Reversing the Presentation

Ken Royal, here, sharing the exciting news that I’m bringing my Royal Treatment to rAVe [Publications]. Since the early ‘90s, I’ve written about education, education technology and the marketplace as a journalist, blogger/reporter, video interviewer, podcaster, Royal Reports producer and education event news commentator. I’ve enjoyed future-thinking trends from consumer to education. In upcoming columns I’ll be in search of those future trends, interviewing industry leaders, covering 3D and AR, and even looking at where video conferencing is heading. That said, if you have a column idea, marketplace executive/leader for interview, or trend that needs sharing, please contact me, here, at rAVe. For now, please enjoy my first column: Reversing the Presentation.

For the longest time, we’ve been teaching with our backs to children. It may have started when the individual chalk slates were taken away from kids upon leaving the one-room schoolhouse for the larger normal schools. With only one writing board for sharing in the class, it became easier, out of necessity, to turn our backs on students. It also became easier to get comfortable doing it. So the transition to digital technology followed that lead.

There may have been a short side trip from the front board to facing the class, when the overhead projector was dragged into classrooms from the bowling alley. Then came the whiteboards, I’m sure seen by some as a way to get teachers back on their teaching feet. The adjective to describe them was “interactive,” but in many instances, it’s still used as an electrified, digitized chalkboard. There are so many more possibilities, but we continue looking at teaching and presenting lessons in an archaic delivery way. We need to reverse the teaching method for presenting. Handheld devices are one-room-schoolhouse slates digitally reincarnated, and we should present to them.

Let’s look at how reversing the presentation could affect — one sector – specifically, the document camera industry. The way I see it, that trusty and familiar teaching friend could be rejuvenated, and become the individual interactive presenters they need to be for this new tablet age. By simply reversing the presentation, document cameras could present in two directions — to a larger front-of-the-class whiteboard, and more importantly to individual student devices with their smaller screens.

With so many districts opting into iPad programs, document camera Apps for iPads in which educators can operate the document camera make sense, but consider that further, too. Why not a document camera App for student tablets to work on things delivered to them by the document camera? Those Apps would also have responder/clicker/voting functionality for polling. These document camera Apps could be created in light and pro versions. Make the light one free, and sell the other. Remember digital devices in kids’ hands now have all the amazing apps and software to create brilliant projects, so the document App doesn’t have to cover more than essentials — annotation and manipulation of document camera shared lesson objects, notes, compositions and other material.

With all those districts buying iPads, netbooks and individualized devices, if an existing document camera could present to them, by using a bit of technical know-how, presenting to students could take on new shape. It would fit Common Core requirements for students using technology to research and back up findings. Students could use primary evidence from their own class document camera presentations, as well as gather information from the Internet. I’d like to suggest using the term Natural 3D, too, for this truly flipped classroom presentation approach. After all, the document camera has always been able to display 3D objects as well as 2D documents.

I know that nothing changes quickly in the education marketplace, but I have the luxury of being a dreamer. Although, if I were to sit down with a few document camera engineers, I’d say, “Can you do this?” And, I think the answer would be “Yes.” There would probably be a follow up, too — “It may take a year.” I get that, but what about building some prototypes, and sharing some prototype presentations at education and technology shows? Apple does that sort of thing well, as masters of hype — and change. They talk about something new and it gains momentum as the engineers and tech people work toward production.

Now, let’s add the Cloud environment to this new reverse presentation approach. Document cameras and other presentation devices need to become presenters that share to classroom and groups of student handhelds; iPads, tablet devices, and students need to be able to share back modifications and new ideas. Well, the abundance of data generated even in one lesson could overwhelm a thumb drive, or the small memory traditionally used as places to save files on document cameras or presentation devices. Saving to a computer, or to a student or teacher’s iPad can work, but it won’t be enough easy-to-access space either. One answer is simple, document cameras and other presentation devices need to have some sort of simple to use Cloud storage and access. Teachers and students need drag-and-drop lockers for work, images, files and more. This is not difficult to do. Netbook and laptop companies have provided this space for a long time. While Apple has its own Cloud venture between products, all companies can provide something similar to their customers. At the beginning, it could just be a drag and drop Cloud storage space, but later it could be much more, with access to other Apps, tools, third-party solutions, audio, video and community building possibilities, too.

I know that it’s difficult to make suggestions for changing or even saving an industry, especially when company mindset thinks everything is fine — status quo. In the larger scheme of things this is not Patton, coming to relieve the heroes at Bastogne, where defending troops adamantly shouted they didn’t need Patton’s saving. But in this iPad age, if your best teaching practice is putting an iPad under a document camera for projection only to a front whiteboard, perishing, sooner rather than later, is inevitable. For me, General McAuliffe’s eloquent reply to surrender is completely appropriate here, too — “Nuts!” Program directors with their teams can make things happen if the direction is clear. I see nothing wrong with saying to engineers, programmers, developers and software/hardware people, “Here’s where we need to be; let’s get there, and make it happen!”

Here’s how I explained this to a friend of mine, recently: Think of a beautiful garden with a small stream meandering through. Now picture small stepping-stones placed across the stream, in not such a perfect way. While jumping the stream is possible, it’s not recommended, and skipping over stones to cross may not be the best approach either. Here’s the point — companies that haven’t begun to evolve for this new digital and Cloud age desperately need to get their feet on that first stepping-stone. More than that, they have to begin talking and writing about, as well as publicizing the next stepping-stones — even if they’re not on them yet — all the way to the last. Companies also must remain nimble, and ready to change, just in case one or more of those stepping-stones moves, changes or just isn’t “technologically” there any longer.

There has to be a teaching community base for educators using reverse presentation, presenters, Cloud and best practices. Companies that want to survive in the post-Cloud era need to begin, now, if they haven’t already, to gather educators of, and for change. Most company websites, today, are full of unreadable PDFs, or product pricing blurbs — mostly un-navigable, with plenty of broken links. To change, connected educators will be sought to help guide companies as an integral part of reversing digital presentation change and expansion to the Cloud. Staying and promoting status quo presentation devices, and other technologies and software is unfair practice when dealing with educators, who deserve much more for their students.

Please remember that during any change process you cannot forget the least common denominator. There will be those who just want the standard/traditional desk and classroom setup, because that’s the step they are on, but offering more choices — all the way to Cloud and beyond needs to happen. Those moving toward post-Cloud will require more future-think and future-care to get there. Also remember that what works in the K-12 classroom works at the university level, as well as in the corporate meeting room.

Like stepping-stones across a stream, consider this column entry just one stepping-stone nudge on which to plant your education-presentation industry feet toward future steps.

Ken Royal is a teacher/education and education technology blogger/reporter, video interviewer, podcaster, education event news commentator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology experience. His teaching accomplishments include being four-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year and Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. Reach Ken at ken@ravepubs.com or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kenroyal