Thursday, September 18, 2014

What is Active Learning?

What is active learning?

I define "active learning" as stimulus that engages the learner to actively apply a concept. For a visual, this concept would like like this:
There are endless activities that you could use. They go by different names, too. Examples might be "discussion techniques", "reflection activities", "structured experiences", etc.

Here's one of my favorite lists compiled by the University of Indiana's Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning called the Discussion Techniques for Active Learning: Dictionary of Methods and Strategies.

In upcoming posts, I will give examples of different activities you may use to engage your learners.

What's one of your favorite active learning activities?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Update: What happened to Microsoft Clip Art?

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Microsoft Clip Art appeared to be disappearing; using the search option in PowerPoint wasn't yielding much.

Today, I noticed that the search in PowerPoint yielded the same results as searching on the Microsoft clip art website. It appears that Microsoft has  linked their images to their programs through their website rather than allowing you to keep images locally on your computer.

What does this mean for you?

When you go to Insert Clip Art, make sure that the "Include content" box is checked. I took a screen shot for you:

If you do that, you will a lot more clip art to choose from! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

3 + 10 Tips for Effective PowerPoint Slides

In an earlier post (Book of Interest: Graphics for Learning by Ruth Clark and Chopeta Lyons), I introduced a great book about visuals for learning. Visuals can be used across in all aspects of your presentation: in the slides you use or your handouts.

Image from the TED blog

In this post, I wanted to focus specifically on slide content. I found a post on the TED blog called 10 tips on how to make slides that communicate your idea and wanted to share it with you. You can read the full article here.

In addition to their great tips, here are three tips that I live by:

  1. Know your tool: Learn about the opportunities and limitations of PowerPoint features. I do this by talking with colleagues, reading blogs (read this), and viewing YouTube videos (view this). The more you learn about your tool, the better you can use it.
  2. Stick to a visual theme that relates to your topic: Use the same color palette throughout; use the same style graphics throughout, etc.
  3. Start with a visual and then add relevant text: Change your mindset of "text first, then graphics". Text-heavy slides disengage your audience; they read instead of listen.
Working on your PowerPoint and visual skills does take time. The time you do spend will help your presentation be more effective for supporting the learning you desire for your audience.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blog of Interest: Sticky Notes by Barbara Carnes

One of the best ways to grow you capacity to be a great trainer is to learn from others! Blogs by professionals and academics in the field are a great way to learn more and more deeply about a variety of topics.

Barbara Carnes, Ph.D. is a trainer who writes about the learning science and activities to get training to "stick". I appreciate that she addresses both the theoretical concepts and direct applications. The more you know about the principles behind the activities, the more effective your learning experiences will be for your audience.

Her most recent post is about a reflective closing activity where participants write a letter to themselves about what they want to remember after a session. The letter is then opened 3 weeks after the event to help reinforce their learning.

Read her blog post and subscribe to her blog here:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The "Speakers Concierge": An Educause resource for speakers

Cultivating facilitation skills may require tapping into a broad range of resources; you never know whose take on teaching and learning may connect best with you!

A resource I stumbled upon recently that illustrates this point is the Speaker Concierge by Educause.

What is Educause? From their website: "Educause  is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology."

They hold a lot of conferences. To support their presenters, they created a resource called the Speakers Concierge.

What I like about the Speaker Concierge:

The Speaker Concierge outlines a step-by-step process for creating an engaging conference session and provides tips for session design, session delivery, and discussion strategies that can be applied to leading workshops, too.

It's also a great example of a well designed learning tool that could be used for visual inspiration for designing handouts or slides. They use graphics to connect to topics and make their content easier to understand.

Have you stumbled upon a resource you love?
Share it with me, a few sentences about why you like it, and I'll post it to the blog crediting you for the find: Katie at

Thursday, July 10, 2014

5 Ways to cultivate confidence in front of a group

Most people would rather experience some amount of physical pain than speak in front of a group.

While you may design your workshop to minimize your place at center stage, inevitably you will need to address the group.

So, how do you cultivate the confidence to speak in front of a crowd?

  1. Embrace your nerves. Everyone gets a jolt of adrenaline before addressing a group. Tell yourself those feelings are a positive energy there to pump you up rather than a destructive force.
  2. Emulate speakers whose style is like your own. We all have different styles for how we lead a group (See Grasha's work Teaching with Style as an example). Identify your style and find examples of people who do it well.
  3. Practice visualizing yourself as a facilitator. Walk yourself through the entire workshop you facilitate all the while seeing yourself at your best.
  4. Learn more about public speaking. SLU has a Toastmaster's club on campus ("Toast of SLU") or you could attend an Instructor Led Training called "Speaking with Confidence" (sign up through SkillSoft located in the MySLU tools tab).
  5. And, if all else fails, fake it until you make it! Amy Cuddy will tell you how in her TED talk on how our body language can increase (or decrease) feelings of confidence.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What happened to MicroSoft ClipArt?

You may or may not have noticed that Microsoft has slowly taken away Clip Art options in their programs. Fear not! All of their graphics are still searchable online; however, in a new place.

Bookmark this website:

The link will take you to MicroSoft's Clip Art search page. The page looks like an error, but it isn't. Simply type in your search terms and out pop your images.

Tips for curating images from this site:

  1. Decide where you will keep these graphics based on how you will use them.
    1. Are they for a single project?
    2. Will you reuse them in the future?
  2. Create an "images" or "graphics" folder associated with your project and save everything to this folder
  3. Use a standard labeling system (as best you can) for your images
  4. Pay attention to the file type to ensure it fits your needs (.jpeg, .gif, .wmf, etc.)
    1. File types will determine how you can edit the image (among other things)
    2. A .wmf file will allow you to "ungroup" the image into separate shapes for easy modifications and customization. Read this blog post by Tom Kuhlman to learn more.