How a holiday snap might be worth a thousand bullet points

While preparing my presentation on our OER research project for next week’s ALT-C Conference, I’ve been reflecting on an encouraging trend among conference organisers: the request that presenters show fewer slides and make them more ‘dynamic’ or ‘interesting’. Guidelines may feature such pithy phrases as ‘less is more’ and exhort presenters to ‘avoid death by bullet point syndrome’.

This is, indeed, a refreshing development from the audience’s point of view. It’s certainly true that a well-chosen image that either illustrates the content of the talk or reinforces a key concept can linger in the memory years later. I well remember the vivid photos that accompanied an account (at CAL 2007) of a peripatetic laptop which was taken around rural villages in Southern Africa. And, in a presentation at a more recent event, the contrast between didactic and social approaches to learning was reinforced by an image of graffiti incised into a classroom desk by students unafraid to articulate their boredom (incisions made deeper, doubtless, by later occupants feeling the same way)! (It’s a shame that I can’t reproduce the pictures here.)

However, all too often it’s easier and quicker to prepare tens of slides of bullet points in a striving to ensure that the audience receives every last nugget of the presenter’s wisdom. Furthermore, trawling the Web for images that are not only evocative but are also licensed for reuse is no trivial task, particularly if presentations have to be made available online under a Creative Commons licence.

Happily, one day last spring after I’d spent hours looking for pictures with compatible CC licences, two solutions presented themselves. The first solution (suggested by a colleague) took the form of the wondrously simple Creative Commons Licence Compatibility Wizards from OER IPR Support. They are invaluable if

  • you have several images with different CC licences and want to know whether you can combine them into your presentation, or
  • you are required to release your presentation under a specific CC licence and you want to know which other CC licences are compatible with it.

You can’t avoid the frustration caused when you find two great pictures with conflicting licences, but you can at least glow inwardly with self-righteousness 🙂

CC BY Liz Masterman

The second solution – and the one that gives rise to the title of this post – was to look in my own photo collection. In this particular case, I wanted to convey the contrast between the low volume of OER compared with ‘stuff on the Web’. A photo of a sweetshop snapped on a bicycle tour of Tasmania looked as though it would fit the bill with a little embellishment, and the result is shown on the right. I gave the photo a CC licence of its own in case anyone else might find it useful, and at least one colleague subsequently reused it.

My photos err on the amateurish side, but I’m always hopeful that the audience will be so relieved not to be presented with a slide full of bullet points that they’ll overlook the artistic shortcomings!

For expert guidance on designing engaging and effective presentations, book a place on PowerPoint: Getting the message across, a course offered termly by the IT Learning Programme in IT Services.

Posted in open practices, presentation | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply