18.251 speaking & writing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 1 Oct 2004 07:35:10 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 251.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Fri, 01 Oct 2004 07:31:24 +0100
         From: beste_at_mac.com
         Subject: Re: 18.248 speaking (& writing) not so well

Hello Willard et al:

I've been following bits on the "speaking (& writing) not so well" thread
and would like to add the following observations / comments:

1.0 Let us assume that in the context of an individual delivering
          material of one sort or another to a group, the individual doing
          the delivery is "teaching" and the people in the receiving group
          are "learning".

2.0 In consideration of what we understand to be teaching and
          learning styles, we would hope that the adults to whom we deliver
          materials in one form or another are adult learners and can
          therefore discriminate between pedagogic and andragogic teaching
          and learning styles, thereby assigning value and worth to what is
          delivered (i.e., "If I am an adult learner with andragogic
          for both my processing and understanding of what is delivered, and
          the methods by which material is delivered, how well does the
          delivery [the teaching] match what we hope to be the results [the

3.0 In parallel with 2.0 [above], we would hope that adults who deliver
          materials in one form or another can also discriminate between
          pedagogic and andragogic teaching styles, thereby 'tuning' their
          delivery to the expectations and needs of those who receive what
          is delivered (i.e., "If I am an adult presenter and am sufficiently
          self-aware of any flexibility in my presentation and teaching styles
          and sufficiently practiced and skilled in being able to adjust my
          presentation and teaching styles to match the expectations and
          learning needs of my audience so that what I intended to present
          is communicated efficiently and effectively, how well does my
          delivery [the teaching] match the expectations and generate the
          desired results [the learning]?"

4.0 "Deliver materials in one form or another" opens the door to
          thinking about what presentation tools are used to augment an
          oral delivery, how well such tools are used, and whether their use
          is effective. Visual aids such as the use of graphics via slides,
          overheads (and especially today, PowerPoint or Keynote) have
          been and are in common use. Bob Horn's "Visual Language" and
          Edward Tufte's "Envisioning Information" (and his other books)
          explore and explicate the fundamental significance of the three-way
          balancing act among clear thinking, clear oral presentations, and
          clear visual presentations. We are reminded of the problems that
          surround the potential misapplication of presentation tools in Clive
          Thompson's item in the New York Times (Dec 14, 2003) entitled:
          "PowerPoint Makes You Dumb".

5.0 This raises questions about the use of presentation tools generally,
          and which channels are used, both consciously and unconsciously
          (or, intentionally and unintentionally), by an adult teacher
          information to adult learners. For example, if PowerPoint or Keynote
          is employed in a presentation, are such a tool intended as the
          channel for the message(s) being transmitted, or secondary, or
          or other? Over-reliance or over-emphasis on a single channel (as in
          the case of over-use of PowerPoint, which would then be the logical
          default primary channel) coupled with a matching de-emphasis of what
          could be useful complementary channels, can radically alter both the
          content of an intended message and the manner in which that message
          is received and interpreted. Such alterations will, by default,
          the perceived and understood value, worth and utility of whatever is

6.0 This returns us to the question of what it means to be either, or both,
          an adult learner and adult teacher. My argument is that necessarily
          we are both, and that both roles have considerable responsibility for
          effective learning.

          6.1 As an adult teacher, I am compelled to be a reflective
          professional who thoughtfully plans his presentations in such a way
          that presentation tools chosen are used well and neither over- nor
          under-utilized, although choosing variations in emphasis of such
          tools from time to time can be very effective. Content and argument
          must be clearly and concisely laid out and organized so that points
          can be readily seen, followed and understood, critical thought is
          encouraged, and generative questions can be raised, all the while
          being underscored or emphasized appropriately through the use of
          whatever presentation tools are used. My chosen method(s) of oral
          delivery must match the nature of the audience, the content and
          structure of what is delivered, as well as (what I hope will be) the
          effects of my chosen presentation tools. I must also be vigilant in
          my receipt of formative and summative feedback from the group
          receiving my presentation. If, as I hold forth, everyone is nodding
          off and it's not a consequence of post-lunch syndrome coupled with
          excessive room heat, lack of ventilation or overcrowding, then I had
          best be very well-prepared to appropriately adjust my tone, pacing,
          use of anecdotes, physical proximity, gesticulation, enunciation, and
          other elements to which I have 'on the fly' access. If, when all is
          said and done and I have clearly invited comment or feedback and
          there is none -- or, if I am pelted with whatever has come to hand
          or am stormed at the lectern -- I had best be very well prepared to
          graciously receive invited feedback, and make very good use of
          same for the improvement of future presentations.

          6.2 As an adult learner, I must be prepared to receive material
          and information being delivered in a variety of ways. If I perceive
          an over-emphasis on a particular tool or channel of presentation, I
          must consciously adjust my sensitivities to the 'suite' of tools and
          channels being employed so that I can extract maximum value from
          the communication. By the same token I must, where appropriate,
          be prepared to communicate with the presenter after the presentation
          not only to engage with regard to content but to methods by which
          content was presented. If, for example, I am disturbed or frustrated
          by an imbalance in presentation style and / or tools, but merely
          applaud politely when all is said and done and do nothing to provide
          constructive feedback to the presenter, then I have not been a fully
          responsible adult learner. I expect the same critical feedback from
          those who receive (or endure) my presentations whether that be in
          a conference format, seminar room or in the lecture hall; indeed, I
          would be presenting only to myself if I didn't expect and welcome
          such feedback; and, I would deserve such isolation.

We can enjoy and rely on receiving great value from adult teaching and
learning. However, reliance on engineered or default single-channel
presentations, or engineered or default presentation circumstances where
two-way communication is minimized or does not occur, does not reflect a
learning environment design that acknowledges our responsibilities as adult
learners and teachers. Nor does such reliance do much to acknowledge or
encourage the full potentials of what adult teaching and learning can fully

Warmest regards,

Bob Este
University of Calgary
Received on Fri Oct 01 2004 - 03:03:25 EDT

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