There are times when I don’t give workshops on Presentation Magic, but use the magic to distill complex and confusing ideas in workshops on Technology. Note I use a capital T here, to speak of the concept underlying what a technology is.
I’m often invited to speak to groups who by dint of their age, or life experiences, didn’t jump on board the Internet Train but instead have been thrown on board by their employers, children or friends and expected to enjoy the ride. But it’s not fun when you’re just being jostled about in rattling carriages with windows half-open and you can’t enjoy much of a view. Oh, and those same “benefactors” give you their hand-me-down Windows 98 boxes, or conversely Windows Vista! But that is the subject of another blog!
So I see my task for this group is to be a travel advisor and commentator, a kind of Lonely Planet guide, helping them plan their itineraries, pack the necessary gear for the trip, and make the journey more comfortable. Believe it or not, in my other work where as a Clinical Psychologist working with fearful flyers, I actually do take on that role, but that is also the subject of another blog, here.
In workshops like these, my primary aim using Apple’s Keynote is to illustrate the journey we humans have taken to get to 2008 technologies, by noting that all the Ages of Man have been denoted by the tools humans used, or the outcome of using those tools.
Think about it: We have the Iron Age, not just because ferrous material was discovered but the use to which it was put; and thus we also have a Copper Age and a Bronze Age. Later, after the Middle Ages and the Dark Ages where the Church’s edicts ruled how knowledge about nature was to be understood, an Age of Enlightenment dawned, led by the likes of Sir Isaac Newton.
In living memory, following another technology-based age, the Industrial Revolution, we’ve had the Information Age, the Age of the Knowledge Worker, and now with Web 2.0 and beyond, the Age of Connectivity, following the advent of the Internet which some have suggested has caused a more profound global shift than the Age of Moveable Type, i.e., Gutenberg’s development of print technologies.
By heavily illustrating these concepts in Keynote, I’m allowed to convey to my workshop audience the concept I hold to: that while technologies about us mught shift very quickly (e.g, the adoption rate of the cellphone, with the major exemplar being the iPhone) we humans don’t change too quickly at all – we use technologies for the same purposes as our ancestors did thousands of years ago. And sometimes we must acknowledge how technologies live double lives: that for which its creator intended it to be used, to solve some identifiable problem better than the previous “mousetrap” (for better, read cheaper, faster, more reliably, etc); and a second purpose, when others seeking to solve other problems, co-opt the technology to serve them.
So while the Internet’s fathers in the US, particularly around Stanford and MIT, wanted a means to have academic departments communicate and share files, would they ever have conceived of Google or YouTube or the iPhone for that matter?
We’re talking here of the late 1960s… a time of major social change following Kennedy’s pledge to put a man on the moon, the spread of the integrated circuit, and the effects of the introduction of the contraceptive pill.
There were movies and books discussing the “generation gap”, where a motto sprang forward in the late 1960s: “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”
But in recent times, analysts and social commentators have argued that this simple dichotomy based on year of birth is insufficient to explain the social changes currently being experienced. So we have descriptions of “Baby Boomers”, Gen X and Gen Y, and some say Gen M, where the M stands for Media or Me, reflecting a certain self-centredness perceived by Baby Boomers in their offspring.
But in a video below, made prior to the US elections urging young people to get out and vote for the first time, the young people portrayed describe themselves as Generation We.
The “We” is a collective noun, and reflects I think on new social media’s enabling one of technology’s main purposes: connectivity.
This is a generation of can-do’s, opting not to wait for their parents’ generation to fix the problems they created in their pursuit of happiness bought by consumerism. This is a generation who knows that technology must be harnessed if their future is not to be stricken with the excesses and ignorance of the previous generations.
And this is the generation who can decipher complex messages as long as they are delivered in an appropriate and appealing way. This generation, who have grown up with the expectation that information is available to them at the touch of a button, will not tolerate dumbed down, bullet-point driven message delivery methods (you knew I was getting there eventually, didn’t you?).
This is a group who will see thousands of messages in their lifetime, each competing for limited attention span. This group demands a much higher level of involvement in their own learning, who will not tolerate being lectured, and who will be far more self-sufficient than the current crop of recent college graduates.
If you are going to work with this group, either at college or by employing them, be aware that you will have to explore new ways of reaching out and holding their attention.
You will really have to understand learning styles, and accommodate the variations which hitherto have been ignored under a welter of poorly designed conventional slides or boring uninvolving presentations.
It’s presenting for the times we live in, with the available research on how knowledge is shared and shaped demanding technologies which can truly be called “enablers”.
When presenting I choose to use Apple’s Keynote as my enabling technology because it’s a better match to my cognitive style of conveying my ideas. It’s a personal thing, but I find Powerpoint even on the Mac, stifling and constraining. Mind you, when I speak to general audiences about styles of learning I’m platform-agnostic, and I rarely talk people out of using Powerpoint unless they expressly ask me what I used in my talks. That tells me they saw a difference and might be a little open to shifting their allegiances if they feel confident they can reproduce the kind of effects the have just witnessed.
Now take a little time to view the Generation We video, bearing in mind the pre-election period it was created in, and I thank my colleague Shawn Callahan of Anecdote.com for the heads-up.