Ignite: An Innovative Approach to Presentations

ignitelogoThis summer, I was lucky enough to attend ASCD’s Leader to Leader (L2L) event on behalf of the Massachusetts affiliate of ASCD.  The purpose of the conference is to bring together affiliate leaders and members, building capacity and fostering collaboration.  During this event, ASCD staff and affiliate leaders shared Ignite sessions, which are, by definition, five-minute presentations that are comprised of 20 slides, each displayed for exactly 15 seconds. The slides move forward automatically, despite the presenter’s readiness, which creates a very quick, engaging, and dynamic atmosphere.  The slides often display visuals, as opposed to traditional text-based presentations.  The Ignite structure forces presenters to be succinct and clear, in addition to necessitating movement, energy, and preparedness. If you are interested in learning more, check out the history of Ignite events via Wikipedia or some additional information about what Ignite talks entail.

I also wanted to share with you the Ignite session presented by Massachusetts ASCD affiliate leader and alum of Lesley University’s Educational Technology Master’s program, Suzy Brooks. Suzy is a third grade teacher, in addition to serving as an EdTechTeacher consulting instructor.  Suzy created and shared an inspiring blog post about the experience of creating and sharing an Ignite session, describing each stage of the difficult and quite rewarding process.  Ignite talks can be an exciting vehicle to kick-off and set the tone for a class, meeting, or conference.

EdCamp Lesley is Coming this November!

edcamp_lesley_logoHave you heard of the “un-conference” movement that’s been spreading across the country and world since 2010? They are akin to a “collaborative conference,” where the conference attendees help to build and create the experience. EdCamps are ad-hoc “unconferences” organized by and for educators. In an article last fall, Justin Reich and Dan Callahan stated, “Edcamps are responsive to the needs of participating teachers, free to attend, inexpensive to host, free of vendor presence, and organized around the belief that attendees each have knowledge worth sharing.”

I have attended several EdCamps so far and made three primary observations. For starters, it is a marvelous movement that truly makes learning and professional development come alive when every attendee is empowered to offer their knowledge as opposed to being a passive participant. Secondly, a vast majority of first-time attendees often state that they wish more of their graduate education programs and district/school professional development offerings were as interactive, engaging, and timely. And lastly, as a former teacher and administrator in the Boston Public Schools, I did not see very many teachers from the local city schools participating in this movement.

So, we are going to host our own EdCamp here at Lesley on Saturday, November 2nd. It is free to attend and we are encouraging faculty, students, alumni, and other educators to attend. The morning will start off with some informal networking and we will all “build the agenda” together. I know it sounds quite frightening, but it truly is a wonderful experience. You can learn more about the EdCamp model via the EdCamp Foundation or the EdCamp wiki. There are also several videos online that can provide more context.

You can register today to reserve your seat at: https://www.lesleyelis.com/edcamplesley.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

The New myLesley Calendar is Here

myLesley has a brand new calendar tool. Not only does it have a more modern look and functionality, but now you can personalize and customize it to your needs.

myLesley calendar

View calendar events by day, week or month and view all course calendars at once. Select which calendars you want to view and color code calendars to quickly identify personal, course or university items.


Instructors can easily create new events for their courses and both instructors and students can add personal events. Course assignments with due dates will automatically appear on the calendar.

Need to edit an event? Simply click on the event to open it or drag and drop it to the new date. Instructors can change assignment due dates in the calendar making it easy to update your course for the new semester. Need to update the assignment details. Just click on ‘Edit this Assignment’ and go directly to the assignment.


Do you use Google calendar for your personal events? Export your myLesley calendar to Google or other calendar tool and have everything in one place.


You can access the new calendar in two ways:

Click on your name in the top right corner and then click on the calendar icon…

… or click on Tools in any myLesley course menu and then click on Calendar.


For more information on how to use the new calendar tool, watch the video tutorial below or check out the handy step-by-step overview.

Engaging Learners in the Real World: Field Observations


Students often spend much of their time in classes talking about the content of their courses rather than applying that content. Moving students more quickly towards applying content in authentic ways can enhance and strengthen students’ understanding of concepts and ideas – something that can be difficult through abstract discourse.

