Two last talks from inside the Academy: not playing it safe


In my ridiculous (and exasperating) fashion, I have two talks coming up, of course during the busiest time of the semester. Fortunately, I don’t need to be in class to be in class (the audio from Thursday’s class meeting–yes, they’re having class without me– will be posted to the blog, and I’ll be interacting with students on their blogs, and who knows, perhaps on mine).

That I don’t give the same talk twice has kept me up late for several nights reading, thinking, designing, creating, as I try to push my thinking. (Another habit I’ve got to do something about, I suppose, but really, if I’m not learning something each time I put a talk together, how can I expect my audience to discover anything?) This time I have pushed myself to get more creative and effective with my media as well as my message–and I walk the edge here trying out something new during a talk that means a good deal to me. Am I crazy? Perhaps. But I’m taking to heart what Yi-Fu Tuan writes in Space and Place: “Experience is the overcoming of perils…To experience in the active sense requires that one venture forth into the unfamiliar and experiment with the elusive and uncertain. To become an expert one must dare to confront the perils of the new.” (p.9)

I don’t really have anything against Powerpoint slides–PPT is a great tool in the right hands and in the right venue. It’s just that anyone who gives keynotes knows that bad slides, even pretty good slides, can induce a Pavlovian response in the audience: slides-right,ok- zone out time. And so all along I have played around with other ways to share visuals: Flickr sets being my mainstay, with a dose of wikis and even the old bgblogging, and iMOVIE for good measure. Sometimes I use no media at all –we just have a conversation. Lately, though, I’ve been inspired by some of my mentors in this work–Jim Groom, Brian Lamb, Nancy White, all of the TEDTalks, to name a few–to push beyond the notion of the slide altogether, to be more creative while going deeper. And so, for my upcoming talk at NITLE’s Conference on Teaching Writing in the Digital Age, I have created a collage of links, images, videos, text, you name it, as a way to try to capture the tensions and the promise, the perils and the pleasures, of moving the teaching of writing into this new century. I think the collage-as-presentation makes a lot of sense for what I’m trying to show. We’ll see how it goes, but I sure had a lot of fun (frustrating fun) putting it together with’s new beta collage tool, a fabulous tool in its flexibility and its connectivity. Now we’ll see how it works during a presentation–I designed it for people who wish to go back and spend some time in the collage, exploring the links and media, long after the conference itself has faded away. Ultimately I’d like to add an audio voiceover from my talk, to contextualize and create a narrative flow over the disparate pieces. And I’ll be tinkering, adding more links, more video, more, well… see what you think…

Balancing Acts: The Collage