I hate it when presenters do that

I wholeheartedly agree with the following two passages. One is a comment by Stephen Downes on a Garr Reynolds blog post, the other is from a blog post that Downes pointed out a while ago. Here’s the first:

Connection is one thing. Engagement is something very different. Connection is about creating interaction, a voluntary state of affairs through a medium of communication. Engagement is about creating presence, a creation of immediacy and contact. Connection respects my privacy; engagement does not. Garr Reynolds writes, “Although I am speaking in front of nearly 300 students in a large hall in Japan, I still have them get up and *do* something relevant from time to time.” I hate it when presenters do that. It is an imposition, an invasion of my mental space and often of my physical space. It’s one thing to enable a space for activities – that’s connection. It’s quite another to require that everybody participate in these activities. That’s engagement. Enable, don’t require. [Link to Garr Reynolds post]

And here’s the second, from In Defense of Lecture:

I attended talks at education conferences lately where the speaker announces that “Lectures don’t work” and proceeds to engage the audience in some form of active learning, like small group discussion.  I hate that.  I am a good learner.  I take careful notes, I review them and look up interesting ideas and referenced papers later, and if the lecture really captured my attention, I will blog on the lecture later to summarize it.  I take a multi-hour trip to attend a conference and hear this speaker, and now I have to talk to whatever dude happens to be sitting next to me? If you recognize that the complete sentence is “Lectures don’t work…for inexperienced or lazy learners,” then you realize that using “active learning” with professionals at a formal conference is insulting to your audience.  You are assuming that they can’t learn on their own, without your scaffolding.

There’s a lot of chatter our there these days around terms like collaborative learning, active learning, participation, and engagement. These have their place, in the right circumstances, but I think the way they are often handled at conferences can be both offensive and counter-productive to motivated adult learners. (Of course, if your learners are not motivated, that’s a different issue.) A solid lecture-type presentation – yes, even one with *gasp” PowerPoint slides – is very often just the right approach. (There is a reason, after all, that TED Talks are so wildly popular.)

What do you think?


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