Presenting…to those who need to know.

Sometimes opportunity knocks. Sometimes it tags you in the hall.

I joked with my colleagues that I should never stand outside my classroom door, as I am likely to get asked to do a job I hadn’t planned on. A few weeks back my principal asked if I would present something on Smartboards for the annual gathering of Vancouver Island school trustees which our district was hosting. I asked if I could do something on blogging instead as it is the focus of my action research.

What to say to Trustees?

As the event got closer, I was beginning to wonder what a trustee would know or want to know about blogging. I would have a context for a teaching audience–and a parent audience, but what would be the background knowledge, interests, and concerns of trustees? Enter the trusty PLN –personal learning network via Twitter. I tweeted and got some great responses from Lorna Costantini, Kathy Cassidy, Cindy Seibel and Heidi Hass-Gable, who was so generous with her time that we had a Skype call.

How much to say?

I had to think about how deep to go in the time I had (and that seemed to float–initially 15 minutes, then 45, settling at about half an hour), which wasn’t a lot. Or too much, depending… I decided they might need the context of Web 2.0 and an explanation of the concept of a read and write web. So I created a short PowerPoint (below) and decided to focus on two aspects of blogging that seem to be especially important to my students: their digital identity (pride, confidence, the desire to represent the best of themselves, their learning profiles are less visible or a barrier) and the audience that blogging gives them (family, peers, students around the world). After that I’d share a video of interviews that Paul Hamilton did with five of my students in December. I was then going to tour them quickly through our class blog, Huzzah!, and the student blogs, and then invite questions or conversation.

How it went

I arrived for the set up and realized I could load all the student’s blogs in the lab so the trustees could see individual ones after the fact. A senior administrator popped in, and gave me a really valuable head’s up: the trustees were from an older demographic than he expected. His job was to shepherd the 50 trustees between presentations, and they were getting tired (oh dear). My time was going to be about 25 minutes.

I am pretty pleased with the way that the presentation itself went. I have been living blogging with my students for four months and I am very proud of their growth. I was only somewhat nervous, and the technology didn’t fail me. The questions were interesting: Kathy Cassidy was right: the first audience statement during the presentation was, “You mean anyone can see them?” Other questions after I spoke were about parent involvement and education, one about spelling,  and my favourite, “What did you need to do before you were successful?”. I said I had to fail. I had to learn what blogging wasn’t before I understood what it was. I said I also have to be able to fail in front of my students so I can model the two most important tech skills: troubleshooting and having a plan B (and C, and…).


I wish I had:

  • first surveyed the audience about their use of the Internet, and knowledge of blogging;
  • been more thorough in defining or touring a blog–what a post is etc.;
  • edited the video–at eight minutes it was too long;
  • emphasized more the need for peer-to-peer teacher support while teachers are taking risks. It would have been the perfect opportunity to get the bug in the ear of people who can make change happen and maybe get technology integration support positions in our district.


  • I have a fabulous PLN through Twitter.
  • Drinking water and not wearing under-wire are important to presenter comfort (learned that before–this is gender specific advice).
  • I know enough about the richness of blogging with students that I can actually say I have expertise, which surprises me.

No doubt I’ll present again–in fact I have to in April. So I am open to suggestions from your experiences–any advice on how to plan for and deliver to an audience about the power and potential of technology? Love to hear from you.

7 thoughts on “Presenting…to those who need to know.

  1. I think active engagement of the audience is very powerful. Is there some way you can involve your audience? Also, prizes! Some sort of door prize or participation prize is usually appreciated, moreso at conferences or workshops.

    Where are you presenting in April? VSS conference?

  2. Hi Errin,

    I agree that involving participants is the best scenario, and I wish I had found a way of doing that effectively. I had wanted to provide time for turn and talk, but the circumstances weren’t great: 55-ish adults in a space for 30 kids (our school library). But I could have done some surveying–I think that would have been good modeling of formative assessment. 🙂

    I am presenting to my master’s class, so close to home and a friendly audience that I know well. More of a stretch, I am presenting to North Vancouver teachers for their LAN Party (Learning at Night) via Skype next Wednesday night. Excited and slightly terrified, but willing to go out on this limb!

    Thanks for stopping by, Errin.

  3. Hi Jan,
    I was just checking out my twitter (am following you) and saw your post “My Teaching is Sticking”. Loved that post but was looking on your sidebar and saw this post… amazing. I am sitting in my hotel room – kind of nervous. I am presenting tomorrow on Blogging. I am a grade one teacher. My blog is
    I think you have visited it. Well you’ve given me some great advice for tomorrow. I was thinking of surveying the audience but now I will do it for sure. I made a wiki and will present from that.
    So I have little business cards to hand out with the wiki address instead of a handout.
    This is my first experience with presenting. Hopefully my love of blogging will shine though and it will go well.
    Thanks again for your post! It was perfect.

  4. Jan your advice is so timely. I happened back upon this while checking my blog stats (how ironic). I’ll be presenting to Trustees shortly myself – thanks for the tips!

  5. Hi Mary Ellen,

    Your wiki is really impressive–what a tremendous resource for your audience. And the business card–sheer genius! One of the promises of technology was supposed to be that we would save trees–what a great way to model that. Because you are providing it all via wiki your audience will opportunity to see and use all your great resources, and refer back to them as they explore blogging themselves.

    Have a great time with your presentation–it is such a wonderful growth opportunity because we have the chance to look at our practice and see what really makes a difference for learners. And of course we’re part of that community of learners.

    Nervous is good–try to have fun too!

  6. Cindy,
    I really appreciated your thoughts before my presentation. I know your work and am certain the Trustees will be influenced by what you have to say. Good luck!

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