Summer Conference Take-aways

Have you attended a conference recently that transformed the way you worked after returning to your office? Conferences are a great way to network with others, hear salient ideas from thought leaders, and be inspired by colleagues from any number of disciplines.

This year I was fortunate to attend six conferences, one of which, was the UW-Madison Distance Teaching and Learning Conference held this summer in Madison, Wisconsin. Although there were many great insights and lessons learned at this conference, I especially enjoyed the sessions on video and interactive video content and their relevance in today’s training and educational world.

For example, James Moore from DePaul University shared take-aways from video best practices and educational videos. He explored how you can create engaging video for instruction using ScreenFlow, Screencast, or Camtasia. He encouraged content creators to use content from open sources. Referencing Richard Mayer’s multimedia principles, he underscored the importance of applying several of these principles to video as well. To help with poor audio, he suggested using a pop filter as a best practice to minimize audio distractions. In terms of recording video on mobile devices, he reminded those who videotape themselves to turn their phones sideways before recording video. Watching videos in portrait mode requires the brain to scan vertically, and it’s not conducive to the way we normally view the world.

Additionally, because many people are uncomfortable when presenting in front of a camera or often look quite scared, Moore suggests creating bullets on the Teleprompter for on-camera talent so they are not tempted to read verbatim. This helps them to not be as tied down to the teleprompter and hopefully, relax more. Additionally, Moore emphasized that many more viewers are watching video only on their phones, especially millennials, so realize your videos will most likely be viewed on small screens.

Matt Pierce from TechSmith was another presenter at the conference who also discussed the use of video for learning. According to a 2016 study conducted by TechSmith, participants watching instructional and informative videos often stopped watching the videos after around one minute, and their main reasons for stopping the video were because they were bored or it wasn’t providing them what they were looking for generally. This raises the bigger question of the need to continually explore how to engage viewers through video.

For those who wish to integrate content with video, there are some applications that allow you to create video content and then pause and allow students to respond in a comment or a question box. Learners may select an answer and then receive immediate, corrective feedback. As we know from multiple research studies that show the results of the testing effect, frequent quizzes that test recall often and give corrective feedback are essential for learning. John Orlando from Northcentral University recommends a variety of interactive content applications which include:  EDpuzzle; dot storming; Videoant; Thinglink; and Touchcast.

In terms of actual video production, Pierce suggests that if you do make a mistake while recording video to simply speak the line again. This is a more efficient way to record, rather than starting completely over as a new “take.” In post-production, the error can be edited out or smoothed over with a transition or cut-away clip. There are also ways to underscore your video productions and cue the viewers as to the most important content and parts of your video. For example, you can use a verbal signpost such as “If you hear nothing else, remember this . . . ” Phrases such as these alert the listener to pay extra special attention.

The best take-away from conferences, of course, is the ability to return to the workplace and apply something new. And hopefully, you and your organization will reap the benefits of transformation somewhere along the way . . .

What is one of your key take-aways from professional development or conferences you’ve attended this year?

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Finding Your Passion

mtn climb

Have you found your passion?

Is it mountain climbing? Writing? Performing on stage? Teaching? Making crafts? Cooking?

Joseph Campbell is attributed with the famous call to action to “follow your bliss.” This profound statement encourages all hearers to look deep inside and find within–that about which we are truly, innately passionate. However, mere discovery is only part of this call to action. This charge also necessitates the courage to follow and pursue one’s bliss. It’s almost as if an effervescent seed has been planted within – hidden clues on a scavenger hunt to find your life’s destiny. Once discovered, this passion can unfold with seemingly effortless ease.

But how does one find their passion?

We simply need to pay attention.

We’ve all observed those individuals who gravitate toward their natural interests. They radiate enthusiasm for those interests, and continue to apply them repeatedly, eventually becoming very skilled and highly respected in their areas of domain. These individuals can even become more effective and productive – quite simply, because they love what they do. Whether it be mountain climbing, childcare work, dental surgery, singing, acts of compassion, city engineering, or youth ministry, individuals who have found their passion realize what they were meant to do because they paid attention.

We can all think of people who are living their passion. The list is extensive, but here are a few exceptional individuals who come to mind. Feel free to use the reply box below to share others who exemplify passion to you.

  • Michael Jordan – an exceptional basketball player who sets his own gold standard.
  • Natalie MacMaster – who has a passion for Nova Scotia music, and is one of the world’s best Fiddlers.
  • Maya Angelou – a prolific American poet and author who has touched all our lives.
  • J.K. Rowling – renowed author of the Harry Potter series who said all she ever wanted to do was to write books.
  • Steve Jobs – revolutionized the way we communicate through technology with his leadership at Apple.
  • Derek Hough – a passionate dancer who continues to raise the bar for his own standards of ballroom dance.

Do you notice a pattern? There are actually several patterns emerging here, but some of them include:  enjoyment; talent, hard work; and focus. Another common pattern is that a natural outcome of their lives’ pursuit is the joy and inspiration it brings to others. You see, when you pursue your bliss, it’s not just you who benefits, but those with whom you share your talents and abilities.

Delivering presentations and speaking to audiences is one of my passions. Because I naturally love speaking to audiences, I enjoy the magic that comes from connecting with an audience whether it be in-person or in a virtual setting. Because of this, I also enjoy coaching others to improve their effectiveness as presenters. This is not something that you manufacture. This is not something you make yourself cultivate.

It just is.

Have you looked deep inside yourself? Have you found your passion? If you have, are you pursuing it? If not, what’s holding you back? The passion planted deep within you has a purpose for you and those around you. It is up to you to discover it, nurture it, improve your skill set, be mentored, gain experience, and then blossom by sharing your gifts with the world.

Although pursuing your passion may seem like an unsurmountable mountain pass at times, once you do what you love and love what you do, “the universe will open doors for you where {before} there were only walls.” (Joseph Campbell)

What is your bliss?

The Art of Attention

Have you ever noticed the way an infant first observes their world?

Their tiny, new fingers grasp and release, their newly opened eyes study and study again, and it seems as though all their sensory modalities are in high alert. Yet if you look deeper still, you will sense something in infants that is very different from ourselves. An infant’s perception contains no judgment, no labeling, and no immediate assessment of whom might be better, quicker, faster, smarter. They are not distracted by what might happen in two weeks, what should have really happened yesterday, or how they would change today if they could.

Their observation of their world around them is quite simply . . . pure perception in the moment.

There’s something to be said for being able to see the world without labels, without judgment and without comparisons. To be able to devote oneself fully to a task at hand and bring one’s attention to the present moment. When athletes or Olympians are so focused on their performance in a sport, onlookers sometimes comment that they are “in the zone.” In those cases, it’s almost as if the act of being and doing become one, and all thoughts are cleared, until only the task ahead remains with sharpened focus and clarity of vision.

So what is the application for our lives?

Our challenge is to be fully present and give our whole attention to whatever task we may be undertaking in a given moment. For some, this may be instructional design, for others it may be interacting with others by delivering a presentation, and for others still, it may be a walk in nature. Whatever the task, we have a choice to bring to the table our full awareness, our whole attention, our pure perception. Here the newborn child becomes our teacher. It is in this place of perception and acceptance, where we find ourselves connected to the flow of life–creative, productive, at peace, and present. In a world where acceleration is status quo, multi-tasking is on the rise, and multiple distractions are ever present, being able to apply the art of attention may be more necessary than ever.

What say you?