Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Take Stock: What do you believe to be true about learning? (AND a free online course to help you figure it out!)

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What do you believe to be true about learning?

Theorists have long discussed and wrestled with the process of learning and formed various schools of thought over the years (you can read about the core paradigms of learning theory here). Wherever you are in your theoretical knowledge of learning, you have ideas of what motivates and engages people to learn and how you like to engage others. Typically, when you formulate these ideas into a statement, you may refer to it as your "teaching and learning philosophy". Within academia and K-12 education you will find many resources for writing such a statement (here or here). Taking stock of what you believe helps to identify opportunities for growth and celebration.

In addition to the resources shared above, you may consider a free course from EdX (a free online course creator, like Coursera) called "Leaders of Learning" designed by Richard Elmer from Harvard University's graduate school of education. This course is relevant to this conversation as it seeks to engage learners to identify their own theory of learning and compare it to the current and future learning landscape for education and organizations. Taking stock of where we are and where we are headed helps us to make strategic choices about the present.

Take stock of your current belief system using the resources shared here. What do you believe about learning? How can you remain relevant and future-focused with your ideas and efforts?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Free, online class: Introduction to Public Speaking

Do you want to develop your public speaking skills?

Coursera is an online repository for courses designed and facilitated by faculty from Universities all over the world. They have an open course on public speaking, which covers impromptu, informative, and persuasive speaking by Dr. Matt Garrity from the University of Washington. Check out the class here.

How could this benefit you?

Impromptu speaking: When you're facilitating a group, you never know what questions will come up. Practicing impromptu comments will help you feel confident that you can respond on the fly.

Informative speaking: Informative speaking could be another term for "lecture". Any time you are explaining or describing a concept, you are informing your audience.

Persuasive speaking: The opening moments of a class are when you want to hook your audience. Persuasive speaking can be used to motivate and energize your group to be fully present for the class.

Check out the class! Share what you've gleaned from the content by emailing me at

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What is your facilitation style?

What is your facilitation style? How do you see yourself in the role of facilitator?

My personal teaching philosophy is that people learn through collaboration, reflection, and real life experiences. To that end, I see myself as a facilitator of a learning experience and design my learning experiences to heavily use interactive strategies like small group discussion, individual reflection time, and real-world problems to solve. While I value my own competence and expertise on a subject, I value more allowing learners to intentionally examine their previous experiences against new ideas.

In short, I view any class I teach as a "workshop" and most of the time, I want to "get out of the way" of the participants' learning.

What do you believe about your role in the classroom?

A resource to help you think about this: Grasha's teaching styles.

Grasha describes four different teaching styles:

  1. Expert/Formal Authority
  2. Personal Model
  3. Facilitator
  4. Delegator
Take his short quiz to discover your style. Read more from his book Teaching with Style. Each style has its strengths and challenges. You may have a primary style, however, developing other styles allows you to flex, when needed, to meet the needs of your learners.

Taking some time to reflect on your beliefs and values as a facilitator allows you to be more aware of the choices you make in the design of your session and the environment you create with your presence.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Collaborating with Prezi

By now, you’re practically a Prezi pro!  In the last two blog posts, PowerPoint vs. Prezi and Prezi: Taking the Next Step, you’ve learned the different benefits that Prezi and Microsoft PowerPoint offer, as well as how to use Prezi’s templates, workflow, and various editing options.

There’s one last step to learn - collaborating with Prezi.

Collaborating allows multiple employees to contribute their expertise in order for a presentation or project to be the very best it can be.  Not only do employees generally feel happier working together to reach a common goal, but collaborating allows different departments of an organization to give their input, thus, benefiting a greater number of people.
Collaborating through Prezi could not be easier!  Once a Prezi is shared with all contributors, it can be accessed by anyone from any location at any time.  Additionally, presentations can be edited in real-time by any contributor.
To begin collaborating, simply share your Prezi with your desired collaborators:
When you’re ready to present your Prezi, don’t worry if all your contributors aren’t there!  With Prezi, each contributor can take the reins at specific presentation points by choosing to “hand over the presentation.”
Your audience doesn’t need to be present, either!  Prezi users can easily access presentations from the convenience of their office, home, or Metro car.
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To learn more about collaborating with Prezi, click here.

As we wrap up our discussion on Prezi, we feel confident that you’re ready to use this great resource, and can’t wait to hear about your future presentations!

Written by Catherine Busam, Learning & Development Student Worker

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Prezi: Taking the Next Step


You’ve read our earlier postPrezi vs. PowerPoint” and after reviewing your presentation tool options, you’ve decided to give Prezi a shot!

