Thursday, October 1

New Presenter and Learner Methods and Skills

In response to my recent post Narrowing Gap between Face-to-Face and Online Presentations, the comments were really fantastic, but got the discussion going in a different direction - and it is clear that a comment box is way too small for this discussion.

Both your face-to-face and your online audience is likely multitasking. They might be participating in chat / backchannel. They might be blogging. They might be taking notes. They might be checking and responding to email. They might be figuring out where to go to dinner.

Clive Shepherd captured the problem as Multitasking is now every presenter’s problem.

The comments suggest that there are things that presenters and learners should do to to address this. Hence, this month's big question is:

New Presenter and Learner Methods & Skills?

Related questions:
  1. What should we do as presenters in this multitasking world?
  2. Should presenters coach (or ban) people away from multitasking?
  3. As a presenter, how do you deal with the backchannel effectively? (I personally can't present and work with the backchannel at the same time.)
  4. How does the backchannel fit with effective note taking?
  5. What could a presenter do in 2 minutes at the start of a presentation to get this all to work out well?
  6. What should we do as learners?
  7. What if the presenter is not making effective use of our time?
  8. What have you seen that worked really well?
  9. What didn't work well? What would you do to change it?
  10. Any tools that make this better?
I'm hoping to learn a lot out of this discussion which is certainly far bigger than my original post.

How to Respond:

Option 1 - Put your thoughts in a comment below.

Option 2 -

Step 1 - Post in your blog (please link to this post).
Step 2 - Put a comment in this blog with an HTML ready link that I can simply copy and paste (an HTML anchor tag). I will only copy and past, thus, I would also recommend you include your NAME immediately before your link. So, it should look like:

Tony Karrer - e-Learning 2.0

or you could also include your blog name with something like:

Tony Karrer - e-Learning 2.0 : eLearningTechnology

Responses So Far (also see Comments):


TJ Taylor - Milan said...

Rather than propose a 'solution' or some techniques, and before the replies become too disparate following the list of related questions, I wanted to note that how we reply to this big question will depend on how we view multitasking.

Is multitasking detrimental to learning? From what I have seen and heard (anecdotally) there isn't any clear and authoritative evidence that it is. Similarly with flexible elearning that allows the learner to skip certain parts, surely in a day-long session there will always be parts that individual participants will consider old hat, or that they've already 'got it'.

If we consider multitasking in the classroom as acceptable, then it's a matter of us adapting our presentation methods and flow in order to cater for various people zoning in and out, and adapting our and the class's behavioural expectations accordingly.

If we consider multitasking as only detrimental to classroom learning, either for that participant or for others who are distracted or think they can 'get away' with doing the same, in this case we have to apply a fine balance of big carrots and small sticks, focussing on drawing attention and involving the learner.

Peter Casebow - GoodPractice said...

I suspect this is something we are going to have to wrestle with and the lack of research on the topic isn't helping.

In John Medina's recent book on Brain rules, ( which is great, he is clear that we can't truly multitask, apart from talking and breathing. With higher level tasks it is just not possible. So we don't multitask but actually rapidly switch attention between multiple tasks. So only one item can actually have your attention at any one time. I suspect most multitaskers think that they are giving their attention to each task.

I was at World of Learning in Birmingham in the UK this week and the blackberry and iPhone appeared to be the main distraction. There was minimal Twitter traffic from presentations.

Questions I'd like to understand would be about the motivation of the audience to attend in the first place and how the immediate pressures of work/life are impacting on their ability to be present in the audience?

Secondly, if reflection is important as part of learning and integrating the learning into practice inorder to improve performance; how much reflection goes on if the audience is multitasking and what is the impact on future integration and performance.

In the meantime, what can the presenter do? I would personally find it hard to work with live backchat during a set piece and the obvious lack of attention from 75% of my audience being on laptops, so hopefully someone has some good tips or ideas.

Unknown said...

Kristine Howard October Big Question

Tony Karrer said...

