Edward Tufte Kills Two More Kittens

Last night, I was one of two keynote speakers for an innovation event. As a speaker, I’m supposed to be the teacher. Three people in the audience were fast asleep. I am their grateful student.

I spoke for over a half hour. I’m pretty sure we should pass a law, or perhaps, a constitutional amendment, that assures no speech will ever run longer than 20 minutes.

I structured my speech with over 100 clever little slides (I used Keynote, which is cooler than PowerPoint). Every visual cue was carefully tied to specific words in my written script. So I paid more attention to the script and the visuals than I did to the audience. Occasional ad-libs only made the speech longer.

The gentleman who preceded me, a college president, used Prezi. What a cool visual presentation! I remember almost nothing he said. (Too busy looking at the cool imagery.)

So here’s a digital insider take on speeches, the morning after. Just talk to the audience. Tell them what you know. Allow yourself one index card with three key points.

Anybody in the audience who want to see the charts, graphs, photos, etc., tell them to visit your website or blog. In that environment, they can study the visuals in their own time, not in a crowded auditorium. When they hear hear you talk about an important idea, they can visit your website for more information.

Which is to say: speeches are terrific for revving up the audience and introducing new ideas, but they are not very useful for detailed presentation of ideas. Websites are not a good way to rev up the audience and introduce new ideas–there is no personal touch, except, sometimes, with an extraordinary video–but for details and the day-by-day updates, they’re terrific.

I trust the guys in the back row slept well. Last night, they were the most powerful teachers in the room.

For more on Tufte/kittens:

Tufte Kitten Kill Count

Intro to Tufte:

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information


Picture from Bureau of Labor Statistics job outlook for teachers. Their caption: "Teachers play an important role in fostering the intellectual and social development of children." http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos318.htm

The next industry that could be decimated by technology: teaching.

Will Richardson thinks, writes and teaches others about the use of technology in education. In this blog posting, Will responds to a rosy Wall Street Journal article about the online learning business.

The ‘yikes’ part: “In Idaho, Alan Dunn, superintendent of the Sugar-Salem School District, says that he may cut entire departments and outsource their courses to online providers. “It’s not ideal,” he says. “But Idaho is in a budget crisis, and this is a creative solution.”

Please read Will’s post.

FOLLOWUP: When I spoke with my father about Will’s post, he told me an interesting story about two of his teachers. I suggested that he write the story as a brief essay, and submit it to Will. He did, and Will published it.

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