Final preparations

presentation-1559937_960_720You know, I do have some nightmares every now and then but, surprisingly, none of them has concerned my upcoming presentation at the IH Brno conference. Not yet.

I’d say that I haven’t had the opportunity to feel worried about my first performance in front of a real audience because I started planning my workshop very early on. I actually started putting the presentation together right after I was offered the opportunity to give a talk, which was nearly three months ago.

Early in December, I started working on a Word document where I’ve been outlining the content of the talk. It’s now turned into a nice 10-page document containing a detailed summary of all the activities, which I’d later like to share with the participants of the conference through Edmodo.

So far so good. I’m quite confident about the content and the value of the workshop. The thing I’m a little worried about is the way I’ll present it. Unfortunately, I can’t have a proper rehearsal of my talk so I can only hope everything will go according to schedule. This is not a regular class or something and it’s my very first performance so I can only roughly estimate how much I’ll manage to squeeze in the given amount of time. One thing is certain; I’ll be as nervous as a cat. I might even be paralyzed or run away from the room. Who knows?

Anyway, a couple of days ago I turned the above-mentioned document into a PowerPoint presentation, which I’ve now uploaded on my Google disc so that it’s in a safe place and accessible when I need it. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of PowerPoint presentations but I came to a conclusion that it’ll be useful under the given circumstances. I believe the participants will find it easier to navigate through my talk if they see the bullet points displayed on the screen. I normally use the board but I don’t think I’ll have time (and the nerve) to jot things down if I want to talk to the audience and monitor the activities they’ll be engaged in. In addition, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep the board well-arranged and uncluttered. Finally, it’ll be a useful crutch for me as well; it’ll help me remember the main ideas I’ve planned to say.

presentation-36911_960_720As far as the PowerPoint presentation is concerned, I think it’s quite clear and concise. These are some of the basic rules I tried to stick to when making it:

1) Follow the 5/5/5 rule

Some experts suggest using the 5/5/5 rule: no more than five words per line of text, five lines of text per slide, or five text-heavy slides in a row. I think it’s fair enough and I had no problem abiding by this rule.

2) Don’t forget your audience

I think I know my audience quite well as I’ve been a regular conference attendee for some time now so I think I was able to tailor my presentation to their tastes and expectations. I’m well aware of the fact that everything needs to be clear and concise and, ideally, the ideas should be applicable to the audience’s teaching context.

3) Choose readable colors and fonts

I think my text is easy to read as I really didn’t play with fonts or colors. It’s all mostly black and with IH Brno theme, which I was recommended to use.

4) Don’t overload your presentation with animations

Apart from a couple of charts and diagrams, which are essential to my presentation, there are no animations or special effects whatsoever. Although I was tempted to use some of the exciting slide transitions, I finally avoided them as I knew that they can be irritating rather than useful.

5) Don’t read your presentation straight from the slides

I only included the main ideas, keywords, and talking points in my slide show text. I have printed out the presentation so that I don’t have to stare at the computer screen all the time. Plus I can take down some notes and questions beforehand as well as during the presentation if necessary. Also, if technology fails, I’ll have something tangible at my disposal. Finally, when you print stuff out, you can spot and fix mistakes or any discrepancies before you display them to your audience.

Well, wish me luck.



To cheat or not to cheat

lying-1562272_960_720Cheating is something we teachers don’t like to see. And if we’re lucky, it doesn’t happen. But, is it a question of luck or bad luck? Well, I’m convinced that cheating happens only if it is allowed or encouraged.

Who would want to allow (or even encourage) cheating, you may ask now. Lazy teachers, gullible teachers, lenient teachers, merciless teachers, crazy teachers?

I mean, as the desire to cheat is quite understandable, the teacher’s job is to create conditions in which students can’t cheat at all or even think of cheating. I’d like to stress the difference between can’t and not allowed to here. By can’t I mean that it’s virtually impossible.

I once saw an image of a classroom packed with students taking a test (allegedly taken in a Japanese school). These students had large pieces of paper attached to their temples so that they couldn’t copy from their neighbor’s test. This is not what I meant when I said conditions in which they can’t cheat. What I had in mind were humane conditions, such as two versions of the same test, students sitting in a way that it’s impossible to peek in someone else’s test, designing a test which is useless to copy because every student’s answer is unique (such as describe your last holiday in 120 words). 

On the other hand, it’s a good idea to show that you trust your students. The higher-stakes exam, the fewer cheating opportunities students should get, but with low-stakes testing, it’s ok to offer the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden from time to time.

For example, my students often peer correct their tests, which definitely offers some space for cheating. Strangely enough, throughout my career, I only caught someone red-handed once. This particular boy wanted to help his partner by adding a few correct answers during the correction stage, in exchange for his reciprocal lenience, of course. He forgot to change his handwriting and offered me some irrefutable evidence … Anyway, we had a chat and it’s never happened again in this or another class.

However, some other types of incidents have happened. The other day, for example, a very good student showed his test answers to a friend sitting behind him and she willingly copied them all. When I caught them, I was really angry with the student who had shown the answers, rather than with the girl who had copied them. Anyhow, she had to take another test while he was made to feel properly guilty. However, it was partially my fault; I had arranged the seating in a way that enabled cheating plus I was not paying attention during the exam so the students just took advantage. They are only kids after all.

I’d like to say that I’m really grateful for all these learning moments – the moments when the cheaters learn that cheating doesn’t pay and when I learn I have to be more attentive. One way or another, it’s good to ask yourself the following question: what makes your students cheat? Is it a desire to easily achieve something they don’t deserve? Is it a temptation they simply can’t resist? Or is it just a hopeless attempt to escape the unbearable load of responsibility?