Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘presentations’ Category

Illustrated Ken Robinson on Creativity in Education

In Books, creativity, Learning, Learning Tools, presentations on January 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I’m not always impressed with videos on the internet. They are usually little more than talking heads. Too many people use video just because they can, not because the video adds anything to the presentation. When I run across these videos, I tend to treat them as audios and just listen. Sometimes, though, people understand that video is a visual medium and give us something more than a chance to see them on camera. Case in point: here’s a great new illustrated version of my favorite TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson about changing education paradigms. Ask me if I’m surprised that Ken Robinson “gets it.”



In Learning, Learning Tools, presentations, work on March 3, 2009 at 3:10 pm

The University vs. The Universe

The university has always been a poor substitute for the universe as a learning resource.

The world’s first universities were established in the 5th century CE in various places including Constantinople, Egypt, India, China, and Persia. The University of Pennsylvania, the first university in the U.S., was founded hundreds of years later in 1740 by none other than Benjamin Franklin. They performed adequately, if not always admirably, through the industrial age. These days they aren’t doing such a good job.

As John Naisbitt pointed out twenty plus years ago in his groundbreaking research on Megatrends, “Things are changing too fast for people to specialize their education.” Therefore, the most important skill to master is learning how to learn. “Tasks are going to change, careers are going to change. If you know how to learn, you can continue to grow. If you don’t you’re going to be handicapped.”

Now that the Internet brings the universe into our homes, if we know how to learn, we no longer need huge bureaucracies to standardize learning for us. Three sites allow all of us to listen to lectures covering just about any topic we’d like to learn.

TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public for free.

Academic Earth is an organization founded with the goal of giving everyone on earth access to a world-class education.

This non-profit is “working to identify these barriers and find innovative ways to use technology to increase the ease of learning.” It vows to give internet users around the world the ability to easily find, interact with, and learn from full video courses and lectures from the world’s leading scholars.

Launched less than two years ago, Apple’s iTunes university offers college lectures on everything from Proust to particle physics to students and the public. Some universities make their lectures available to all, while others restrict access to enrolled students. New psychological research suggests that university students who download a podcast lecture achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person.

Podcasted lectures offer students the chance to replay difficult parts of a lecture and therefore take better notes, says Dani McKinney, a psychologist at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who led the study.

As the iTunes website, explains, learning no longer happens only at a desk. Students now expect constant access to information, no matter where they are, which is exactly why more and more faculty are using iTunes U to distribute digital lessons to their students.

The next time you have an immediate need to learn something, check out these sites and learn from the best.

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In presentations, writing on January 3, 2007 at 8:54 am

Tell Me a Story

Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. Italian Proverb

The way we communicate with and learn from one another is by telling stories. When we get together with friends, we swap stories. Daniel H. Pink points out in A Whole New Mind that the way we get trained on the job is through stories. The veteran will tell the newbie, “Once I did that and got in a lot of trouble. Mr. Hanks had to call the fire department…” and so on.

One way to improve your communications skills is to learn how to tell stories better. Lucky for you, there are tons of information available to help you do just that. Here are a few of my favorites:

Maybe the best book ever written on crafting stories is Story by Robert McKee, which is actually about screenwriting. His analysis of the minute details that go into putting together a good solid story will also work for writers, speakers, and teachers.

WikiHow, a website filled with free short tutorials on a mind numbing number of topics, offers How to Write a Short Story. Its sister site, eHow, offers advice on How to Generate Short Story Ideas.

Professional storyteller Chris King publishes a free enewsletter and articles about storytelling. If you get interested enough to immerse yourself, check out the Society of the Muse of the Southwest, which offers a storytelling festival in Taos, New Mexico, every fall.

Spend one day writing down all the stories you hear throughout the day and you agree with poet Muriel Rukeyser, who said, “The universe is made up of stories, not atoms.”

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In presentations, writing on January 2, 2007 at 7:36 am

Telling Stories

“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”

Ursula K. LeGuin

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the art of telling stories. At the urging of my writers’ group, I started writing short stories. It isn’t as easy as it looks. Because I couldn’t seem to think up story ideas from my own imagination, I found myself listening more carefully to the stories other people told me about their lives. These became fodder for my attempts at writing fiction.

On Palm Sunday I participated in a performance of the Gospel of Mark at my church. We broke the book into 1-3 minute chunks and more than a dozen of us took turns telling the story of Jesus’ ministry in the oral tradition, much as it must have been told and preserved in the first decades after his crucifixion before it was written down.

In the summer, I took a class in storytelling offered for United Methodist lay speakers. The book we used, Dancing with Words by Ray Buckley, focused on the legacy of storytelling in the Lakota tradition. “Storytelling affirms for us the memory of our people,” he writes. “We are people of the story, and we seek to identify and tell our stories in nearly everything we do.”

In his book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel H. Pink lists telling stories as one of the six competencies we need in the conceptual age, because computers can’t do it for us. This book was so full of good ideas that I had to buy my own copy after I returned the library book.

When I started teaching a course in cultural diversity, I had my students share their culture by telling stories to one another, a very popular activity. Whenever we get together in groups, the way we communicate is by telling stories. Start paying attention to the stories you hear and those you tell. What do they tell about you?

More on stories tomorrow.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved