Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

Archive for the ‘21st Century Communication’ Category

We Are More Visually Savvy than Forbes: Death of Boring PowerPoints

Posted by durencls on September 10, 2012

We were highly amused to see this online article by Forbes magazine, published 9/7/2012:

Jeff Bezos and the End of PowerPoint As We Know It – by Carmine Gallo

Basing his article on the powerful presentation made by Jeff Bezos when unveiling the new Kindle Fire last week, the author, Gallo, states:

“… his presentation slides were light on text and heavy on images. This style of delivering presentations is fresh, engaging, and ultimately far more effective than slide after slide of wordy bullet points.

I’ve noticed that many business leaders around the world are adopting the image-rich style including very famous CEO’s such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and even Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The style works for any leader, in any industry.” [Emphasis added]

Not only is this article touting the efficacy of this presentation technique two years behind our recommendations, it is SIX years behind the dates of many of the resources we cited in our 2009 COABE presentation.

WE thought we were bringing an established practice to the field of Adult Literacy/ESOL education – which is often somewhat behind major technological changes in the corporate world.   Funny to find we were AHEAD of (or at least on par with) many in industry.

I was also interested by this quote by Gallo:

“I’ve discussed this technique before in more detail but in short, it’s called Picture Superiority. It simply means that the brain processes information more effectively when the information is presented in pictures and words instead of words alone. Neuroscientists have also found that when a slide (or advertisement) contains pictures and words, it’s best to have the picture on the left side of the page or slide and words on the right. [Emphasis added]

That is new news to me – I’d love to see that research cited somewhere. I’ve written the author to see if he can send me a citation.

In any case, one issue is clear – PowerPoints should be VISUAL – not text-based!!!  Join us in the (half-decade old) movement to stop ‘Death by Powerpoint’ and ineffective presentations!


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Tablet Computing

Posted by wrmcnutt on January 12, 2012

With the advent of tablet computers, all of us in technology are grappling with how to integrate them into business and educational environments.  The iPad is currently the 400-pound gorilla on the block, but there are others out here.  This is a look at Windows 8, the next platform in tablet computing.

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Technology In the Classroom, Technology in the Workplace | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Trends: Change in Phone Service

Posted by durencls on May 25, 2010

 Pew Research brought this to our attention:

Wireless Substitution: Preliminary results from the July-December 2009 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that one of every four American homes (24.5%) had only wireless telephones during the last half of 2009. In addition, one of every seven American homes (14.9%) had a landline yet received all or almost all calls on wireless telephones.

WOW – that’s almost 40% of households that are no longer depending on ‘landline’ or ‘wired’ telephone service!  Further details show demographic differences meaningful to the adult literacy education community:

  • Nearly half of adults aged 25-29 years (48.6%) lived in households with only wireless telephones.
  • More than one-third of adults aged 18-24 or 30-34 (37.8% and 37.2%, respectively) lived in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Adults living in poverty (36.3%) and adults living near poverty (29.0%) were more likely than higher income adults (19.6%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Hispanic adults (30.4%) were more likely than non-Hispanic white adults (21.0%) or non-Hispanic black adults (25.0%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.

And this trend is in sharp increase! (see below)

So – why is this so important (and why is the National Center for Health Statistics involved in a cell phone survey)?

Many health surveys, political polls, and other research are conducted using random-digit-dial telephone surveys. Until recently, these surveys did not include wireless telephone numbers in their samples. Now, despite operational challenges, most major survey research organizations are including wireless telephone numbers when conducting random-digit-dial telephone surveys. If they did not, the exclusion of households with only wireless telephones (along with the small proportion of households that have no telephone service) could bias results.

Ahhhh, so this could greatly affect phone survey research results – especially amongst many folks considered part of the adult literacy education population.  We need to start asking, when we read research, if this was a landline only survey.

