Philosophical question: If a presentation falls in the woods, and there is no one there, does it make a sound? Or for that matter, if you miss a conference presentation, does an abstract, a paper, or even the PowerPoint itself really provide information (worth the weight, er… wait, of the download?)
Like Jay Cross’s recently posted audio narrated ASTD presentation, we had done the same for a keynote presentation by Diana Oblinger at our May 18, 2004 Ocotillo Retreat — it is part of my compulsion to make sure we have materials from our events that can be useful afterward, and for those who were not there.
First of all, it certainly helps to have a compelling speaker, and Oblinger has done that again on a second visit in 2 years to Maricopa (see Into the Future: What is IT?, Feb 2002).
Recently named as a Vice President of EDUCAUSE, Oblinger always brings practical ideas, real examples, research data, and useful strategies tailored to meet the topics of our sessions, and to boot, always manages to deliver them as well balanced (text vs graphics) in PowerPoint as you can get. And she is so personable and enthusiastic.
Her talk for us was The Paradox of Agility and Stability— addressing the issues of the changing demographics of learners, appraches sucvh as games and simulations, trends in assessment, instituional strategies for change….
Knowing ahead of time she would be willing to provide the PowerPoint, we had set her up for the presentation with a microphone to record her audio (we just recorded it into a Canon GL/1 DV camera, just the audio). Afterward, this was digitized quickly into iMovie, and exported as .WAV files. Then it was a jump across the room to my PC to open the presentation in PowerPoint, access the Macromedia Breeze sound editing menus to import the audio, and then synchronize the slide frames with the audio. As an additional bonus, since Oblinger had provided us references for many of the data sources used in the presentation, we were able to add them as hyperlinks.
When published as Breeze, the final product is delivered to the browser as bandwidth friendly streaming Flash (viewable on 56k dialup), it scales smoothly to any window size, links open web sites in new browser windows, and the slide menu allows you to jump to any part of the presentation. Check it out yourself Note- this version lacks many of the graphics from the orginals, it is more or less the slide notes, but the audio narration is the big key, and goes way beyond what you would get at flipping through screens of bullet points– it is all of the stuff between, around, above the points that make the information useful.
I’ve muttered before about the drollness of conference presentations from an audience perspective it is very much a passive experience, and the old lecture paradigm supposedly cast aside. Why is the lecture still the dominant form of professional communication? One of my missions this year is to try and poke some holes in our system’s perception that the main way to communicate and collaborate on our Ocotillo initiatives is the “workshop” or the “presentation”– especially since one of our focus areas is hybrid or blended learning, then we ought to be doing our work in similar fashion: Using online tools for collaboration, resource sharing, effective self paced learning modules, taking advantage of webcast events (many that are free), making sure that there is quality “capture” of projects and events.
To that end I am working feverishly this week and next on a new cobbled platform of tools we will use next year for our Ocotillo Action Groups and it is right in line with our NMC 2004 presentation on Small Technologies Loosely Joined. Each group will be publishing their work, ideas, and events in a weblog (“old” Movable Type 2.661), each connected to a threaded discussion board (phpBB), and a wiki for them to do resource building or other open collaboration (wiki to be named). I have the blogs set up, and they are also connected to an over arching umbrella blog that will have a front page that aggregates (RSS-like) syndication of the 4 blogs, discussion boards, and wikis.
But I digress, and before there is something to share.
Getting back to presentations: capturing the audio during a session is not all the difficult to do, and adds signifincantly to a canned presentation file. Or one could prepare it ahead of time and record your own audio narration (which would be a good rehearsal) to be shared. Many conference sessions involve huge prep time and ultimately end up delivered for a handful of people (unless you are a big star)– “capturing” the experience makes the content much more valuable after the fact, as a reference, as a record, as an artifact== that is being digital.
As far as the tools, Breeze does (I think) some of the best quality PPT to Flash conversions. Yes it is way pricey. I have access for a year as a perk for having done an NMC Online Conference presentation, so I am getting my mileage out of this access. There are lots of tools that do this, from free to Breeze-level in $$$ (remember that sometimes you get what you paid for), check out Robin Good’s run down Powerpoint To Flash Conversion Tools – The PPT2Flash Top20 which does list the tools with some description. It would be nice to see a feature comparison…
But think of it this way– if you are doing presentations, workshops, training, faculty development activities, events– think of having an audience a bit larger than the heads in the room (many of them are likely snoozing). Think big, an internet-sized audience! Provide materials in a web format, record photos, add notes, post presentations… it increases the value of these sessions from one shot deals (time and place) to making them useful in a more flexible format for your own organization, and open to the world, adds to the wealth of information on the net.
We are still in a world of paper mindsets. Think net.
I am not advocating that everything needs to take place online, but if you incorporate, consider, plan for online components, you are adding tremendous value to your projects and programs, and doing so in a manner that more people can leverage some gain from them.
Otherwise it is
“Click. For my next 324 animated bullet points, I will read them to you…”