"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Friday, January 25, 2013

All my old presentation methods DO have a use!

I found some interesting articles on reading as I am preparing a mini-presentation for a group on the "dys-learning disabilities" (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia).  This is a perspective on  reading.
In the 1970s, educational researchers who were seeking the answer to how people learn to read studied two possible options. Some researchers thought “context” or recognition of whole words and phrases was the most efficient way to read. Speed-reading methods developed during that time used to train people to read whole words and groups of words fast may be based on this method. Others believed good readers recognized “features,” the lines and contours used to form letters, to learn to read.
What they found was that we read more efficiently and that we remember more of what we read when we use feature-recognition reading. When we learn to recognize letter shapes and the rules for writing words, and commit these things to memory, reading does become automatic.
When we pick a curriculum and we are working with readers having difficulties, we can minimize barriers and assist all readers, and especially readers who have low-reading skills, by following some helpful guidelines.  If you are helping your struggling reader by making worksheets or notes for them, keep in mind the following suggestions:
  • Use “plain language” or “simplified language.” Careless writing can reduce you student’s ability to read and comprehend. Using a consistent, common, recognizable vocabulary improves reading comprehension.
  • Format text for easy reading. Poor text presentation can block reading and comprehension altogether for unskilled readers. The font style, size, and color can disrupt reading. And the spacing between letters in a word, or between words in a sentence, can interfere with efficient reading and with comprehension. Low contrast between text and the background interferes with vision and slows reading speed.  This is imperative for dyslexic readers.
  • Use highly-readable fonts and visually emphasized words that help rather than hinder readers. The visual system is optimized to see structure and when structure is absent, we struggle to understand what we see.
  • Use a visual hierarchy of font sizes, headings, and lists. The more structured and brief the presentation of information, the easier it is to scan and comprehend. Allow your student to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for.
  • Edit for clarity and brevity. Avoid repetitive, wordy text that buries the important information in the middle of clutter
  • Use flush left text whenever possible. Using centered text makes reading more difficult because the eye has to travel to a different place in the line, hindering automatic eye movement.
Twenty years ago, when I did my first training presentation, I learned the following methods which line up nicely with the rules above. Now, I HATE (yes, I just yelled) presentations that are stuffed with bullet point lists and I thought that was an abysmal way to train.  However, those bullet point lists make great handouts.  They should never be the presentation.  So, think about the rules for a good presentation slide from twenty years ago, using the old rules:
  • No more than 10 items per slide
  • No more than 10 words per line, if possible
  • Bullet points/outline form
  • Arial, Courier or Times New Roman Font
  • Black on white
  • KISS method (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)
  • Double spaced
And, consider making notes for your kids that are struggling, especially with middle-school or high-school subjects and teach them how to do it, too.
Dirkson, Julie. 2012. Design for How People Learn. Berkley: CA. New Riders. 
Johnson, Jeff. 2010. Designing with the Mind in Mind. New York: NY. Morgan Kaufman Publishers.

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