Pecha Kucha as a Student Engagement Tool

This video is an example of a Pecha Kucha presentation – 20 timed images creatively supporting a topic being presented. A “classic” Pecha Kucha is 20 slides by 20 seconds each, for a total length of 6:40.  I’ve used the modified “Ignite Talk” format of 20 slides by 15 seconds each to stay within the 5 minute requirement.

I discovered first-hand that the simple format can be very deceptive: you need to know your topic, and you really need to practice to deliver a concise presentation in sync with the images! That being said, it’s a very simple, creative outlet … I might just check out a local PK night soon smile

Poster Sessions

There’s a simple and effective teaching technique described in the PIDP textbook Student Engagement Techniques (Barkley, 2010) that I hadn’t seen before called “Poster Sessions”. The technique is described very well in the digital project by past student John Boulton.

One of the strengths of the Poster Sessions technique is to maximize student engagement. Boulton points out a key fact that we must face as educators:

The key to engaging the disengaged is to recognize that there simply is no catch-all solution that will work for all.

To summarize the technique:

  • An interactive discussion is held in which students actively choose the topic for their assigned group. This helps achieve buy-in.
  • Each group researches their topic, summarizing their findings on a poster
  • The groups each exhibit their posters on a pre-chosen deadline day. Half the students view the exhibition and ask questions, while the other half continue their work.

I’m in the middle of delivering a brand-new course this week, and am a little stuck to come up with an exercise to cap off the three-day course. I think I’ve found my approach … this is definitely just-in-time learning!


  • Barkley, E. F. (2010). In E. F. Barkley, Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty (p. 13). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Boulton, J. (2015, October 3). Poster Sessions. Retrieved from YouTube:

Don’t forget Mom

I had a great phone conversation with my Mom yesterday. We always talk about the latest BC Lions game (I now owe her THREE appetizers), how the families are, and what’s going on for each of us personally. This time, we also talked about banking technology.mikeandmom

The conversation progressed from her frustration with her bank to the latest trends in business and technology. She feels left out. Really left out. The letter sent by her Credit Union assumed she would be happy to complete her renewal online. She mentioned that she often talks with my stepdad about how much things are changing, and how quickly. Our culture assumes that seniors are happy to do their thing, while the world does ours.

We discussed the difference between being a senior today and a generation ago. My mom’s generation lives longer, stays active, and has much more wealth than any previous generation.They want to be included, even though it’s a huge challenge to keep up. Their parents passed the baton and moved on to activities to keep them busy for a few years until their health deteriorated. Today, that can be a very long wait. I think we’re missing out by excluding baby-boomer seniors from business, social activities … and education.Read More »

Simulation Based Learning

As a technical trainer, I feel pressure to leverage current technology and approaches as much as possible. More and more, student’s tolerance for a stream of PowerPoint slides is waning. I can tell it’s time to mix it up when the eyes glaze over and the cell phones come out. After viewing a multimedia presentation by past PIDP 3250 student Jeremy Boyne, I realized that Simulation Based Learning – or SBL – is something I really need to consider.

Aircraft Pushback and Tow Simulator

Jeremy points out that SBL leverages three active learning components:

  1. Authentic Assessment
  2. Situated Cognition
  3. Problem Based Learning

Each of these approaches has significant merit in themselves. When put to work together some very powerful learning tools can be created.

I already leverage certain elements of these three components in my 00574e1043bworkshops. I often assign real-world tasks for the students to solve which provides the opportunity for students to apply existing and newly acquired knowledge to complete a relevant task. Much of my training is situated in the office environment, with the coworkers and equipment that the student will be using upon completion of the training. Some of my assignments present a problem which requires the students to leverage course material to solve. However, I’ve yet to develop specific SBL exercises that make all of this work together.

So … I’m now on the hunt for tools and approaches to leverage SBL, especially in my upcoming online self-serve courses. It will more than make up for some of the inherent pitfalls of asynchronous learning.


Boyne, J. (2016, February 7). PIDP 3250: Multimedia Project. Retrieved from YouTube:

BROWN, C. &. (2016, Feburary). SITUATED COGNITION. Retrieved from Learning Theories:

Mueller, J. (2016). Authentic Assessment Toolbox. Retrieved from North Central College Faculty:

Woods, D. (2016). Problem-Based Learning (PBL). Retrieved from McMaster University:

World Teacher’s Day

This video just reminded me that our current Prime Minister is/was a teacher.