Peter - I completely agree with you. We are going to have to address this question even thought the research is not there today.

And I agree that the answer will be complex based on the specific situation. Maybe we can get suggestions in different context with different motivations.

Geoff Cain said...

I think it is fascinating to think back that if someone were at a lecture and scribbling in a notebook, you would think, "ah, what a good student!" But were they good notes? Was it a poem? A drawing? A shopping list? A D&D map? You didn't care because the act of note-taking meant that they were focused somehow. People are learning how to connect with and process knowledge in new ways. You are still thinking of this as a problem instead of an opportunity - you have to learn how to harness the google jockeys and tweeters - have you ever thought that people are getting a little tired of watching someone talk in an age of social, collaborative media? Time marches on and as Cicero said, the authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.

Tony Karrer said...

Geoff - maybe I'm wrong, but all these years, I've believed those who have the appearance of active listening and/or note taking are likely much more engaged and learning than someone sitting back in their chair. There have been some exceptions to that rule of thumb, but my guess is that most presenters/teachers will agree with me on this.

However, you are right that they could have been doing homework for another course or otherwise not engaged. But now, with them online while in class at your presentation, they could be doing just about anything.

Certainly, I'll be checking email in a session if it's not offering value. It really is different now.

Tony Karrer said...

I've added some background around multitasking in a post on my blog and have listed it above in the responses so far.

denparser said...

very interesting Tony, teachers are now have different and unique skills accompanying the new technology applied to the reality.

mollybob said...

I responded to the main question about multitasking from both a learner and presenter perspective here:

Tony Karrer said...

Great post Molly. I was just in a session yesterday where one of the participants thought the back channel (that had a great discussion on varied topics) was a bit rude to the presenter. Was interesting to see and I used to worry about that perspective. But somewhere I lost that worry.

denparser said...

Nice site molly. interesting though.

Max said...

Max Bezzina: What presenters could do when the audience multi-tasks:

rani gill said...

Rani Gill: Social norms, expectations, attention, a game?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Tony!

Binge Thinking is my contribution to the Big Question this month.

Catchya later

Clayn said...

In responding to the "Big Question," which is truly too big to answer in such a comment box, I would like to focus on the question of how to deal with back channel content.

As an English teacher, I find that it isn't a struggle to present content to students and question them about the content. As result, they can engage with me, in the form of answering the question. The struggle comes in trying to get the students to engage with each other - to create true discussions in the class.

Back channels have begun to open this option up in the classroom, but it still seems a little artificial, as well as distracting to me as I try to manage the several other web and software applications I use in the course of a regular class session. My solution was fairly simple: If students want to multitask in my class, they can multitask for me, rather than against me.

What I will do each class period is to randomly select a student to be the back channel moderator for that day. I see the moderator as filling the same role as an assistant sitting on the phone during an auction. They act as a proxy, voicing the bids of individuals over the phone. The back channel moderator will strive to respond to comments made, if they can, or voice the question -when appropriate - for general class consumption. Not only does this free me from trying to do this myself, it forces students into a more active role in the classroom.

dves said...

we should be practically genius when teaching. students must acquire new skills that fit today.

denise said...

you're right. it must be.

denparser said...

agreeing? without knowing first? well, that would be correct if you agree with today's teachers' way of learning. in spite the fact that student are well - educated.

ClaudiaE said...

Claudia Escribano: Presentations Re-Imagined

Clive Shepherd said...

I sneaked in with days to spare - see my conclusions at

Clark said...

Clark Quinn's Learnlets: Presenting in a networked age

Praxis I test said...

Both online and face to face presentations have their own value and importance. Both have their merits and demerits. Online presentations may leave the scope of misunderstanding because many audience feel shy or hectic in raising questions but on the other side it is convenient and time saver.

Rani H. Gill said...

Tony - also came across this article via Twitter - How to present when you're audience is twittering:

thought it might be useful for folks.