January 2012 Archives

I want to remind all of us to bring along a set of PowerPoint or Keynote slides to class tomorrow. It doesn't matter whether they're yours or someone else's, but we'll use them to kickstart our discussion about what makes a good visual aid.

ALSO, prior to tomorrow's class, I'd like you to watch this online presentation by Lawrence Lessig. Lessig is a law professor from Stanford who has developed a worldwide reputation due, in part, to his unusual presentation style. I'd like each of you to think about what elements of his style are unusual or different compared to a more 'normal' presentation.

Internet Is Freedom

For next week's meeting, I've asked you to write a haiku-style poem that sums up one aspect of your research. As further inspiration, I've posted a couple of examples that students shared with the class last year:

No one knows the law
when half of it is divine,
and half is belief.
- Ben (Geography)

Unable to adapt,
within montane coves they wait
for warmer climate.
- Amy (Ecology, Evolution and Behavior)

In addition, I'd like you to watch Kenichiro Mogi deliver a TED talk about the wonder of science. Pay attention to the language he uses to talk about his research. How does his speech differ from the normal vocabulary scientists use in research presentations?

Finally, please read Edward Tufte's classic polemic on the (as he sees it) negative impact of slideware on reason and discourse: The cognitive style of PowerPoint. We'll discuss it in class next week.

At some point, all of us are faced with the challenge of talking about our research in public. Whether we're speaking to our colleagues, an audience at a professional conference or even our family and friends, it can be a struggle to get across the results of months (or years!) of work in only a few minutes.

In this seminar, we'll talk about ways to improve scientific or professional communication. More importantly, students will have the chance to experiment with several different presentation methods and see what method works best for them. By the end of the semester, I hope that we'll be better equipped to discuss our research with both experts and non-specialists. I also expect that students will have put together a set of visual aids that they'll be able to use later in conference presentations, job interviews or public outreach.

As a 'pre-work' assignment, I've attached an article on scientific presentations published by the journal Groundwater in the mid 1980s. The tone of the article is pretty aggressive but it makes several good points about problems that I often see at professional conferences. I'll ask each of you to read this (very short) article before tomorrow's class; it should help you get a sense for some of the themes we'll discuss over the next few months.

'Let there be stoning!'

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