Friday, November 30, 2012

In which Edna sounds off about student presentations.

With all due respect, Monsieur Sartre had it entirely wrong: Hell is student presentations.

For the love of all that is holy, dear snowflakes, do not EVER count on technology that does not belong to you to make your presentation run smoothly.

In fact, don’t count on technology for your presentation, period.

Dear snowflakes, you have laid your very own eyes upon the computer set up in our classroom. Does it look like the kind of machine that can run the most recent Flash player? Does it look like a machine that can handle that ADD-approved presentation software that zooms and bleeps and makes all of your poor proffies’ heads spin?

No, dear snowflakes, nothing about this machine has been high technology since I was a college freshman. Your shitty presentation doesn't speak its primitive digital language.

Do I even use this computer during class? No, dear snowflakes, I do not. It’s not for my health that I take the trouble to haul my laptop to a whole different building and set it up RIGHT BESIDE THE OLD ONE for every. single. tea-partying. class session. Dear snowflakes, you need to plan on doing the same. Always. Every time. Suck it up. Be your own tech support.

And when your own laptop lacks the right doodads to play nice with the other equipment, don’t come crying to me. Don’t ask for a new time slot. Don’t muck with the presentation order I had to prod you to sign in the first place. Above all, don’t complain that the one kid who was in charge of the Power Point is absent today and ZOMG how can we ever do a presentation without Power point!!?!?!
Tough shit. You’re on your own, and rest assured that your superflake classmates who left you holding the bag will answer to me as soon as they recover from their bubonic mitochondritis, or the sudden death of their third cousin, or whatever.
My dear snowflakes. If there’s one thing you need to take away from your horror story of a presentation, it’s this: Avoid being distracted by the various presentation technologies. Instead, spend more time working on core skills of a good presentation: clear speaking, logical organization, watching the clock, and embracing the motto that THE SHOW MUST GO ON.


  1. The last two people we hired from the search committees on which I served had the computer blow up during their power points (or whatever it was they were using). Actually, for one of them we could not get the thing to even start. And no, it was not a trick part of the interview process. The computers suck here at Inner City Community College. They both had handouts, used, OMG, chalk (or marker, depending on the classrooom) and did their thing.

    It IS a good lesson.

  2. I could write an equally deserved smackdown for faculty and administrators. Once, I watched our provost give a presentation to the Board of people who give us lots of money, I mean, Trustees. He used a laptop on loan from IT. It required a login password. One that he didn't know, nor did his secretary or anybody else besides the IT people who were fifteen minutes away. Awkward? Yes, yes it was.

  3. I had an overhead projector actually start to smoke during a job talk I did about 10 years ago. Well prepared, however, I didn't need the transparencies to make my points. They were useful for a bit more clarity, but not essential. Someone came up and fiddled with the machine briefly. That didn't help, so I turned off the machine, people laughed as I waved off the smoke, and I moved on. Cost about 30 seconds, a minute tops.

  4. You'd really think that academics would be better public speakers, considering how important public speaking is for them. As I tell my students: don't be nervous, since what can help is how LOW the standards are. It's like blindfolded javelin throwing: you don't have to be very good to get people's attention.

    1. That's a really funny analogy that I've not heard before.

  5. My teaching field is Speech. I do an entire lecture on Presentation Aids, including technology. In addition to the "Practice, practice, practice" mantra, I throw in, "Don't trust technology. Be sure you can continue without it."

    One of my "gimics" is to model each speech style during the class period before they are to do their's. One semester my Demonstration Speech was a walk-through on "How to use the LMS." I prepared and practiced until right before class began that night, just to be sure I "had it down;" I even created a student account so it would look exactly like the screens they would see. Naturally, when I got to the, "This is how you log in" part, I got the error message: "The LMS is down for maintenance. Try logging in again in an hour." I fought through it with the whiteboard and what we could see on the log in screen. Afterwards I did a "breakdown" of the "breakdown." Some of them accused me of doing it on purpose and I had to assure them I had not.

    And I'll be stealing the blindfolded javelin thrower analogy.