Dr. Emdin’s “Teach Teachers How To Create Magic”

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Dr. Christopher Emdin‘s hook got me.  He tells the story of an aspiring teacher writing a 60-page paper about a super old education theory developed by a long-dead man and wondering what in the world that paper has to do with her future career goals and aspirations.

As a graduate student AND a full time teacher, this is something I’ve too often experienced.  I’ve found that research-based universities (the big universities such as the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida) are concerned with just that: research.  Teaching duties are secondary to research and publication, conferences and journals.  Research-based universities employ scholars: the thinkers, philosophers, and inventors of our day.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have learning-centered institutions (formerly community colleges, now state colleges, such as Valencia College or Seminole State College).  These colleges are concerned with teaching and learning.  Check out Valencia’s learning-centered mission statement here.  As opposed to research, faculty members at learning-centered institutions are expected to be strong teachers.  Teaching is the primary goal, not the means to an end.

As Dr. Edmin’s introduction continues (watch him continue this train of thought until 1:30), he asks us to focus on this research-based university system which, from personal experience I can agree, trains students how to become scholars and researchers.  Teachers aren’t focused on engaging students or on creating magic in the classroom to inspire learning.  And Dr. Edmin thinks that is a bad thing.

You may be wondering who Dr. Emdin is.  A professor at Columbia University and a Director of Science Education for the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education, Dr. Emdin is a superteacher.  He is the creator of the Hip Hop Ed social movement and has also collaborated with Wu Tang Clan’s GZA and the website Rap Genius on an initiative designed to engage students in science through hip hop battles.  Watch Dr. Emdin’s TEDx Talk below:

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His argument is that superteachers aren’t often found in the classroom.  We know from people like Dr. John Medina, Garr Reynolds, and Nancy Duarte that great presenters (and great teachers) are storytellers, engaging presenters who focus on delivering content in an audience-centered fashion.  Superteachers and super-presenters are bound, linked, tied together, and this is a huge reason why I live and breathe public speaking and presentation.  Dr. Emdin says teachers are educated on theories and standards, but they have no idea how to develop that magic in the classroom, and that magic comes from careful study of effective communication and presentation techniques.  If we ditched education curriculum and replaced it with books like Brain RulesPresentation Zen, and Resonate, imagine the classrooms filled with students on the edge of their seats, excited and ready to learn.

Just like Sir Ken Robinson, Dr. Christopher Emdin sees that the system of education is broken.  His solution: teaching teachers how to develop “that magic” (as he calls it).  Dr. Emdin’s solution is that we should study effective presentation content and delivery, and I wholeheartedly agree.

What advice or suggestions would you give a new teacher to help her become a superteacher?

M.A. Update: Thesis Preparation

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When I began teaching Professional Communication and Presentation as well as Public Speaking, I decided to go back to school to obtain 18 graduate hours in the Communication discipline.  Little did I know I would quickly fall in love with my program and my professors.  My quest for 6 classes has now turned into the goal of a second master’s degree.  Today, I presented and submitted my final paper for the class that marks the halfway point in my M.A. in Communication.

Reflecting back on what I’ve learned so far is essential as I move forward with the next phase in my studies: the thesis process.  I’ve begun thinking about my topic and my committee as well as my potential research interests.  I want to make sure my thesis will include content I can build upon in the future.  For about a year now, I’ve kept a running list of potential topics, things I like, things I read about in my spare time, things I’m interested in.  I also started keeping a Pinterest board of fascinating popular press articles.  These articles and my list helped to inform the direction my thesis will take.

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So far, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am a qualitative versus quantitative researcher.  I also know that I am a social constructionist, and because of my background and my first M.A. in English Literature, I gravitate toward critical theories.  For the past few months, I’ve been studying and reading about many modern communication theories in Theories of Human Communication by Littlejohn and Foss.  I added the theories and theorists that interested me the most to my ongoing list of potential thesis topics.  Theorists I enjoy include Goffman, Butler, Buber, and Bakhtin.  I have recently studied facework as well as standpoint theory, and my favorite theory from a previous course was dialogue.  Tonight in class, the most fascinating fellow student paper was on Kenneth Burke.  There are so many ideas still swimming in my head that it will take me another few months to finalize and figure out my direction.  My goal is to have my thesis topic nailed down at the end of the summer.

