Most of the professors I work with understand that I am willing to step outside the “intro to the library” library session. Sometimes they take advantage of that. The same professor who had me come into his course and demo a bad presentation and let the students live blog the results (explained here) has asked I do something similar for his U.S. History class. Not wanting to repeat the same instruction in two courses, I devised a different exercise to impress upon students how to construct a quality presentation.
Unlike the other class, these students were creating a presentation based on a paper they had already written. From past experiences, I knew I was going to get a lot of the “we already know how to do this” speech, so I based my exercise on that. Well, that and my love of cooking reality shows.
The result? A presentation exercise based on the Food Network show, Chopped. I give the students a website full of ingredients (use the menu on the sidebar) as well as a proposed outline and thesis, that they can use to create a fabulous presentation on why one should not cite Wikipedia in a college paper.
“I Like Wikipedia.” Headline Shirts. Headline Shirts. 2009. Web. 9 Sep. 2009. http://www.headlineshirts.net/i-like-wikipedia.html.
I have them split into groups and give them 8 minutes (with the intention of giving them 10 after they beg for more time despite being presentation experts) to construct a presentation. I stipulate that it must include a thesis, the argument provided in the outline, and citations (also provided). How they choose to combine them is up to them. I also introduce a panel of judges (usually myself, the prof, and another librarian or staff member) who will critique their work and select a winner. The prize is usually candy from my office candy bowl or occasionally a cookie from the coffee shop if I am particularly wowed by the presentation.
I constructed the website using Google Sites so I can post the link in the course page each semester without having to reconstruct it. While the students are working I open up SynchronEyes our screen capture/projection software so I can have the groups walk the judges (and the class) through their presentations. We talk about what we see, what’s missing, and what works well as they present them.
After the activity, we send them loose back to their own topics and a few suggestions for digital archives and visual sources they might not have utilized for their paper that could prove useful for a presentation.
The learning outcomes tend to involve illustrating that 10 minutes is not long enough to put together a good presentation, so make sure you do work ahead of time. Especially when we remind them that all their sources were conveniently stored in one location with citations already formatted.
We also let students comment on each others’. Some quotes are too long, or they argue the video wasn’t well explained. Constructivist learning has been pretty useful for presentation instruction.