Good Work Deserves a Good Presentation

April 29, 2013

Once again i find the AERA annual meeting engaging and worthwhile. I gladly yield to the seductive pull of passionate people sharing what they know and do.

And, as usual, i have seen some really smart people give some really bad presentations.

Speakers talking at onehundredmilesanhour to squeeze in everythingtheywant tosay. Speakers going substantially over their allotted time. Speakers showing slides with paragraphs full of words in small unreadable type. Speakers standing facing the screen instead of facing the audience.

I think we can do better.
Most presentation problems can be solved by rehearsing in advance.

Timing. Practice your presentation before you come to the conference. Use a watch or stopwatch. If necessary, shorten your talk to allow you to speak at a normal relaxed pace and still hit the high points. When a speaker goes over time, that cheats the others and makes the audience restless.

Visuals. Powerpoint slides work best when they are simple and colorful. Paragraphs of words and complex tables are neither colorful nor simple. Save those for handouts or downloadable PDFs. You know those details, we don’t and we must fight to grasp everything while you’re saying something else.

Audience engagement. We would rather see your face than your back. If you read from your projected slides, we cannot see your face. And reading from the screen makes it appear that you don’t know your stuff. Write your main points on index cards, hold them in your hand, and face your audience.

Videotape yourself and critique. Use a smartphone or generic videocam to record your practice presentations. Check for the above points. Practice and record again until you’re comfortable with the way you come across.

If your work is important enough to present, it’s worth presenting well.



Social media for researchers and academics

April 21, 2012

Here’s my presentation for the AERA 2012 communication workshop i cohosted with friend and colleague Ron Dietel of UCLA CRESST. I suggest things to consider when planning to use social media to share research findings with non-specialist audiences and the media.

Communicating research more effectively

January 21, 2011

Students and faculty who plan to attend the AERA Annual Meeting this year may be interested in a communications professional development course.

A half-day workshop, Communicating research through effective presentations, social media, and writing, will focus on these sometimes neglected skills.

Instructors will be Ron Dietel, assistant director for research use and communications at UCLA’s National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST);  Barbara McKenna, Communications Director for the School Redesign Network at Stanford University and for the Leadership for Equity and Accountability in Districts and Schools (LEADS); and Paul Baker, senior communicator at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER).

The syllabus is here

The course blog is here

The course Ning is here

Registration information is here

Communicating research through mass media

May 4, 2010

Here’s a gold mine of ideas how researchers can communicate more effectively with the public, via print, broadcast, and online media.

At the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Denver we heard from two researchers and two media people. The topic of the panel session was “Crafting your work for a general audience: Researchers and the mass media.”

scott jaschik

scott jaschik

Scott Jaschik,  “You guys are losing the battle for ideas and you are largely ignored.”
Watch video

holly yettick

holly yettick

Holly Yettick, formerly with Rocky Mountain News.  “How education journalists and bloggers decide which topics to cover.”
(Holly is author of the report “The Research that Reaches the Public: Who Produces the Educational Research Mentioned in the News Media?”)  Watch video

marc lamont hill

marc lamont hill

Marc Lamont Hill, Teachers College, Columbia. “Operating in these public spheres is legitimate work and necessary work.”
Watch video

jonathan zimmerman

jonathan zimmerman

Jonathan Zimmerman, NYU Steinhardt. “Being an Op-Ed writer has made me a much better historian and a much better academic”
Watch video

Twittering the AERA conference

April 27, 2009

Providing substantial reactions to conference sessions, sharing information, and promoting one’s blog posts and presentations were the three kinds of information Tweeted most often at the AERA Annual Meeting in San Diego. Some 13,500 people attended during the week of April 13.

Other significant categories of messages included references to Twitter itself, feedback on the overall conference experience, the time and date of a proposed Twitter meetup, and concerns about technology in general (and wireless internet access in particular).

A few weeks before the conference I set up a PBWiki and a Twitter stream to encourage people to record their activities and observations via text message. I set a Twitter search for the keyword AERA. I invited those mentioning AERA in Twitter to follow the AERAtweeup twitter stream and to consider adding their information to the Wiki in advance of the meeting.

As a member of the AERA communication & Outreach Committee I viewed this exercise as an opportunity to

  • capture attendees’ reactions to the content of the sessions
  • capture their reactions to the logistics of the meeting (which spread over several hotels)
  • let each other know what sessions looked particularly promising, and
  • arrange a time for an informal meeting / meetup / Tweetup to talk tech.

During the week of the conference Twitter participants (N ~ 150) sent text messages about their activities  and tagged messages with the keyword AERA or #AERA.

