It’s all about timing

A friend of mine has a favorite (two-part) joke:

What’sthedifferencebetweenagoodjokeandabadjoke?Timing.

What’s the difference between a good joke and a bad joke?
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………………………………………. Timing.

Any good joke relies on a combination of set-up, punchline, and timing.  Some jokes need very little comedic timing, some need a lot.  Very few need none.  Slide-show based presentations are no different.

Most people think they have a clear sense of how long to talk about a particular issue before moving on.  They’re probably wrong.  In a ten-minute presentation, it’s better to have thirty slides set on a timer than eight slides without a timer (and it’s probably better to make a eight-minute slide show with 25 slides, than have your audience of clients looking at their watches).

Putting your slides on a timer tells your audience three things:

  1. You have planned this presentation to take a certain amount of time;
  2. You have practiced this presentation enough that you’re confident of your content; and
  3. You know that your speech is not about you, but about your content.

In a timed presentation, you can’t suddenly change your mind about the important content; you are showing your audience that you care about them, that you’ve thought about their issue carefully, and you’ve identified certain content as being of particular value.  You’ve practiced sharing your insights with them, too.  And you know that the information they need is not so much about you.

You have, in other words, put your audience first.  You’re prepared to show them that you know their issue clearly and cleanly.  You have information to share with them.  And thus they’re less likely to interrupt in the middle of your talk.

PD and apprenticeship

The typical model for teachers to get additional training is to send them to a workshop. The teachers sit in rows, and listen to a single person’s or sometimes a group, for few hours. Each teacher walks away with one or two small ideas that might change their teaching practice, or might not. These changes will usually be small, and may not survive the school year. It is expensive, terms of travel and teaching time: a substitute needs to be hired, travel expenses need to be paid, and your school may not get what they need from the training.

When the success or failure of a MakerSpace is on the line (often with tens of thousands of dollars invested in tools, equipment, and space) professional development is a real gamble. There’s a very good chance that you won’t get the skills you need to run your MakerSpace effectively; or that the skills your teachers learn won’t be flexible to the equipment and tools that you have; or that you will get a one-trick pony, that can only do one thing.

Here’s why: teachers are experts in their chosen field, whether that be history or early childhood education, math or library science. But there is a very good chance, study suggest better-than-average, that your teachers don’t Make anything. They do not know how, or they know but do not want to. The ones who do make things, treat the Making that they do, as a hobby or as something that belongs to “outside-school” time, and they don’t want to cross the streams of hobby and profession.

For teachers — and just about everyone else — Making requires apprenticeship. All of our first efforts are bad. Pick the wrong wood, or the wrong color paint, or the wrong kind of plastic for the 3-D printer. We make the rookie mistakes — we did for a few years, ourselves. A third grader does not care that their work is “bad “, but a teacher (almost any adult, really) does. And the teacher is often afraid that their work will look bad to a student.

Everyone has a first year of teaching; everyone knows that the first year is the worst of your career.  Consciously or unconsciously, most teachers know that learning to be a maker will be like their first year of teaching all over again. A one-day workshop will not help; a better solution is daily or weekly guided instruction from someone who has already made some of the mistakes.  A model of master-and-apprentices, and the gradual introduction of journeymen and journey-women into the system, stands a much better chance of success than a single person in the artisan’s shop.

We can provide a range of options from one-on-one consulting and coaching, to regularly-scheduled workshops for your faculty over the course of the year. Contact us: we can help you.

Building a MakerSpace

Let’s say you’re part of an institution — a church, a library, a school — that’s decided to start a MakerSpace. You’ve read all the books, skimmed numerous articles, watched all the videos, and gotten the go-ahead from your stakeholders. You hired a contracting company, and the workmen are going to be ripping out walls and installing new electrical wiring any week now. You are completely confident in your plan, and you are sure that you have thought of everything. 

But what if you haven’t?

There are at least seventeen major errors that we are aware of, that most schools and libraries have failed to think about. Many of them have to do with the curious blind spots these organizations have with regard to planning for maker spaces and maker programs.  And unfortunately, the more money the organization is throwing us for your Mischel launch of their maker space, the more likely it is that they will make a greater number of these serious mistakes. Shortsighted thinking in favor of “building is now “can lead to costly and painful decision making later on. It can hamper the growth of the maker space program, and it can block it from becoming fully integrated into the institution’s existing program.

email us, or give us a phone call. Guide you through our checklist of common problems, risks , and opportunities.  For our low introductory consulting fee, we’ll guide you through the shoals where you are navigating blind.