Some key quotes from this Facebook video regarding student engagement and motivation:

Be yourself, talk from the heart, and it will always get you to good places.- Darrell Samson (quoting his teacher)

If you believe in people, encourage them, support them, then you will elevate them to greater heights. – Filomena Tassi

It’s always a very inspiring thing for me to work with young people … we need young people to think critically about the world around them. – Shaun Chen

It is our responsibility to create an environment that allows [young people] to be engaged. – Darrell Samson

Just in time

I read a post today from a classmate regarding Just-in-Time Learning (thanks Thea!). The concept is to deliver training to workers when and where they need it. (Sabataro, 2000) In the training arm of my consulting business, I work with clients to keep their technical 5362139-sapling-at-barren-landstaff productive and up-to-date while minimizing impact to their “day job”.  Often, I’m brought in for an intense week of on-site training while a skeleton crew keeps things running. There are inevitably a few interruptions during the class because, well, things happen. I dance to accommodate, students are distracted by the work piling up on their desk, and the boss considers the whole thing a necessary evil. Not exactly the richest soil to encourage deep learning.


So, I’m working on a self-serve strategy to put my material at the fingertips of the learner for consumption in bite-sized pieces. And now I know what to call it: Just-in-Time Training. Need to work on feature X of system Y next week? Bring up the video, read the material, take the quiz, and  … get back to work!




Can we talk about … emotions?

As I read about the Affective Domain as part of Bloom’s Taxonomy, I can’t help thinking that I rarely consider the emotional side of adult education. For some reason I have this impression that, after K-12, students have matured to the point where they can (and should) just check their feelings at the classroom door and get on with cognitive learning. Is that realistic?  Is it maybe missing a whole realm of learning opportunities?

I’ve had experiences as both teacher and student where engagement was nothing but an uphill battle. The topic was boring and we all felt like we wanted to be somewhere else. If we could bring ourselves to address the big, boring elephant in the room and make us want to be there, wouldn’t that be refreshing? Productive? Dare I say … FUN??

Perhaps we could take this one step farther. Once we recognize that we all bring our emotions into the classroom, couldn’t we view that as a tool? At the risk of sounding manipulative, it’s an intriguing idea to go beyond the cognitive and use students’ emotions to facilitate the learning. We could present ideas in exciting ways. We could stir feelings of disgust or sadness or hatred, as appropriate.

Now that I can’t unlearn the fact that emotions will play a part in my teaching – whether I like it or not – I may as well consider that another tool to serve the purpose. I’m sure it will make the experience far more interesting for me as well.

Confirmation Bias

Have you ever had an otherwise reasonable person dig in their heels and refuse to listen to reason on a particular topic? You know, those easy topics like religion, politics … or even sports? We all have a tendency to remember the facts that support our initial theory, and de-emphasize (aka ignore) those that don’t. This tendency is confirmation bias.

Enjoy this example …



Vygotsky (1978) came up with the term “zone of proximal development” to describe the right challenge level to maximize learning for a given student. Ideally, each student will receive instruction, material and an environment that will place them right in their own personal ZPD. Ideally.

Now that I have term for this somewhat commonsense ideal, how do I apply it in the real world? As I create technical and business training programs, do I design the course to optimally challenge the average student? The least experienced? The model student?  This may be orders of magnitude more difficult as I shift to self-serve, online courses. Wouldn’t it be cool to custom tailor an online curriculum based on each students’ ZPD and Multiple Intelligence profile? That’s an intriguing challenge …

Multiple Intelligences

I heard from a friend this week that he’s observed some of the most successful people he knows are dyslexic. I’ve met a number of musicians over the years who can remember hundreds of songs – chords, lyrics, arrangements, etc. – but find it very difficult to recall much of what they learned in high school. This supports the learning theory of Multiple Intelligences -the idea that each of us have strengths and weaknesses across at least eight different types of intelligences.


According to American psychologist Howard Gardner, the eight intelligences are:

  • Linguistic – The word player
  • Logical / Mathematical – The questioner
  • Visual / Spatial – The visualiser
  • Musical – The music lover
  • Bodily / Kinaesthetic – The mover
  • Interpersonal – The socialiser
  • Intrapersonal – The loner
  • Naturalistic – The nature lover (added by Gardner at a later date)

Of course, each of us tend to be stronger or weaker in a variety of these. I suspect we can also develop intelligences in some of these areas with focused learning.

I plan to keep this list handy for upcoming classes – the more I can recognize and appeal to each student’s strength, the more likely I can help them learn the material.