After the conference I captured the Twitter stream of more than 1,000 text messages so tagged. After discarding some messages because of noise or irrelevance I settled on a final number of 973 messages.

categories of Tweets

From the message stream I created a CSV file and pulled it into MS Excel for tagging and sorting. I made two complete runs through the data, fine-tuning my (admittedly informal) tagging system as I went along.

I will share feedback on individual sessions and on the conference as a whole with AERA staff as planning begins for next year’s conference.

Here are a few examples of the messages from some of the categories.

Conference feedback (57 messages)
ksquire @adamaig true but I take it as data of how non digital educational researchers are. #AERA is the last place to go for innovation.

mdwaggoner For a huge conference like AERA I believe San Diego has the best facilities I’ve experienced. I still prefer New York though.

jayneway As a first timer the formality of this event is striking. I’m not much into formal stuff. #aera

Session reactions (151 messages)

elliottjlb RT @jayneway Some very well-known quantitative researchers talking about the importance of qualitative research.Very good to see this. #aera

EveProper #aera interesting work being done in European higher ed at CHEPS

LDinSTL_Chimera @scd Agree – James Gee + Idit Harel definitely best session I have been to! #AERA #arvelsig

Information sharing (120 messages)
pabaker55 Amy Stuart Wells: “I think of ed journalism and ed research as two overlapping circles. Interaction is helpful to both of us.” #AERA

R_Colvin “ability to predict college performance at pt. of admissions remains remarkably poor” #AERA

ShawnEdmondson AERA journal presents research on use of observational methods to improve instruction. http //

crutherford #AERA countdown has begun. Just finished the slides for my presentation on Facebook & teacher knowledge development that will happen 4/14

dhearrin Reading AERA papers in preparation for being a discussant next Tuesday & Thursday. It’s killing me softly …

Michaelcjohnson is still at AERA without internet connectivity.

pabaker55 info about wireless at #AERA on the wiki. pls. add more if you discover it

pabaker55 RT @mod_gurl #AERA how about the conf nixes the printed phone book programs and put the $$ towards wifi access?? …

Bud_T #AERA I’m getting really tired of not having wireless in these conference rooms

rmosvold Heading for the tweetup! #AERA

Savvides @Dre1479 Hey there may be a Tweet-up at #AERA. Check this out

Scd @aeratweetup #AERA Is there another tweetup planned? AERAtweetup #AERA

informal gathering tonight 7:30 at the Yard House brew pub 1023 4th Ave at Broadway, San Diego. good pub food.

Bud_T twitter done with the #AERA hashtag for awhile but we need to continue the convo about getting people to use twitter at this conference

DrGarcia twitter #followfriday @LDinSTL_Chimera a shining star early adopter of twitter at #aera !Que Viva la Revoluccion! I’m on her team.

dsnotataera2009 twitter Here’s what I’m doing so far. I’m searching on #aera. The results so far are people talking about using Twitter. [Annoyed with ch limit]

dthickey twitter getting started with twitter in anticipation of AERA

elliottjlb twitter Who’s a@aera from UVA who’s also on Twitter? Looking for some peeps!

General ‘verbing’ (planning, arriving, leaving, etc.).
elliottjlb I’m headed to the conference to register –look out AERA. #AERA

EveProper Listening to linda darling-hammond #aera #fb

glojacobs off to san diego. might be using twitter for blogging the conference. #aera anyone?

grabe AERA begins today. After listening to colleague stories last night glad I am not looking for job as a new prof.


Learning the Ropes: Public communication for researchers

April 17, 2009

The 2009 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association has drawn to a close, but for another day and a half 25 early career education researchers are still at work. They’re participating in an intensive workshop devoted to communicating research with the media.

Today the group heard from editors, reporters, and an influential researcher and public intellectual.

Before you continue reading my summary, please see the thoughtful post by participant Sara Goldrick-Rab, who goes out of her way to communicate effectively with the public and, in my opinion, serves as a model for how researchers can provide a valuable community service.

And see this post by my fellow panelist Reidar Mosvold on why he, as a mathematics researcher and educator, takes time out of his day to post to his blog.

Speakers  included Larry Gordon, the Los Angeles Times, who covers topics including college admissions, tuition, freshman performance, graduation rates, tuition, and measuring performance of charters.

Stephanie Banchero, Chicago Tribune, said that her paper does not write about research, qua research, i.e., don’t expect a press release to result in a big story. But the paper does use research findings to buttress or refute their stories, which tend to focus on the Chicago public school system.

