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?

Inspirational Speech by “The World’s Ugliest Woman”

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One of my favorite former students, Evan O’Lear, emailed me a link to a TEDx Austin Women Talk delivered by “The World’s Ugliest Woman,” Lizzie Velasquez.  Lizzie turns this terrible label on its head and urges her audience – and us at home – to reconsider how we define ourselves.  Does physical appearance matter so much that a strong, intelligent, funny, powerful woman with an exceptional medical condition must resign to a life of taunting and bullying?  And why are we so afraid of people who don’t look exactly the same way we do?

I guarantee that while watching this Talk, you will feel feelings.  Check it out below:

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The Huffington Post calls Lizzie’s Talk “a lesson in acceptance and self love” (Source).  The International Business Times says Lizzie’s goal is “to help diminish the hate that comes her way by overriding it with an inspirational message of love and acceptance” (Source).

Even though I’ve seen thousands of presentations, after watching Lizzie’s TEDx Talk, I find myself in awe at the power of words.  A great speech can transform the way we look at someone – can make someone labeled “a monster” by cyberbullies into a beautiful human being, a hero and champion for women.  A great speech can make us feel deep empathy and compassion for others.  A great speech can change our perspective and can change the way we view the world.  A great speech can make us move from apathy to hope and optimism.  Lizzie’s presentation was masterful, and she makes her audience feel like we are better people for having watched her speak.

What is your reaction to Lizzie’s TEDx Talk?  Please share your thoughts in the “Comments” section!

Want To Be Happy? Be Grateful by David Steindl-Rast

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Thank you for being so patient, Creating Communication readers, during this overwhelmingly busy time in my life!  Work has been off-the-charts busy with overhauling our online course; teaching extra classes; and handling more student issues than usual.  My graduate class has also been crazy as we wrap up our semester.  My final research paper was due yesterday, and our class final exam will be next week.  Because I will be so busy studying this week and over the weekend, I elected to stay in Orlando for Thanksgiving as opposed to driving to my hometown.  Though I am sad I won’t see family, I am exhausted.  I need a break, and I can’t wait to spend some time alone.  Do you ever feel that way?

This Thanksgiving, I am focusing on slowing down and being grateful despite the frenzy going on around me.  Brother David Steindl-Rast’s TED Talk could not have come at a more perfect time for me.  Called “Want To Be Happy? Be Grateful,” the Benedictine monk teaches us how to calm ourselves and to focus on giving thanks.  Check out his beautiful lesson below:

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This Thanksgiving, I am going to stop, stand still in the middle of the tornado that is my life right now, and be thankful for every single blessing I have been taking for granted.  Whether you will be traveling and spending time with family or, like me, home alone, I hope you will find some time to stop, meditate, and be thankful.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

The Importance of Storytelling in Public Speaking

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While studying for my Quantitative Research Methods in Communication midterm this weekend, I took a much-needed mental break to visit TED.com.  Because so many of my friends are or were online daters, the title of Amy Webb’s “How I Hacked Online Dating” immediately caught my eye.

I started watching it, and I marveled at the seamless, perfect blend of data and numbers with story in Webb’s TED Talk.  Her casual, audience-centered delivery and her beautiful supporting visuals rounded out all three legs of the presentation stool, and as a result, Webb delivered one of the strongest TED speeches with slides that I’ve actually EVER seen on the TED website.  Watch it here:

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I am not a numbers person.  I’ve spent 8 hours today and will spend 8 hours tomorrow and 8 hours on Wednesday (midterm day) creating flashcards, reading and re-reading my textbook, going over my class notes, and highlighting my instructor’s PowerPoint slides to try to figure out nominal measurement scales, coefficients, ordered variables, and many other miserably confusing quantitative-related vocabulary words.  Even putting in 24 hours of studying won’t help me feel completely comfortable with this material.  It’s not something that I understand easily.  That being said, I do love data and numbers when that information is presented in story form.  Because I get it.  Because story works.  Webb’s presentation (above) proves it.  She makes data simple and explains the meaning behind the data, and as Garr Reynolds reminds us, this is essential if we want our audience to remember the information we are presenting.

