reports to write. I resolved that the fourteen hour flight to Los Angeles was going to be writing time for this talk. I needed to go into airplane mode where no other distractions were going to interfere with the writing process. It worked. I wrote the bulk of the talk on my iPad on the flight over inside the Evernote app. I found myself dozing on the flight and dreaming my way through the talk. On more than one occasion, lines that I used on the final talk were ones that came to me in my sleep; I’d wake and scramble for the iPad, getting them down before they disappeared from consciousness. The flight home gave me an opportunity to look at it closely again, and I polished it further and added new paragraphs on that journey home.

Hear your voice

Once home, I decided I needed to record myself speaking the talk to time it and see how I went with the 18 minute limit. I used SoundCloud to do this, and shared the track with Jon Yeo and Hamish Curry who were mentoring me for this talk. Their feedback was invaluable, and led to me refining the talk further.

The Hardest Part – relying on memory

When I was happy with how it looked, it came time to commit it to memory.

The hard part.

I haven’t had to memorise content that has a time limit restriction for a very long time, and I struggled trying to to do this. I’d read it over and over, but it just wasn’t coming naturally to me. One night in the week preceding the talk, I had a minor breakdown and told my family I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. It was that breakdown that was the catalyst for finding a way through. I pulled myself together, took the speech in hand and wrote it out in point form. I condensed 3000 or so words down into key ideas and lines and started to rely on these to prompt my memory to fill the gaps. This was a major breakthrough – finally it was coming together.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

An intense rehearsal stage followed. My lounge room became my venue and the blank television screen was my audience. My family found it quite amusing listening to me speak animatedly to no-one for hours on end. I used the stopwatch on my phone to record the length of the talk, but every run through was different. I never delivered the same talk twice. Sometimes I’d be over 18 minutes, and sometimes I’d be under. After a couple of days of this, I had to accept that I might not stay within the 18 minute limit and that I was more than likely to run over. What I came to realise was that, in my mind, it was more important that I impart my message and not get hung up on 30 seconds here or there.

You might need a crutch

The day prior to the talk I realised that I was going to need some palm cards with me as a bit of a crutch to help me on the night. I made four small cards that fit into my palm and I wrote key words for each part of the talk to help prompt me if I stumbled. It gave me peace of mind, and at that stage, I needed it!

The realities of the stage

One of the things I rely on when doing any form of public speaking, be it in a classroom or at a venue, is making a connection with an audience and feeding off their reaction to your words. Not everyone is always with you, but there’s usually some kind of body language from someone that’s encouraging and helps you give out the energy needed. I’d forgotten about the lighting that’s required when you’re being filmed and found myself on stage with spotlights glaring from the sides and an audience of shadowy heads in front of me. I couldn’t for the life of me make out a face and see how the audience were reacting to my words. I could hear laughter at appropriate moments, but couldn’t detect if there were any nodding heads or knowing smiles. It was like I was standing in my loungeroom talking to the blank television!

Lessons learned

You can be the judge of the success or failure of the talk when it becomes available. I’ve come out of the experience very thankful for having been given the opportunity. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but one of the most rewarding too. I have new found respect for anyone who has done a TED or TEDx talk, and for those students out there whom we ask to perform oral presentations in our English classes on a regular basis. One of the really cool features of the night was the inclusion of Lynne Cazaly, an artist who drew our talks in graphic form as we spoke. Her work is such a wonderful representation of what was imparted.

True Blue Production, who volunteered their services to film on the night, have done a great job of a backstage video of the event. Take a look below.

Special thanks from me go to Hamish Curry and Jon Yeo. Thanks for the great mentoring and the opportunity. I am very grateful.

 

The Happiness Advantage – need this in your school?

Over the weekend, I wrote a post on the Voices from the Learning Revolution blog called ‘TED in My Classroom‘, with a focus on TED Ed, their latest initiative. I’m still pondering how I might offer something to the project, but I’ll have to mull over it a little more. What they’re looking for is the following:

TED-Ed’s mission is to capture and amplify the voices of great educators around the world. We do this by pairing extraordinary educators with talented animators to produce a new library of curiosity-igniting videos.

I don’t know if I’m one of the extraordinary educators they’re looking for, but I do think there might be something in my bag of educational tricks that might be worth sharing!

What’s in Shawn Achor’s bag of tricks is well worth your time. He’s a very engaging speaker, talking about what he calls ‘the happiness advantage‘; the effect of positive psychology on our productivity and attitude to life. Here’s some text from the transcript of his talk;

But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we’ve found is that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37 percent better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed. Which means we can reverse the formula. If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we’re able to work harder, faster and more intelligently.

Just imagine if our focus in schools was on this instead of Naplan tests and My School comparisons? I’d like to see schools value this kind of research and invest time and effort in helping our students understand how their state of mind can effect their performance.

I’m happy and positive after watching this. In my view, 12 minutes well spent in any classroom you teach in. Think about sharing it around.

Freedom vs Control – important lessons to be learned

Cyber crime expect Mikko Hypponen delivered a talk at the TEDxBrussels event that has made it this week onto the TED site. If you’re at all interested in conversations surrounding privacy in this digital age, then it’s 10 minutes well invested.

As teachers, we need to understand the implications of our use of the Internet and we should be helping our students understand it too. Mikko makes the comment in this talk that he believes you are more likely to become a victim of crime in the online world than in the real world. How many of us think about whether or not trojan viruses have infected our computers after visiting a site? Do we ever think that our keystrokes may be being monitored by a criminal hoping to gain password or credit card details?

How many people have any understanding of what a https site is in the first place and how you know if a site has an extended validation certificate? If you’re unclear, head over to “20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web“, a really helpful guide written in easy to understand language that won’t befuddle you. It was published by the Google Chrome team in 2010, and is a very handy reference point for anyone wanting to know more about the code, browsers, security risks, and a myriad of other eye opening details about how the Web works. I teach a Yr 7 Information Technology class and I’ve found it very helpful to support my understanding, and the understanding of the students I teach.

Mikko identifies three types of online attacks threatening our privacy and data. Criminals, looking for avenues to steal our money, hacktivists, (groups like Anonymous) who hack as means of protesting, and Nation States, who are apparently willingly infecting suspected citizens computers in order to collect information about them. Worrying, huh? I think so, and I believe it’s important that we as teachers impart this kind of information to our students. We need informed citizens who are capable of making decisions and defending their rights.

Mikko ends his talk stating the issue at hand is ‘Freedom vs Control’, and speculates whether we will spend the next 50 years wondering if we are able to trust our Governments. He’s got me thinking, I can tell you. I bet your students would find it fascinating too. We need to find avenues in our curriculums today to teach these important understandings that have implications for all of us.

Prescribed viewing – Daniel Kraft on Medicine’s future

Watch this, and tell me that doctors will resist these changes to their profession.

They won’t. They’ll embrace them, because health matters to all of us, and we will demand uptake. We lay people will be involved in it too, as we use our mobile devices to access apps that measure, control and advise us how to best manage our health.

So why such resistance in education to change? Why, when we see the communicative potential of the web to connect with expert voices, to learn beyond our classroom walls, why do we see teachers cling onto textbooks and churn out assignments that Google can answer in 10 minutes?

Maybe Daniel Kraft’s Ted talk should be prescribed viewing for our profession. Maybe it’s the dose of reality we need.