Emily Alpert, Voice of San Diego, encouraged the early career researchers to consider what reaction do you want to provoke when submitting an Op-Ed piece.
It’s important also to make clear how one’s research relates to current events, or to a soccer mom. “Develop a ‘Cliff’s Notes’ summary of your specialty.”

Think tanks package their work very expertly, she said. They virtually write the story for you. Their press releases include directions: “Here is the nut paragraph,” and “here is contact information for 4 willing interview subjects. But we don’t see that in material released from universities.”

She notices a ‘schizophrenic’ attitude among universities when it comes to making faculty accessible to reporters. Some simply choose not to, while others distribute faculty guidebooks and even provide their home phone numbers. It varies from school to school.

Liz McMillen, Chronicle of Higher Ed, said there are many ways to organize an Op-Ed piece.
– The “everything you know is wrong!” approach,
– here is how to think differently about a problem.
In every case, though, make sure you show why the reader should care about your piece. Identify a problem, then offer your solution.
She discouraged Op-Ed writers from submitting the same piece to multiple publications at the same time.

Amy Stuart Wells, Teachers College, Columbia University, encouraged participants to find a news peg on which to hang the Op-Ed piece.
Demonstrate how you are an authority on the subject.
Show how your research interacts with a larger body of work.

Don’t write in academic jargon, she cautioned. “A couple days before writing your piece, don’t read any academic journals. Instead, read good popular journalism like you find in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, the NY Times, or Esquire. Analyze the cadence of the language, the voice, the sentence structure.”

Wells advised taking advantage of the news staff or PR staff in your college or university. Ask them to vet your piece, ask them to help you shop it around.
It’s good to develop a relationship with an editor. If someone accepts one of your pieces, keep working with that person.

Richard Colvin, Hechinger Institute, Columbia University, advised thinking broadly about the current news climate. Tie your research into the issues and themes people are broadly thinking about. Today’s issues for example would include the economy, income tax day, Somali pirates, and the anniversary of Columbine. For that matter, the anniversary of any important event can serve as a good news peg.

Linda Darling Hammond, Stanford University, was asked to speak about the role of the public intellectual. She said that a good public intellectual is someone who can translate their micro-level research into a broader set of systemic questions. Speaking out about your area of expertise is not an ego trip, she said; it’s about the public good.

She thinks of everything in terms of teaching, even when talking to politicians and policy makers. What does my audience already know? How can I connect with that? Who have they already spoken to? What can I build on?

Think how you can represent your work in terms of analogies and metaphors.

A public intellectual should have three main ideas to speak about. No more.

Timing is important. Watch the legislative calendar and agenda. Be prepared to give policymakers the information they need when they need it. The policy making timeline is very different from the academic timeline.

It’s OK to write an Op-Ed piece based on qualitative research. Qualitative research is credible if it is done impeccably. Qualitative research produces good stories, and lots of politics is driven by stories.

Policymaking follows two timelines simultaneously. There is the long arc of policy development and aggregating evidence (e.g., the global warming issue), but at the same time there’s the short-term, immediate process of getting bills passed.

Riding the backchannel

April 15, 2009

downtown san diego

For a running commentary from the point of view of an average (albeit technologically skilled) person attending the AERA convention this week, you can go to the Twitter search page and follow the keyword AERA.

As an alternative, check the Wiki where the sidebar streams (a limited number of) live text messages.

If you have a twitter account, you can follow @AERAtweetup, as 155 already do, or you can just follow the hashtag #AERA.

Sample recent comments cover session contents, the quality of facilities, recommended places to eat:

Best Jim Gee quote of day: “School has gotten rid of the game, but it kept the manual.”

AERA filled with iPhones, am jealous. Going back to Marriott (Salon/Hall 3) for poster, tho am sad to give up wireless!

Great (albeit short) last second talk by Marc Lamont Hill on youth culture, new media, and Discourses of resistance.

Just taking AP classes do not predict college performance-Dick Atkinson

Virtual learning environments presented over 1.5 hours using straight (mostly bad) PPT + verbal presentation. Shocking/disappointing

Need to check out “Stages of Adoption Inventory”

Beach City Market has reasonably priced breakfast

i’m at the #aera new directions in learning & instruction session (39.025)… looks like it’s gonna be crowded bc room is tinyyyy.

Getting ready to present at AERA on using Acrobat to aggregate dissertation media.

Finished my stuff for AERA today…. good sessions tomorrow– too bad they are all scheduled at the same time.

AERA New media talk – C. Steinkuehler awesome! – relates to r study of youth & social media & cognitive renaissance & learning ecology

At AERA meeting lots of talk about research and stimilus package.