So what is Webb doing in her TED Talk that helps me and other audience members understand and able to recall the data in her presentation?

My co-workers and I were talking about TED Talks in general, and a comment was made that TED speeches weren’t practical in teaching and learning public speaking because they were too story-driven.  I didn’t stop to think about the comment mid-conversation, but I did think about it quite a bit for the next few days.  Yes, TED is story-driven, and that’s the point: story is what drives all human beings.  Story is the most digestible,  understood, and easy to retell communication medium in the world.  And, as we know when we study ethos, pathos, and logos, people throw reason and logic out the window when the right emotional chord is struck.  TED Commandment #4 is “Thou shalt tell a story,” and this is because story is what sticks (Source).

Don’t believe me (or the TED Commandments)?  Look no further than Chip and Dan Heath, the men behind Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.  The Heath brothers know what TED presenters know: that story is sticky and resonates within us for days, weeks, months, years.  Presentation revolutionaries such as Nancy Duarte teach us that story “has played a significant role in all cultures but its adoption into professional cultures has been painfully slow. That’s because it’s easier to present a report instead of a well-crafted presentation that incorporates stories” (Source).  If we’re going to create effective speeches, we have to start turning to story as the primary vehicle for communicating and delivering the information we want to stick in other people’s minds.

So Webb is doing what all presenters should do.  She’s telling her story, and her story helps us understand a) the purpose of her speech, b) the data she collected, and c) why this is important for us as audience members.

Why do you think traditional public speaking and presentation instructors scoff at story-driven speeches?  How can we convince these old school folks to change their mindset?

Malcolm Gladwell’s “The unheard story of David and Goliath”

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When I was searching for a new book to read this weekend, I came across Malcolm Gladwell’s newest called David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.  While I almost instantly realized I wasn’t going to have time for any pleasure reading during my “weekend,” I did notice that TED released a TED Talk by Gladwell based on that book.  Check it out below:

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This TED Talk is beautifully shot.  One thing I hate about some of these new TED Talks is the tiny “stage” with the audience clustering around.  That semi-circle seems so awkward!

Gladwell’s content is interesting, and he tells the story of David and Goliath only to turn the story on its head.  What I love most about his Talk is his delivery.  He is so conversational that it makes me feel like he’s talking to me at a dinner party.

Learn more about Malcolm Gladwell here.  You can also check out a few of his other TED Talks.

Kelly McGonigal’s How To Make Stress Your Friend

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Jane McGonigal’s twin sister graced the TED stage!  I’m sure Kelly hates being known as Jane McGonigal’s twin, but it’s such a great identifier…  TED also provided a great bio: “Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal is a leader in the growing field of “science-help.” Through books, articles, courses and workshops, McGonigal works to help us understand and implement the latest scientific findings in psychology, neuroscience and medicine” (Source).  Kelly’s TED Talk reminds me a lot of Amy Cuddy’s studies, and I really enjoyed it.  Check it out below:

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I love her point at around 5:30, and this is something I actually teach my public speaking students:

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If we can view physical responses of stress as positive and as preparing us for the challenge ahead, we can cope with our public speaking anxiety, our stress, and manage it more effectively.

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How do you cope with your public speaking anxiety, stress, and  fear?

Daniel Cohen’s “For Argument’s Sake”

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One of my students delivered his TED Analysis Presentation last month on Daniel H. Cohen’s “For Argument’s Sake.”  Check it out below:

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One of the things I like about Cohen’s Talk is the way he grabs the audience’s attention through question.  This immediately makes me sit back and wonder why I argue, what I’m trying to do when I argue, and why it matters.  I do feel like opening with a question is one of the most overdone, cliche ways to begin a presentation.  Infomercials have all but killed opening with a question.  However, I like the way Cohen uses questions here to really get me (and his audience) thinking.

I didn’t like Cohen’s slides.  He could have separated each bullet on its own separate slide or not used slides at all.  He could have avoided the cheesy clip art and the faceless alien creatures.  I also thought his pacing was much too fast.  I had to rewind the TED Talk several times to even understand what he was saying.

Cohen’s delivery was authentic, natural, and passionate.  I liked that he established his credibility in the beginning and that he supported each of his three points (the three arguments) with ample support and real life application.

