Virtual Flip Chart

May 14, 2009


The problem with Powerpoint and the like is that they are passive tools. They’re great for presenting pre-prepared material (if used carefully and the slides are well designed – big ifs!) but don’t allow for input from the audience and for the presenter to display something that arises during the presentation itself.

I’ve believed for a long time that training should be interactive – it should be more like a discussion or conversation than a lecture. One technique I use quite a lot is writing on a flip chart. I either use it to summarise points made during a discussion, to pull together findings and key points from practical exercises or for “brainstorming”.  The problem with this is that my handwriting is not so great and, despite my best efforts, tends to deteriorate as the discussion progresses. So, for a while, I’ve been on the lookout for a software tool I could use as a sort of “virtual” flipchart. As usual, I don’t like paying for anything (especially software!) so I’ve been trying to find a good, but free, program  that would fit the bill. I’ve considered using Freemind, a mindmapping tool that’s been around for a while, but I find that the charts it produces are rather cramped. There are a number of web based tools I’ve tried out, but they’re not really amenable for use in the class, requiring an Internet connection which, in UK hotels, is expensive, and there’s also the risk of the system or connection failing. However, I think I’ve found something that will do the job for me. Dropmind is another online mindmapping tool, but a downloadable desktop version is also available and it looks promising.

As I see it, the positive aspects of using a mindmapping tool on my laptop with a projector include

  • legible charts!
  • the charts can be changed as we go along, something that isn’t really possible with a flip chart
  • the charts produced can be saved for reference in a more convenient format and can be printed out

Inevitably, there are negatives, too. The ones I foresee are

  • using a computer based tool will tie me to the laptop and restrict movement around the room
  • the projector would still be switched on. One of the nice things about using a “real” flipchart is that it introduces variation – turning off the projector makes a nice change.

There are bound to be other pros and cons. I think I’ll give it a try and see how it goes down.



Stand-up comedy routines are really nothing more than a type of presentation. Like anyone else addressing an audience, comdeians’ routines are about putting across their “ideas” or “points”, albeit in the form of a series of jokes or as humourous observations or stories.

Good comedians have to be effective presenters. They have to “grab” their audience’s attention and then keep it. And they have to be masters of timing.

I was watching Dara O’Brian’s performance on his DVD – Dara O’Brian – Live. One of the things he is particularly good at is engaging and involving the audience. He picks on individuals (note – keep well to the back if you take in one of his shows!!) holding a conversation with them, but without losing the attention and interest of the rest of the audience. There are some lessons here for presenters of lengthy “keynote” speeches and lectures.

Another feature of stand-up comedians is that they can manage to keep an audience engaged and interested for relatively lengthy periods without using slides.  They aren’t obsessed with Powerpoint but rely on the quality of their material and power of their delivery. Again there are lessons here for presenters.

Picture credit –wvermeulen via stock.xchng

This is a relatively long video of a talk given by Garr Reynolds to a conference of software designers.

He sets out his ideas from Presentaton Zen and relates them to software design

Its interesting to see him in action and how he applies his own principles (I’m sure there’s scope to analyse his talk in this context)

Watched this remote presentation on remote presentation by Nancy Duarte

Although its mainly aimed at teleconference type presentations, many of the points she makes should be applicable to other situations.

This year I’ve started to get more involved in running tele-tutoials and web based tutorials and I can see this aspect of my work increasing in  the future. Quite a lot of what she has to say could be applied to these forums.

Her points on the design of slides and how to structure the presentation are also relevant to presentations for Slideshare and other situations where there isn’t a human presenter.

I came across this on another WordPress blog

I think he makes some good points in his short presentation. Conference organisers everywhere take note!


May 5, 2009


The following article by the philosopher AC Grayling appeared in The Guardian on Saturday:

Knowledge and genius

I think it makes some very valid points which are relevant to education and particularly so with respect to the training of professionals.

In the article, Grayling states:

there is no automatic connection between knowledge and intelligence“.

I agree wholeheartedly with this. Simply being able to reel off facts isn’t proof of ability to perform a task. Yet there is too much reliance on rote learning  in my own profession where trainees are required to learn masses of facts when studying for their professional qualifications, while there is very little testing of their ability to apply the knowledge to solving problems.

An enormous amount of information available to us in the modern world – and it continues to expand exponentially. It is not only unrealistic to expect a professional to absorb and remember a mass of facts, it is, in my opinion, poor practice. It is more important to know how and where to locate information than to memorise it – and then to be able to use it to analyse and solve problems.