Friday, August 01, 2014

DENSI 2014 takeaways

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in August 2014 and is re-posted here with permission.

The Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute was held in Nashville, TN during the third week of July 2014. As a DEN Guru I was both a presenter and an attendee. It was an amazing week with a creative, dedicated, passionate group of Discovery STAR Educators and Discovery Education staff with special Discovery Communication guests, too.whiteline_discover


A smaller conference or institute (~250) is a great size for both getting to know others as well as provides enough of a diversity of jobs, experience, and passions to keep things interesting. Although we were scheduled tightly from 8am until 9pm each day, early risers were able to get together and discuss ideas and thoughts each morning at local cafes, and the late night crews and roommates were able to debrief into the wee hours.
Staying in dorms (at Vanderbilt University) adds to the experience. With common rooms to meet downstairs as well as suites of rooms to gather in, there were plenty of places for attendees to get together to share, recharge, and get ready for the next day. Taking over an entire dorm works well since there were no worries about disturbing anyone else with our “DENthusiasm”, laughter, and fun. Traipsing to the dining halls and feeling comfortable with facilities, campus, and Vanderbilt staff makes you feel like you are in a “home away from home” for the week.
Educators are special people. Throughout the week, I saw hundreds of examples of supportive and compassionate acts. From helping a newcomer, to teaching someone a new skill or pedagogy, and making everyone feel welcome and a valued member of the group, it truly exemplified what is unique to the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) community. Someone counted that there are 43 ways the DEN educators keep in touch virtually, and this was evident at the Institute as participants “Livestreamed” and “Glided” to those who were not able to attend in person. (Check  the Twitter hashtag #DENSI2014 and #NotAtDENSI14 to get an idea of the things that were shared.) And here are the archives of the streamed events.
Having a mix of days with scheduled concurrent sessions and unconference days gives everyone a chance to share and learn. Having the concurrent sessions before the the unconference seems to work well. The presenters sparked attendees with both the curiosity to learn more and also the willingness to share what they know on the topic with others in a more informal, conversational session.
Always bring all technology with you. I only brought my iPad with me to the conference, and there were many times I needed a laptop. Grin and bear the extra weight to lug around.
I still learn from others. Having a stellar group of educators at my disposal for a week to talk to, question, and pull successful practices from, helps me grow as a presenter and resource provider. I learned tons of tips, tricks, tools, strategies, and Discovery Streaming ideas. There were also two things that will help me hone my presentation craft…something I am always striving to do!

Honing my craft 1

Although I believe Adam Bellow’s presentations are not great just because of the “special effects”, but due to the story and passion he weaves throughout the story, he was asked to present at an unconference session on the process he uses to create his captivating presentations. The tips and tricks for the use of Keynote were many, and I was familiar with most of them. However, I did learn a new tool in Keynote (and Keynote for iPad) that will save me tons of time while preparing a presentation– Instant Alpha.
Here is an example of how this is going to both save me time and help me create better-looking presentations. Consider the fact I often screenshot icons of apps from the App Store and Google Play Store when I am showcasing apps in a presentation. With these rounded squares, there are always white corners on the square screenshot I have taken. If my slide had a white background, when I inserted the image onto the slide, it looked fine because the white tips did not show, but, if I added a shadow or border, it would shadow or border the square image I had screenshot rather than just the rounded rectangle icon.
If I brought it into an image editor program, I could outline just the rounded square and copy and paste the resulting outlined image onto the slide. This was necessary both when the background of the slide was another color and when I wanted to add a border or shadow to just the rounded square icon.
I may do this 50 or 60 times when preparing a presentation and it is very time-consuming. Using my new best friend, the Instant Alpha tool in Keynote, is so much easier and allows me to complete this task in no time!
I simply paste an image onto the slide, tap the image, go to tools, image edit, chose Instant Alpha, and swipe or mouse over the areas I want to “disappear”. I then have an image that is transparent in the areas where I want the background to show through and also allows me to add borders and shadows to the shape itself, not the square area that was the original screenshot.
You can see the process done in Keynote for the iPad below.
IMG_1685  IMG_1686
IMG_1687  IMG_1688

Honing my craft 2


David Fisher, a DEN Guru, had come up with a new addition to the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute called “DENspeaks”, These short sessions were Ignite-like sessions with few slides and 5 minutes in length. The content of all the DENspeaks sessions presented was engaging. I also learned two new things for my presentation toolbox!

Karen Ogen, a DEN Guru, created the visuals in her DENspeaks presentation using the online tool, Videoscribe. It was self-running and her ability to present in sync with the movie behind her was super! I want to try this tool soon.

Dennis Grice, a DEN Guru, presented his DENspeaks presentation on the last day of the Institute. His content for the entire five minutes consisted of simply thought-provoking questions tied together by contextual clues and supported by background images. I would be willing to try do an Ignite session in this format. Now I just have to collect the questions to spur conversation on the items I am passionate about!