BUT this ALSO tells us that cell phones are likely MORE prevalent in adult education classrooms than in the typical population!  This survey also tells us, “Approximately 2.0% of households had no telephone service (neither wireless nor landline). ”  Wow – that’s low – so how many is that? “Nearly 4 million adults…”

Hmmm – OK, so now I want to know how that correlates to education level.  Our luck, most of them would be adult literacy education candidates….which means that the odds are your AE student has either no phone, or a cell phone.  Neither of which can be looked up in the phone book.  😉

Cell phone photo: CCC permission 2.0 photocapy

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Pace of Change, Technology In the Classroom | Leave a Comment »

Teens and Cell Phones – Implications for the Future

Posted by durencls on May 6, 2010

So in surfing last night, I stumbled across a posting I initially thought was redundant – “yeah, yeah, yeah, teens and cell phones, I know all this.”  The more I looked at it, and thought about it, however, the more implications and connections it had for the future and education.  

From Flowtown‘s marketing blog: “How Are Teens Using Their Cell Phones?  (based on Pew Research)

As we’ve said before, futurism – predicting the future – is hard, and many have really failed at it.  But as educators’ mission is to prepare students for the future, we need to at least try to align our instruction with what we think are the most reasonable future predictions.  Once source for these predictions is “generational research/theory” – particularly the study of the behaviors and affinities of younger, “up and coming” members of society – teenagers and young adults (MillenialsGeneration Z, etc.).

So what predictions can we glean from this one graphic developed from marketing research?

  • Cell phones – mobile, wireless communication is now the norm, and this trend will continue.  Although only 37% of teens’ phones have internet access, most futurists predict wireless mobile computing will become much more ubiquitous. M-learning is a current educational hot topic.
  • Texting (which is a form of writing – honest), is preferred over auditory use of cell phones by teens. This trend is being seen more and more in all age groups. Short quick written updates – instant messaging, tweets, status updates, texts, etc. are becoming a tool for building community, marketing, finding information, etc.
    • Reading implication: the ability to successfully navigate this flood of “short hand notes”  will become critical. Skimming and scanning text and visuals, as well as fast-paced decision-making and prioritization skills (what is worth my time?) will be skills needed for success. [Hmmm, note to self, explore this more in a later post…]
    • Writing implication: the ability to communicate clearly in an ultra-concise format that grabs readers’ attention will be a critical skill.
  • Increased use of visuals to process an ever growing pile of information. This blog regularly posts such “infographics,” and in fact, this type of visual representation of data is becoming more and more popular. Continuing the trend we see in USA today, people want to be able to view statistics and info “at a glance.”  Also note that, after texting, the vast majority of teens use cell phones for taking and sharing pictures. The ability to process information presented visually – pictures, graphs, video is and will be key to success in the workplace.
  • The need for skepticism – This visual is, remember, a marketing tool, created from marketing research, likely to further a particular agenda.  All representations of data contain bias, and some can even be deliberately misleading (or even incorrect) in what they imply or show.  To be successful in a more fast-paced, information heavy, visual world, people will the skills to critically evaluate what they see, hear, and read for validity, bias, and intent. They need to know not just HOW to read a graph, but how the data connects to it, ways it can be visually manipulated, etc. They need to be critical consumers of visually presented data.

Wow.  All that in a graphic that most folks will look at for less than 2 minutes (if even that).

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Futurism, Meta-Skills | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Technology Applied to Unintended Uses

Posted by wrmcnutt on May 3, 2010

Dear AbbyThere was an interesting note in Dear Abby yesterday (4/29/2010).  The writer wanted to share an idea to get her children to read more.  Like many parents, “Proud Parents” would prefer their children to read.  The children preferred to watch more television.  The compromise that was reached was to turn off the audio on most programming, and allow the children to watch it only if they were willing to read the closed-captioning.

Closed Captioning

Closed Captioning

The result of this policy is that the childrens’ reading scores have greatly improved and the parents get more quiet time when the TV is on in the family room.  Abby rightly points out that closed-captioning, while intended for folks with disabilities, is a wonderful aid to people trying to develop ESOL skills.  I think that this technology would also be useful to adult learners working on conventional literacy issues.