If you would like your students to learn through application, field observations can be a very effective way to bring the real world into the classroom.  In his fully online course Introduction to Sociology, Netra Darai uses several “Participant Observations” in which students go out into their local communities to study a particular topic, and report and discuss their experiences with their classmates via a blog.  In a unit on social class, his students speak to staff members of organizations supporting the homeless. In a unit on gender and age, they interview an elderly person they know.

In her hybrid course, Cross Cultural Psychology, which meets face-to-face once per week, Katie Howe uses similar field observations. For example, in a unit on McDonaldization, her students visit popular chain stores, restaurants or local sporting events to examine how such establishments follow principles of McDonaldization (efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control).  Students then present a brief report on their observations in class.

If you would like assistance with crafting such assignments for your course, feel free to contact the instructional designers on the eLearning team or contact us at elis@lesley.edu.

Note: The image above is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Designing an Online Course with Brandon Strathmann – Part 2

Brandon Strathmann

Read Designing an Online Course with Brandon Strathmann – Part 1

I am a visual and linguistic storyteller who uses the communicative powers of the drawn character along with physical acting to engage my students. These are the personal touches that keep my students engaged in the learning process. The only way I could replace my lectures and demonstrations of original artistic lessons was by making videos of my teaching, so I prepared transcripts for the dozens of visual demonstrations that accompanied this class, where I provide all of the visual examples and instructions for the course’s many lessons. Without the content I put into these video transcripts, I would not have been able to write the in-depth weekly modules I needed to envision how the class would run online.

You design a very different course for students online than you do for a traditional class, one that has a great deal more in common with writing a book. It’s not a how-to-manual, but rather an autobiographical novel that tells in writing the things that would be difficult to convey without the written word.

The end result is a very different sort of classroom experience for my students and myself which required the development of it’s own teaching philosophy. Writing out the plans for these lessons I found that I could use exactly the right words to communicate the necessary concepts to I wished to teach my students. Creating these classes is a real test of how well you know your material; everything has to be planned in advance. I would have missed out on the opportunity for personal growth if I had immediately produced instructional videos for this class without making my write-ups.

Writing this course out in advance of teaching it required that I generate many thought provoking questions to provide for students I would never meet in person. In person critiques generate a fair amount of interesting comments and challenges to the artwork that is being presented by students in response to their assignments. But they do not come up with questions as insightful and instructional as the ones that an experienced artist, like myself provides. There is no way I could have each student in a traditional classroom answer the number of complicated questions I am able to pose to them as participants in this class. There is more time for students to give feedback on one another’s artwork in an online format, something I think will be very artistically enriching for everyone.

The saddest part about teaching online for me is losing the interaction between students and myself. I suppose some of this can be made up during on-campus office hours. There is a spontaneity that occurs in the chaos, urgency and danger improving the creative process that is missing for my online students since I’m not controlling the time they get to spend on the drawing exercises. You lose the benefits of the energy you feed off of a class when you lecture, but you gain absolute control of the classroom experience.

I found generating the all-encompassing content for this class to be very demanding, since it was an entirely new experience for me. I recommend that you give this learning process the time it needs so that you can reflect upon it as you go through the steps. I was lucky to have been able to plan for this class a year before I have to teach it. Online classes are designed to be accessible by a wide variety of learners through student-centered learning and require multiple examples of clearly described instruction. A huge advantage is that students have the opportunity to pause the content for breaks and have the chance to review the content at their own speed.

Making this class was a very time consuming process, due to my experimenting in intellectual territory I was unfamiliar with. That being said it was neat to test my ability to create a course that removed myself as a physical entity from the teaching process. I regret not accumulating more imagery resources early on during this process, as this would have made it easier for me to role-play and visualize how the class would go, rather than muscling through the content in a multitude of written attempts. But, I made a richer and heavily researched class as a result having to write it out, minus all visuals. So the struggle of writing taught me new methods of learning strategies and uncovering new ideas and working processes.

Collaboration is essential to succeeding at this difficult task, there is still a fair amount of work left to-be-done on this class before it is ready to be automated. I am grateful that I have help from the Learning Technologies Department to bring this class to life. Our student body is ever-changing and online classes provide them with new ways to learn with hi-tech tools.

Note: Image orignally published on aquariumofthepacific.org