For my remaining coursework, I am taking two core classes: Qualitative Research Methods and Statistics.  I am very excited about Qualitative.  Since the thought of taking Statistics at the graduate level is enough to make me want to drop out of college (kidding… kind of), I was happy to hear from our graduate coordinator that I could take a Sociology Statistics class focusing on application in the social sciences.  My remaining electives will be Communication and Conflict, Communication in Close Relationships, and a course from the Women’s Studies Division called Theories in Gender Studies.  It’s hard to imagine after only a few additional classes, I will have another degree and be one step closer to a Ph.D. in Communication.

It’s that time of year… Students are in the home stretch before graduation.  Are you one of them?  Or are you, like me, in the middle of a degree program?  Please share your experience with me in the “Comments” section.

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Can We Have It All?”

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One of my research interests, certainly inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, is this idea of female leadership in the workplace.  What identity do female leaders construct and share with others?  What “self” are they creating and presenting to the world?

Anne-Marie Slaughter‘s “Can We Have It All?” tackles an important question about women in the workplace.  She argues that no, we women can’t have it all.  Watch her moving TED Talk below:

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Slaughter opens with a powerful story that just punches me right in the gut.  As a woman without children who is dedicated to her career, I can’t fathom the decision she made.  And that’s what her entire presentation is about.

Slaughter talks about the measure of a woman’s success – being at the “top” of her career.  I agree that this is one major way I measure my own success as a woman.  She says we have to rethink this so that “success,” and she presents her big idea at about the 4:00 mark.  Then, she moves into why we should adapt a new solution and how we can do it as humanists – not as feminists.

Learn more about Slaughter’s perspective in “Elite Women Put a New Spin on an Old Debate” by the New York Times and NPR’s “The Impossible Juggling Act: Motherhood and Work.”

Did you watch any great TED Talks over the weekend?

Skillshare: Your New Favorite Website

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If Lynda.com‘s hipper, artsier younger sister and a MOOC had a baby, that baby would be Skillshare.  Skillshare’s manifesto is as follows:

“Education is what someone tells you to do. Learning is what you do for yourself.”

Sir Ken Robinson delivered a TED Talk called “Schools Kill Creativity.”  Education is a stuffy classroom with a syllabus, rules, guidelines, and assignments.  A teacher at the front of the room lectures using slides filled with bullets.  After 10 minutes, the students’ brains shut off.  Little learning actually happens.  I believe Skillshare is giving “education” a great new direction to help remedy that.  Take a look at this short video to learn more about what the folks at Skillshare are doing.

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From personal experience, I know “learning” is much better than “education.”  When I was first introduced to Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds, learning about a new way to present information lit a fire under me.  My passion for the subject lead to countless hours reading, studying, writing.  I began this blog three years ago today because of the fire I felt for learning how to communicate and present successfully in the 21st century.  I was so fired up that I decided to go back to school to pursue a second M.A. in Communication.  While my education has been wonderful, my education was designed to mold me into a researcher and scholar.  My education was not something I could apply in the real world but something that would help me on my path to a Ph.D. in Communication.  The learning I was doing on my own resulted in a practical application at my job and helped me become a better, stronger teacher and communicator.  For me, the gulf between “education” and “learning” is wider than ever.

I had the wonderful opportunity to try a class for free on Skillshare.  Seth Godin has now developed two courses: “The New Business Toolbox: Help Your New Business Do It Right The First Time” and “The Modern Marketing Workshop.”  (Skillshare, you had me at “Seth Godin!”)  I am enrolled in the latter course, and I love it.

Skillshare focuses on teaching students the way that they learn.  I’m seeing short, 10 minute video lessons combined with activities to teach software and subjects like fashion, graphic design, and painting.  With such an intense focus on courses crafted by industry leaders and a commitment to practical application in the real world, Skillshare’s biggest appeal is that it’s current, relevant, and useful.  To learn more about Skillshare, check out their website here.

Have you taken a Skillshare class yet?  Share your experience with me!

Design Challenge: Poster Session

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My classmate Sunshine Baker and I worked on a paper together for our Quantitative Research Methods class.  Earlier this year, our project was accepted for the UCF Graduate Research Forum Poster Session.  We excitedly began working on our poster.  Sunshine typed up all of the relevant information into the PowerPoint template we were required to use.  Here is our “Before” poster:

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After adding in the content into the template, Sunshine handed over the first draft to me to focus on design.  We had a list of requirements from both UCF and the Nicholson School of Communication.  I compiled that list of requirements together in a Word document.

Next, I took a look at some sample posters while considering how I would approach our design and layout.  I was not impressed.  To learn more, just do a Google search and a Google image search for “poster session examples.”  YIKES!  Hideous.  I also did a survey of the posters in our graduate lounge and the graduate conference room, but I wasn’t super impressed by anything I saw.

