We had a staff meeting today featuring a speaker from the district. Something about Autism; that's what they told me when they woke me up, anyway. It could have been about auto repair for all the attention I paid. Nah--I'd have stayed awake for that.
What threw me was that this presentation was another clear example of why there needs to be more public speaking training in school. (I've blogged about this before, so this is a clear-cut case of "here we go again.") Not only did the speaker have a Powerpoint presentation, and not only did her presentation consist of merely reading it aloud to everyone, but she handed it out on paper to everyone ahead of time. I didn't see the point; this presentation was nothing more than an e-mail on LSD.
When I taught Speech to high school students (a course seriously lacking in both my school and the world), the rules of visual aids (apologies to Microsoft, but that's all your Powerpoint program is: visual aids on steroids) were clear: they're used to augment your presentation. Not to document the entire thing or to be the entire presentation. Moreover, you don't hand out the presentation slides (or anything, for that matter) ahead of time, or your audience will pay attention to what's in their hands and ignore you completely. After seeing several district presentations and WAY too many student presentations, and after talking to teachers about their students' work, I'm convinced that more attention must be paid to teaching students how to speak to other people. Period. Communication is going to be reduced to text messaging otherwise. (Someone recently challenged my opinion on this, claiming that visual learners need the handouts or their not going to get it. My response is two fold: (a) if you're that much of a visual learner you should get dispensation from attending lectures, and (b) if the handout is the whole presentation, there's no need to stick around for the lecture.)
This particular Powerpoint was being projected on the back wall of the theater, and so every slide contained the fire alarm sensor on the back wall. I started to wonder if we might be lucky enough for that particular device to be light-activated. (I knew it was a smoke detector, but I also began to wonder if the projector was strong enough to singe something in the mechanism and set it off--better yet, if you project a picture of fire onto the sensor, will it go off?)
Anyway, I'm told the presentation was about Autism.