One of the assignments for my students in Professional Communication and Presentation as well as Public Speaking is to analyze a TED Talk based on that speech’s content/message, delivery, and visual aids (slides or props).  Being able to analyze a Talk is so essential for speakers to learn what works and what doesn’t.

When you watch a TED speaker, do you pay more attention to the content, delivery, or visuals?  A combination of the three?

Guy Kawasaki’s First TEDx Talk

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Guy Kawasaki delivered “The 12 Lessons I Learned from Steve Jobs” at TEDxHarker School…

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Kawasaki’s content is strong because he gives great presentation advice.  However, what I like most about his TED Talk is his natural, authentic delivery.  He appears jovial, excited, and friendly.  His personality clearly shines through, which is what makes his presentation shine.

What presentations about presentations have you watched and enjoyed lately?

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

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Sir Ken Robinson’s latest TED Talk, delivered at April 2013′s TED Education conference, is fantastic.  Watch below:

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Robinson explains that a teacher’s job is to be creative; a teacher’s job is not to deliver information.  So often, we believe our goal is to get information to students.  Yes, that’s important, but, as Robinson says, our other goals are to “mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage” and “if there is no learning going on, there is no education going on” (Source).

Many of my colleagues are “engaged in the task of teaching but not actually fulfilling it” (Source).  What should a teacher be doing?  Back in January of 2012, I wrote the “Superteachers” series stemming from my six years of teaching experience.  I first defined the term “superteacher” and then listed a few qualities that separate a teacher from a superteacher.  Those qualities include creativity; a passion for learning; obviously doing the work (engaging in the act of teaching but also the act of learning); optimism; and mentorship/developing leadership potential.  To learn more about the series, please click here.

Robinson tells us in his TED Talk that the one and only role of a teacher is “to facilitate learning” (Source).  Learning doesn’t come from lecturing.  It comes from collaboration, discussion, and activity.  In order to join the teaching and learning revolution, one must make a commitment to the qualities Robinson describes in his TED Talk as well as the qualities of a superteacher.  What additional qualities do you think a superteacher possesses?  How would you define “superteacher” ?

Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit

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Angela Lee Duckworth’s “The key to success? Grit” reinforces the theories of my favorite superteacher mentor: Carol Dweck.  Duckworth explains that learning is based not on natural intelligence but on hard work.  She references Dweck’s work around the 5:00 mark:

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Duckworth defines “grit” as “passion and perseverance for very long term goals; having stamina; sticking with your future day in and day out FOR YEARS; working really hard to make that future a reality; living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint” (Source).  The best part is that grit isn’t even related to natural talent!

Building grit in students is all about encouraging and nurturing the growth mindset.  When I first heard of Dweck’s work a year ago, I was blown away.  Dweck’s book highlighted everything I’d been experiencing as a teacher, and she helped me to put my teaching philosophy into words.

Dweck’s work also inspired me to teach my college students the growth mindset starting on the first day of every new class.  On Day #1, we write down three goals.  I have mine, and the students develop theirs.  I explain again and again that to be a great public speaker, to be a great presenter, you have to work hard.  It’s not about natural talent or charm or charisma… It’s about working your butt off.  You can see that all three of my goals encourage that growth mindset.  Most students embrace this because most people are comforted by and embrace the growth mindset.

With public speaking and presentation, a growth mindset is essential.  A teacher I worked with a few years ago claimed that “charisma” was this innate, natural quality that you were born with… She taught her students that some people had charisma and some didn’t.  I find this fixed mindset in the presentation field alarming and damaging.  The fixed mindset says you are either born with the ability to present well or you’re not, and if that’s the case, why bother taking a speech class?  Why bother taking any classes at all?  If you’re born with all the smarts you’ll ever have, education as a whole is pointless!

I highly recommend that you read Dweck’s book and watch Duckworth’s TED Talk.  Today, I will be searching for more of Duckworth’s work so that I can see her contributions to the field and learn more about teaching the growth mindset to my students.  Superteachers, is it possible to teach the growth mindset to college students?  How do we encourage that growth mindset to those super fixed mindset students?