I turned to other places for design inspiration.  UCF has a page on their website called “Brand and Identity Guidelines” explaining our school fonts, colors, and design samples.  I used this as inspiration for the poster to promote a sense of school pride and spirit.  I decided to go with black, white, and gold for our colors based on the brand and identity guidelines, and I selected the fonts used by our school: “Americana” from the UCF logo and “Adobe Caslon” from many marketing materials.

After I decided how I would approach the design for our poster, I realized I just couldn’t work in PowerPoint 2007.  After calling the poster “help” line and hearing that the template only existed in PowerPoint, my genius designer/superteacher BFF Chiara Ojeda suggested that I just open the template in Keynote.  Voilà!  (And also: why didn’t I think of that?)  I began designing the poster using Keynote, a far superior program if you asked me.  After many, many long days of work and the help of Flickr and The Noun Project, I created our finished product.

Here she is, our “After” poster:

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If I had one more week to work on the poster, I would be 100% happy with it, but knowing the time limitations, I am definitely satisfied.  The final task in this journey is to prepare for the Graduate Research Forum.  The posters will be judged first, and then the poster session will begin.  Sunshine and I will be talking to people about our research and answering questions about our work.  I can’t wait!  Since this is my first poster session, I am nervous because I don’t know what to expect AND excited because it’s new and fun and challenging.

Have you ever been given a serious design challenge you had to work hard to overcome?  Share with me!

JLGO’s HIP Kids Program

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My volunteer organization is holding our annual gala this month, and I was asked to create a video to tie all tickets and donations to a specific program.  The H.I.P. Kids video I created is short and sweet:

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The Hunger Study for Central Florida measures several indicators every four years on the hunger landscape. In 2010, nearly one in five of our neighbors – 732,000 people – could not afford to buy enough food. Click here to learn more about the Junior League of Greater Orlando’s inaugural year’s initiative to fight childhood hunger.

During the 2009-2010 league year, The Junior League of Greater Orlando (JLGO) underwent an intense research period to identify a new core cause, relying heavily on the 2008 Heart of Florida United Way Tri-County Needs Assessment and membership feedback. Because it is our goal to utilize the skills of our volunteer-based organization to make the greatest possible impact, we have chosen to focus our efforts on a new Core Cause—Childhood Health, Hunger, and Poverty.

The JLGO has incorporated this focus into all facets of our organization and our long-term Strategic Plan.  For this process of identifying our core cause, the JLGO was awarded “Honorable Mention” for the Vision Award by the Association of Junior Leagues International. Only 8 Leagues out of 293 received award recognition in 2010.

Furthermore, our league underwent additional research and development in order to launch a new community program in line with our core cause.  In response to our community’s needs in the areas of childhood health, hunger, and poverty, we created HIP Kids.  HIP Kids, standing for Healthy Informed Playful Kids, attempts to solve the immediate and long term challenges faced by hungry children. JLGO kicked off HIP Kids in the 2010-2011 league year and it is still a successful program. We meet at the Rock Lake Community Center twice a month to teach kids about healthy food, habits & lifestyles.

To learn more about how you can get involved with JLGO’s H.I.P. Kids program, please visit our website here.

Do you ever create visuals for nonprofits to help promote an important cause?  What great charity have you supported through your presentation design talents?

Leading Effective Meetings

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Presentations and meetings are similar in that both mediums are broken.  The average presentation is boring, worthless, and a waste of time, and so are most meetings I attend.  Before I starting studying effective presenting in 2010, I accepted death-by-PowerPoint as the standard for presentations.  Fortunately, I had a wake up call after being introduced to Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.  From Duarte and Reynolds, I branched out and began reading books by other people such as Sunni Brown and David Sibbet as well as articles on Forbes and INC, and I had an “ah ha” moment about meetings, too.

Jeff Haden sums up my thoughts perfectly.  Haden says, “Information should be shared before the meeting. If I need to make a decision during a meeting, shouldn’t I have the information I need to make that decision ahead of time? Send documents, reports, etc. to participants in advance. Using meetings as a way to share information is unproductive, a waste of time and, well, lazy” (Source).  So many meetings devolve into a time to share what we’ve been doing, and during these get-togethers, I can barely keep my eyes open.

I thought long and hard about the meetings I attended on a weekly and monthly basis.  Meetings were a constant part of my life – even more so than presentations – since about 2002.  I’d attended countless meetings for work and for volunteer organizations, and I realized that most of those meetings were disappointing because they were only about information sharing.  And as I transition into a leadership role myself as the Vice President of Marketing and Communications, I realize I don’t want people to dread my meetings.  How can I use the meeting medium more effectively?

