Presentation vs. Conversation

There’s learning to be had. Horizons to be broadened. Minds to be expanded (this can include yours and your students by the way). How do you best learn? This post has been stirring around for a while now, and I believe it was my good friend Steven Anderson that sparked it. He had tweeted something to the effect of, “How do we get away from the negative connotation of ‘making a presentation’?” My reply was, “How about ditching the word ‘presentation’ altogether?”.

This led me to think about Educon 2.3, which is coming up in about a week and a half. I’ve always liked how Educon referred to the sessions as “conversations” rather than “presentations.” Every session at Educon will be “an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.”

Let me clarify that I’m not trying to bash the idea of a traditional presentation. I’ll further clarify by saying that to me a “traditional presentation” is defined as one in which an audience sits and listens while information is presented on a screen at the front of the room. Do you think too much of this model is happening in our classrooms? What if more schools adopted the Educon model of conversing with their students instead of presenting to them?

Is there a place for this in K-12? Are we designing learning spaces effectively to foster this type of collaborative learning? How can we design lessons that foster both types of learning?

So back to my original question: How do you best learn? Listening to a presentation or being part of a conversation?

7 thoughts on “Presentation vs. Conversation”

  1. Hi, Kyle,
    Really interesting thoughts. I just worked with a group of teachers to help reflect on the idea that presentations (particularly student-created ones) should not be about the actual presentation so much as they should be about communication, telling stories, and demonstrating learning. I’ve seen one too many student Power Points, for example, that include chunks of non-original texts and weird clip art, presented by students reading bullet points word-for-word. Awful. What did they learn as a result of that project? I have no idea.
    One main difference between presentations vs. conversations as we typically think of them is that during a presentation, the audience is passive. In a conversation, the participants are active. I *do* believe, however, that there are ways to design presentations that involve and engage the audience, bringing in the elements of conversation that lead to the best learning opportunities. Looking forward to the conversations at Educon! 🙂

  2. To answer your question, Kyle: I learn best through conversation. This is not to say presentations aren’t good – far from it. You can learn a lot from experts who present their information. However, it is so beneficial to take pieces of information and be able to reflect on them. Conversations with others in the field (and outside the field) are one of the best ways to do this.

    I’m excited to be working on a conversation with you (and Michelle and Yoon) at Educon 2.3. This post gave me a little boost of anticipation. To think that we will be leading the conversation around an important topic such as arts integration with some terrific educators is very exciting.

    Thanks again for another great post!

  3. Speaking as a teacher of 4th graders, I believe there is room for both “presentations” and “conversations.” I would hope that my students feel open enough and the classroom environment is trusting enough, that they would always feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in a discussion with me and their peers.

    I feel that there are better times for full on conversational dialogue, though. In a 10 minute mini -lesson, I think that a full on conversation could be disruptive and distracting to the flow and focus as we enter a new topic. But shortly afterwards, I can take a group of students and we can discuss things for a while.

    I agree that the word presentation is getting a negative connotation lately. But, I believe it all depends on the context of the particular learning.

    As always, thanks for sharing!

    – @newfirewithin

  4. Love your thinking here, Kyle. I do learn best in conversations especially when they are thoughtful and engaging. It’s a great way of thinking about the learning and teaching in our classrooms. I plan to share this with my staff tomorrow. Your post invites good reflection. Thanks so much.

  5. This is such an interesting post! Following New Hampshire’s Ed Tech conference the end of Nov, I reflected on my own “presentations.” I couldn’t help but think that standing up in front of a group of educators, many of whom had much to contribute themselves, felt very wrong. One of my “presentations” on developing your PLN, actually turned into a “conversation” near the end of my hr. The last 10 minutes suddenly felt very right and I knew that my definition of “presentation” could never be the same. A shift had happened-just as being the sage on the stage no longer feels right in the classroom, neither does that model feel right in this content created participatory culture. Thanks for sharing and inspiring this conversation!

  6. Hey Kyle, I like this thoughtful post. I think the problem
    is time. As long as K-12 is a time limited situation it is very
    hard to have a conversation. The reason is you can predict how long
    a presentation will take, but you can’t do the same for a
    conversation. If you are a teacher who has three topic to cover in
    an hour, you can’t spend 45 min having a conversation about the
    first one. This goes back to the factory model of learning. Schools
    exists to produce x amount of students per year on a regular
    schedule. To make a factory run smoothly you want a consistent
    production process. Therefore, conversations are difficult to

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