Some teaching ideas/notes:

  • While many of you may have noted this before, adult learners may need some actual training on how to turn on closed captioning, and practice at doing so – you can provide this in the classroom.
  • Also note that you can have closed captioning on at the same time as the audio – great for those who are hard of hearing – and ESOL learners, and folks who are very beginning readers.
  • Even with the sound off, the visuals partnered along with the words on the screen can give struggling readers a boost – aiding in decoding and comprehension (building visual literacy?).
  • Another source of captioned materials – many YouTube videos are in another language and subtitled (see Medieval Tech Support!).
  • This again is a tool for practice, and should be partnered along with other reading instruction and practice activities in other formats – like online text, book text, e-mail, etc.

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Teaching Ideas | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Page – Effective Presentations

Posted by durencls on April 29, 2010

At the risk of feeling something like evangelists, Bill and I are currently advocating that all the instructors, trainers, and professional developers we know take a hard look at how they use PowerPoint for instructional purposes. All too often, brain research and what we know about effective communication is totally ignored when creating PowerPoint-based presentations.

This ties in, we find, to  the idea of ‘visual literacy’ – which  is currently being touted as a critical future technology/job skill.

We do not, however, have time available to start and maintain another blog on this topic – besides that are already many VERY good ones out there!  Instead, we’ve just created another page for this blog:
Effective Presentations

We will add to this page regularly  – as we have time or come across another cool new idea or resource.  Please take a moment to visit it  – our recent reads include: How PowerPoint is used in the military (badly), and some recent video clips found on the Presentation Zen blog.

As always, please feel free to let us know if you’ve found something interesting on this topic and we’ll see about adding it!

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Effective Presentations, Job Skills | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Collaborative Knowledge Generation – Dr. Wesch’s example

Posted by durencls on April 15, 2010

So, I was investigating how we can effectively use web 2.0 technology in adult education  and I ran across Dr. Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist and “digital ethnographer” focusing on the changes web 2.0 is having and could have on our society.   Reading through his blog, I came across this post – How to get students to find and read 94 articles before the next class

OK,” I thought – “…that sounds pretty cool, even if it was at the university level, how did he pull that off?”  Essentially, he used something like a classic cooperative learning Jigsaw. Each student was assigned to find online, read, and summarize 5 articles on a single class topic. Students entered this information quickly and easily into an online database so everyone could see what articles had already been submitted to avoid repetition.  Summaries were due 36 hours before the next class.  Students were then required to have READ everyone else’s summaries before class – in this case 96 articles (some folks entered more than 5).  His statement was that the class conversation resulting was phenomenal.  With such a a broad understanding of the topic, a much richer discussion and debate occurred.

So, thinking about this one cool example of collaborative knowledge generation – “Web 2.0 thinking” – I asked myself “What future skills does this example include?”  “How could we teach those skills to AE students?”   “How could we teach those skills without access to the internet or the technologies Wesch used?”

 OK – “Metaskills”  involved that *I* saw (in order):

  • Research – finding the articles on a topic on the web, at your readability level.
  • Reading – skimming (don’t need to read the whole article in depth in order to summarize the main points.)
  • Writing – creating a 3-4 sentence, concise summary of the main points in an article; writing a well stated clear summary for peers.
  • Reading/Critical Thinking Skills – Analyze and integrate reading with prior knowledge (synthesize, make connections, generalize, etc.)
  • Listening/Speaking skills – clearly communicate your points in a non-offensive manner, listen to other’s points and build on their thinking, respecting others’ points of view…
  • Hard Tech skills – Internet search techniques, Use of a web browser, basic typing skills. (Note that all but these last are also pretty clearly GED, workplace, and/or post-secondary ed skills as well.)

Wow.  And in the process they are automatically “creating knowledge collaboratively” – and learning to vlaue one another’s input. So what might this look like in an AE/ESOL class? With or without technology access?

