Are you zombified by student PowerPoint presentations and a bit dizzy after viewing spinning Prezis? This year I have been rethinking the librarian’s role as literacy expert. Whether you use the term media literacy, digital literacy, data literacy, or New Literacies—all of these concepts have in common an emerging need: librarians guiding students to grapple with meaning, communicate their insights in multi-modal formats, and, potentially, share and publish their work digitally.
This article suggests books and online resources to more effectively plan and animate presentations, thereby creating messages that will resonate with your audiences.
Nancy Duarte is a persuasive presentation expert who maps the structure of effective communicators (see her TED talk comparing the structure of great speeches by Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King). Duarte presents her strategies in two books Slide:ology and
In Slide:ology, Duarte estimates that an effective presentation requires 36 or more hours to research; evaluate audience; brainstorm ideas; organize; solicit feedback; storyboard; build slides; and rehearse. Tips include brain-storming with sticky notes and by sketching diagrams; highlighting data; designing with color and selective choice of text; and crafting a story flow through animations and slide transitions. Though 36 hours may seem unrealistic with demanding class schedules, sharing tips will aid students in message making.
I was able to demonstrate some of these techniques in a serendipitous teaching opportunity; a freshman physics teacher asked me to advise students on incorporating their science experiment data into slides. I rented a Kindle version of Slide:ology and projected on a large screen examples of data graphs and charts, inviting freshmen to evaluate ineffective/effective design and to keep in mind Duarte’s mantra: “Data slides are not really about the data. They are about the meaning of data” (64). Visually highlighting or emphasizing a part of the data can show an emerging trend or complication–a moment when data results challenge assumptions and cause a rethinking for the student scientists. As students discuss the highlighted data, they begin to show the audience the meaning behind the data.
In Resonate, Duarte explores the power of stories to connect with audiences and to deepen under-standing. I adapted a suggestion from the book, “amplify the signal, minimize the noise,” to aid freshmen in reading and assessing a quote by Adolph Hitler on the power of persuasive media messages (170). In the slide example below, the quote was first read and then a series of animated graphics appeared in an equation format to distill meaning of Hitler’s message:
If you desire to share an example of how we perceive images based on entry into a slide (scene), show this movie clip from Hitchcock’s thriller, Strangers on a Train. Notice which direction the “good” character enters the scene versus the “bad” character’s entrance. Since Westerners’ eyes are use to a left to right movement, entries from the right are viewed as disconcerting. Students can consider this as they animate visuals or text appearances on their slides (left to right and top to bottom are more familiar ways of reading messages).
Explore more ideas on storytelling and making meaning from data in this archived webinar, “Storytelling with Infographics,” presented by Debbie Abilock and Connie Williams. Abilock and Williams will also be presenters in an upcoming conference:
Virtual Conference on Data Literacy: Creating Data Literate Students hosted by the University of Michigan School of Information and University Library (see website for free registration to this virtual conference).
And for something totally different, listen to NPR’s interview with artist/rocker David Byrne as his explains his use of PowerPoint as Art. Wising you a summer filled with stimulating reading and rethinking the tools we use to communicate meaning.