First, I ordered Bryan Mattimore’s Idea Stormers: How To Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs.  The book should arrive this week, and I am excited to read and then review it.

Second, I began researching meetings (again) to collect some ideas on leading effective meetings from experts.  One of the resources I found is GoGamestorm, a website that corresponds with Sunni Brown’s Gamestorming book.  I began combing through the site to see what kinds of meetings I wanted to hold.

In Fast Company’s “11 Simple Tips for Having Great Meetings,” some of my favorite leaders give advice on how to lead a meeting.  Richard Branson says we should keep it novel, and Guy Kawasaki believes we should pretend like we’ve failed.

Third, I considered the purpose of meetings.  Simon Sinek teaches us to start with why.  So why do I attend meetings?  In a world of email, texting, and instant messaging, I can quickly find out information.  I don’t go to a meeting for information.  I go to a meeting to feel inspired, to collaborate with people, to share ideas, and to move people or to be moved myself.  When I compare the purpose of meetings, the “why” is so similar to why we hold and attend presentations.  I cannot WAIT to study meetings for the next few months and hold my first official (and hopefully successful) council meeting this summer.  I will let you know my first meeting agenda once I read Mattimore’s book and GoGamestorm.

How do you lead effective meetings within your work or volunteer organization?  What have other people done to lead a meeting that you considered effective?

What It Takes To Be A Great Leader

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This week, I am preparing to transition into a new leadership role: Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Junior League of Greater Orlando.  On Friday and Saturday, the Board of Directors has our weekend retreat where we will meet to discuss and plan to upcoming year.  After our retreat, we will get right into appointing the other leaders of the League among other important tasks.  As I step up into this new position and consider appointing others to the M&C Council, I wonder about leadership.  Why do some people work to develop leadership qualities while others do not?  How can we all continue to push ourselves to be better, stronger leaders?

Roselinde Torres delivered a TED Talk called “What It Takes To Be A Great Leader.”  Watch it here:

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Torres discusses what leadership means today, in 2014, and it is quite different from your grandmother’s definition of a leader.  She says leadership in the 21st century is defined and evidenced in 3 questions: 1) Where are you looking to anticipate change?  She says the answer to this question is on your calendar (Source).  Torres believes have to think about who we’re spending our time with, what we’re spending our time doing, what we’re reading, what we’re thinking about (Source).  The next question is: What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional network?  Torres says this question is about your ability to develop relationships with people who are very different from you.  Listen to her speech at the 7:00 mark for a really eye-opening answer to question 2.  The third and final question is this: Are you courageous enough to abandon the past?  She argues we should be able to abandon practices that have worked for us in the past.  It’s true that if we always do what is familiar and comfortable, we will never grow.  I believe it is also true that we should abandon past failures.  This final question resonated with me in thinking about it that way.  I think great leaders have a growth mindset and are able to see past failures as stepping stones toward future success.  I also agree with Torres that taking risks to solve problems is essential to leadership.

Maybe we aren’t there yet.  Maybe we’re good at one of those items on Torres’ 21st century leader list, but we have to work on the other two.  Will Yakowicz offers a solution in “How To Be A Better Leader By Rewiring Your Brain.”  Yakowicz says we have to manage our amygdala (our lizard brain).  This will help us take chances and expand our network – two things our lizard brain often holds us back from accomplishing.  Yakowicz’s second solution is to write down things we are grateful for.  He believes “[e]very employee wants a grateful leader. But since the human brain suffers from what psychologists call ‘the negativity bias,’ where we are more attuned to threat than opportunity, you may have to work at firing up your feelings of gratitude” (Source).  This practice will definitely help us with risk taking.  His final solution focuses on all three of Torres’ questions and that solution is to give back. Finding time each day to give to other people helps with the calendar issue, with the network issue, and with the risk-taking issue.  In addition to answering Torres’ three leadership questions, giving back also improves your outlook and optimism, two more great qualities of a leader.

I am fascinated by the concept of leadership, so I constantly read articles in the leadership sections of Forbes and INC.  How do you read, study, and practice leadership?  What do YOU think it takes to be a great leader?

Precious “Thank You” From A Student

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A superstudent named Lance Smith shared this beautifully designed slideshow on the last day of our Professional Communication and Presentation class:

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Lance is an amazing human being.  Not only is he thoughtful, professional, considerate, and hard-working, but his eye for design is out of control!

Contact Lance via his website or his social media platform.

What awesome, surprising gift has a student given you?