However, while you may have gotten your toes wet, you might not be ready to jump right in.  Prezi has a lot of unique features that can really contribute to making your presentation memorable, but learning how to use them all together can be daunting.

Fear not!  We’ve compiled some additional resources that will help you learn about the many amazing features Prezi offers!

A word of advice:  be patient - with yourself, with your presentation, and with your computer.  Like all new concepts, Prezi takes time to learn how to use all the different transitions and effects like a pro.

With a little practice, though, you’ll be a Prezi expert in no time!

Prezi’s official YouTube tutorial explains the very basic functions of Prezi in just over a minute.

Here, Prezi describes how to create a good presentation workflow, as well as other tips to make even a basic presentation stand out.

This video will walk you through creating your first Prezi, from choosing your template, adding your content, and publishing your finished project.  

Want more Prezi tutorial videos?  Click here to visit Prezi’s official YouTube page.

This is the all-inclusive article, which teaches users everything from how to choose a template, framing content correctly, and customizing to your heart’s content!

This article explains the concepts of frames, layering, sizes, transitions, and much more.

Here, users can learn about choosing a theme for their presentations as well as customizing colors, fonts, backgrounds, and custom logos.

Written by Catherine Busam, Learning & Development Student Worker

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Storytelling for Learning: Part 3

This is part 3 of a three part series on storytelling as part of the learning experience.

Questions I'd like to address about story telling in this three-part series:
1.     Who benefits the most from a good story? (See Part 1)
2.     How do you build a powerful story to illustrate a concept? (See Part 2)
3.     What guidelines should I use for using stories?

The use of stories and analogies in teaching is a natural connection. You may find that you share stories when a participant asks a question or as an aside in your session. This last post in this three part series is intended to provide additional guidelines for sharing stories. The following are a few of the questions I ask myself when monitoring what I will share:
  1. Is it relevant? Be honest. Just because you like the story does not mean that it is related to what you want your audience to learn. A helpful self-monitoring question to ask yourself if you aren’t sure is “How does this story connect to what I want them to learn today?” If you cannot answer the question, then you may consider cutting it.
  2. Is it resolved? An effective story is one that is designed for learning. Be mindful if you are sharing stories about topics that are emotionally raw for you. Only share those stories that you feel you have worked through your own feelings about it and can share the experience objectively. Participants will be able to tell if a story is more for your benefit of venting than for their learning.
  3. Is it professional? Sharing personal details about people in your story (i.e. their name, department, title, relationship to you, etc.) should be done with permission of the other. Sharing another’s experience without their permission can undermine your audience’s sense of trust. If you cannot get permission from another or find yourself wanting to tell a spontaneous story, modify the details to protect the identity of the characters.
  4. Is it too negative?  Stories of failures and successes are equally beneficial. Before sharing a story of failure ask yourself all three of the above questions. Generally, focusing on the negative will influence your audience to also think negatively. If negative stories do not meet the above criteria, the story may inadvertently encourage gossip or unproductive venting. Balance stories of failure with stories of success to engage people in the positive application of your topic.
Stories and analogies are powerful tools for teaching and learning. They engage us to think about the complexity of our learning topic and how it can be connected to our existing knowledge and every day experiences. Go and share a good one!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Storytelling for Learning: Part 2

This is part 2 of a three part series on storytelling as part of the learning experience.

Questions I'd like to address about storytelling in this three-part series:
1.     Who benefits the most from a good story? (See Part 1)
2.     How do you build a powerful story to illustrate a concept?
3.     What guidelines should I use for using stories?

How do you build a powerful story to illustrate a concept?

Brainstorm all of these relationships using some form of a concept map. Let your ideas flow freely, without critique, and you will find stories among your thoughts.

Start with your ah-ha moments from your learning experience.
If you can recall, when did the topic or concept click for you? What was happening? Sharing how we made sense of a topic can help others find their own way to understanding.

Talk to others who know the topic well. Ask them about how they have come to make sense of certain concepts. How do they explain the topic to someone new to learning it?

Consider what you know about the people who will be attending your session. What kinds of pop culture may they relate to? What experiences could you connect with that relate to the story?

Connect your inspiration together into a beginning or "hook", middle, and end. Your entire session may center around a single story with pauses or breaks for providing information to the audience for how to interpret the story's events or to discuss how they may apply what they have learned to this point in the story. You may use your story as a brief aside or anecdote to clarify understanding.

Even if you chose not to center your class or workshop around a single story, this activity of priming yourself to consider how you and your learners connect to a topic will help you anticipate challenges that your audience may have with understanding the concept. Anticipating these stumbling blocks allows you to adjust your lecture and activities to best help your audience learn.