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The Thinking Stick Jeff Utecht
Educator Consultant Author
Updated: 1 hour 39 min ago
CEO of Intel Brian Krzanich took to the Internet last week to encourage engineering students to stick with their programs and to shed some light on the fact that America and American companies are desperate for engineers. Not just in the tech sector but in other sectors as well.
On my recent trip back from visiting ISG in Saudi Arabia, I sat next to an Agricultural Engineer on his way back to Seattle. He had been out for 3 weeks traveling Europe, India, and 3 countries in Africa. As he talked about his traveling adventures I couldn’t believe how much he was traveling…so I had to ask him why the company didn’t hire others. His answer:
“There aren’t any Agricultural Engineers to be had.”
That’s worrisome really…..we all need food and as our population grows we’re only going to need more. Here is someone who has dedicated his life to helping the global community produce more food for our growing population and the company can’t find anyone trained to help him out or replace him when the time comes…he’s hoping to retire in 5 years.
Forbes predicts that there were 1.7 million Cloud-Based Technology jobs that went unfilled globally in 2012 and the outlook and predictions moving forward aren’t any better. So this isn’t just an American problem….it’s a global one.
At a K-12 level what are we doing to prepare students for these jobs? We can’t force students to be engineers but are we giving them the experiences they need in K-12 to even be in a place to think about engineering as a career?
Kalyani Mallela, 29, said engineering is a foundation applicable to all industries and fields, enabling people to do anything from build chips and wearable tech devices to fix flood problems and innovate medicine.
“It’s the ‘why’ and the ‘curiosity’ that make me a good engineer,” she said. (Fox Business)
Are we teaching the ‘why’ and tapping into and fostering the intrinsic ‘curiosity’ in students?
Programs such as DiscoverE’s Future City competition, which asks U.S. middle-school students to imagine, design and build cities of the future, have become crucial to these efforts.
“There’s a whole bunch of kids that have creative ideas but might struggle initially with math and get left behind,” Shaddock said. “We need to do more of stimulating kids’ interests in how things work, how to solve problems in the world around them and build on that stimulus and curiosity.”
I think of a recent science classroom I visited where students were copying an image out of their textbook and labeling it…exactly like it was already in the textbook. I was told that this is a good lesson because students learn by copying and handwriting things out…….OK…….I’m trying to figure out where that skill fits in the quotes above. How does this help us understand the eye, stimulate kids’ interests and help to solve problems? It was a 45 minute class and at the end of it each student turned in their ‘assignment’ to be graded. 45 minutes on copying an image out of the textbook onto paper is good learning? I’m having a hard time with this……
The end of the article gets to the heart of the point and what the industry is asking from K-12 schools:
“I think Satya said it well the other day,” Krzanich said, adding that it is the responsibility of parents, teachers and lawmakers to “foster creativity” among America’s youth.
“That is what’s key,” Krzanich said, to “try anything and not be afraid to fail.”
The industry is asking us to “foster creativity” and to “not be afraid to fail”. Yet the IB and AP exams are right around the corner….as I was reminded once again by an AP teacher, “I don’t have time to be creative or fail….I have to prepare them for the exams.” And that is the reality in a nutshell. As long as teachers feel it’s their job to prepare students for a test instead of fostering learning, the disconnect will remain.
Categories: International News
Over the past few weeks while visiting different schools I have observed while walking down hallways, peeking in on meetings, or just end up watching presentation being delivered by educators that….well….are really bad.
I’m not talking about classroom teachers standing and giving presentations to students, I’m talking about counselors explaining the PSAT results to students, administrators presenting to staff, staff presenting to staff and presentations to parents. We’re talking presentation that have 5+ bullet points per page, text somewhere around 16 size font, and just an overall presentation that would put the most passionate person to sleep.
I look at all these presentations and then look at the type of presentations our students create for the classroom and projects and see a direct correlation….they’re bad!
The idea of giving a presentation has changed over the years, thanks in part to books like Presentation Zen (a must read for anyone that does presentations), TED Talks, and even Keynotes by Apple, Google and other companies of late. Presentations that are based both on sound fundamentals of presenting as well as telling an engaging story.
Now I understand that there isn’t anyway to make the PSAT sexy. That there is information that counselors need to give to students. I get it…but that doesn’t mean that you don’t put in the time to make the presentation something that they will actually remember.
We remember 65% more when we attach an image to information (Rule #10)
Whether that is a graph, a chart, or an memorable image. Images are the most important part of the information you should put on a slide.
We can’t listen and read at the same time (Rule #4)
Try it….try reading a book and watching your favorite movie at the same time. You either are missing the movie or you’re not reading the book. We know this…..yet we put lots of words on a slide for people to read and then talk over them or about them while people are trying to read. You are making your audience choose to either read the slide or listen to you. Worse yet is having people take notes copy word for word what is on the slide. What’s the point of this? If you want people to have the information give it to them in a handout. Unless you are assessing the skill of copying there is no reason anyone should have to copy information from a slide onto their own piece of paper. Again we can’t write and listen at the same time, so you are making your audience choose between one or the other.
Yes…you can’t make a talk about the PSAT sexy…but you can make it memorable. You can make it more likely that students will remember the information by using what we know to be brain based-research around giving presentations.
I give a lot of presentations….and not that I think they are amazing presentations, but what they are is accessible to people. They take these facts above and apply them to a presentation that allows people to access the information, gives them space to think, and doesn’t make them choose between listening to me or reading the screen. In fact….I don’t give them an option….you’re going to listen to me because the only thing on the screen is an image and a word.
Why do we not see better presentations? Because good presentations that take these brain facts into consideration take time….take a lot of time and presenters are just not willing to put in the time to make great presentations. They get rushed, they don’t know how, or have not been taught, or have not taught themselves, and then they end up just like our students…rushed and through bullet points on a slide for your own sake and not the sake of your audience.
We then end up sitting through horrible…yes horrible presentations done by students. Students who have sat through horrible presentations and know no different so they copy what they have seen. Bullet point heavy slides that do not engage the audience in anyway whatsoever.
Take every bullet point and put it on its own slide. If it’s that important of information for it to be on a slide then it should get its own slide.
Images, Images, Images – Find big beautiful images that help frame the point. Not some little image off to the side…but an image that fills the whole screen…that is the point, that makes the brain see the connection between the image and the content.
Handouts are your friends – whether they are digital or paper based doesn’t matter. Give people the information, the links before your presentation. Allow them time to look through it, get to know it, and then they will pay attention when you’re actually talking.
A presentation is about the presenter not the slide deck. You the presenter are the focus of the presentation not the slides. You want people to listen to what you say, you are important…the most important part of the presentation. Get words off your slides and make people pay attention to you. Nervous? Yeah…..it’s hard work giving good presentations. It’s nerve racking to know that people are actually paying attention to you and not to the 50 words on the slide behind you.
Expect more from our students. We need to do better for them. We do not need another generation growing up believing that a presentation is about bullet points. We can do better, we must do better. We can only expect our students to give good presentations when we ourselves are willing to take the time to give good presentations every time we have to. They are watching us….and we can do better.
Categories: International News