How about a topic of career exploration? Each student chooses a job sector (like education or health or automotive, etc.) , and finds out about 2-5 jobs in that sector – via the internet, classifieds, interviews of folks holding those jobs, books magazines, etc.  They collect information that they feel their peers would want to know, and then prepare a short summary of these jobs  for their peers.  These summaries are communicated to their peers, and then a class discussion of career options is held.

Adjustments for learner’s functioning levels/access to technology:

  • Searches could be done via interview, online (e-mail, live chat, skype) or offline (in person or via phone); via the newspaper online or offline, via articles or web pages online or offline; books at different reading levels, etc.
  • Written information to be gathered could be dictated in part or in full by a list of teacher generated or student generated questions (individually or as a group), students’ writing tasks might be to fill out a form (online or on paper), or to write a more free-form paragraph – on paper or on a wiki, or a blog…
  • Students could have to read each other’s summaries or listen to them on recording (on or off line, with or without the written piece in front of them).  To stay in the spirit of this exercise, the reading/listening of each other’s summaries should be done independently or in small groups- not as a whole class “report out.” (One person reading while everyone else in class listens is the very opposite of “cooperative learning.” ) If done in small groups, folks could be grouped in like sectors for initial discussion or in unlike sectors to take back to a sector discussion (see below).
  • Follow -up discussion: Whole class discussion of best jobs, worst jobs, most interesting, most surprising. Have students group and discuss by sector before or after a cross sector discussion, etc.
  • Math Extension – add a survey component – ask questions about the class’s job preferences based on this research (how many want jobs in each sector, which are the best paying jobs, etc.), and graph results.

Here’s an example of how even low ESOL folks could participate: Students choose sector by photo, conducts interview in English, native language ,or through interpreter, but then must fill in a 3-4 line form with stuff like name of job, pay,  work hours/days, and whether or not they think they’d like the job, and “report out” orally to class.  Students then “vote” for jobs they’d like to have after hearing about all of them.  Based on this information- they go out and research more!

Whew! I’ll stop now.  Any other ideas or brainstorms prompted by Dr. Wesch’s strategy?

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Meta-Skills, Teaching Ideas | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

More Visual presentations

Posted by durencls on April 5, 2010

[From Wikipedia] Since technological advances continue to develop at an unprecedented rate, educators are increasingly promoting the learning of visual literacies as indispensable to life in the information age. Similar to linguistic literacy (meaning making derived from written or oral human language) commonly taught in schools, most educators would agree that literacy in the 21st Century has a wider scope.[3] Educators are recognizing the importance of helping students develop visual literacies in order to survive and communicate in a highly complex world.

The ability to process visual information  is becoming more and more important in our society. At the start of our COABE presentation, we cautioned that our presentation style was not typical – there would be no “handout of the slides” in part because there was almost no text on any of our slides.  We use a more “visual” style of presentation – which is in line with current trends and predictions for the future. 

The presentation style we use focuses on the presenter – what the LIVE person/people presenting have to say as the critical factor, not the text on the slides. The slide show itself is designed to emphasize, show analogies/metaphors, or expand on what the presenters are saying.  This presentation style leverages both a person’s auditory AND visual processing abilities in a complimentary (not competitive) manner. For more information on this presentation style,* check out our handout from COABE 2009 on this topic.

Migrant mother - Dorothea Lange 1936The old adage, “a picture is worth 1000 words,” is essentually accurate. It would take many many words to even try to convey all the information, emotion, and implications of the photo at left. And, in truth, each person viewing the photo brings different experiences and information to the viewing – making many different connections with that existing information in seconds.

Given the proliferation of information in our current and future societies, the ability to both process visual information and communicate  information visually seem like very key skills for the 21st century.

How do you foster these skills in adult education classes?  Please comment with your ideas!

*We did not invent this style, it is a melding of styles used by folks such as Lawrence Lessig, Dick Hardt, Andy Goodman, Garr Reynolds, and others.

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Effective Presentations, Futurism, Meta-Skills | Tagged: | 1 Comment »