Native American Boarding Schools, An EdCafe Discussion About.

Posted on May 29, 2013 by

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Presenting in the small EdCafe format was a new experience for me, mostly because of its informal nature. Whereas in previous presentations I had been situated in front of everyone else, presenting my work in constant prose and showing my careful preparation, the EdCafe was much different. Because I only presented to 3 (or fewer) students, the typical presentation format I was expecting gave way to a less formal, conversational, talk about what I had learned. It turned from an exhibit of a preparation, to a causal flow of the knowledge I had gained, where the direction of the topic shifted based on our interest, and the listeners interacted in their own learning. I believe that in many ways, this form of presentation is superior to the “typical” presentation, and the only reason for its rarity is that it is hard to facilitate. Generally, in classroom situations we cannot afford, in the interest of time and convenience, to converse and work together with the presenter. For my topic, Native American Boarding Schools, this manner of presenting was not necessarily helpful, but it shed some very interesting light on the topic. If the only ideas going around in the presentation had been mine, the whole product would have been limited. Instead, many ideas went around about the morality behind the schools, making it a more colorful discussion.

The EdCafe taught me a lot about informal presentations, what works and what doesn’t. What works well in an informal presentation is, very simply, casual and confident conversation. I found that when the presenter simply spoke in simple, everyday terms, and encouraged casual conversation and thinking about the topic, the presentation went smoothly. It was slightly awkward when the presenter would do their whole talk, and then converse at the end. It worked much better to weave conversation and questions into the discussion, rather than separating them from the general presentation. Also, organization (of the thoughts and topics of the presenter) was very helpful. Sometimes it seemed as though the presenter was scattered, and this was confusing at times.

Personally, I learned that as a presenter in an informal situation, I work well in casual situations. In our EdCafe, because I had so much information to share, I definitely “presented” more than I discussed with my group. However, there still was a fair bit of discussion in our group during my presentation, and the ideas flowed both from me and from the students in my groups. I actively responded to questions, and listened to the opinions of my group, but I definitely used all of the twenty minutes given to me. In essence, though I was a casual presenter, I definitely remained a “presenter”. Because I gained a true understanding of my topic and its implications, I could be a casual presenter, distilling complicated ideas into simpler explanations. I found that what really helped me was to have a planned order to the topics I wanted to cover. Without the planned order, I think I would have been fairly lost with all the information I had gathered. In retrospect, and taking into account the feedback from other students, I wish I would have saved a little more time to discuss at the end. If I had saved more time to pose some pointed discussion questions, to throw ideas around at the end, my EdCafe presentation would have improved. I felt that overall, I casually but effectively covered the information, and I did discuss with my EdCafe during the presentation, but a proper discussion would be the next step.

When listening to others’ sessions, I found that I was a very active listener, and participant. I asked some really good questions, and I think that I helped to tie in the topics with the greater ideas. I tended to participate more during their presentation, throwing in ideas, and asking both big-picture and clarifying questions. It was fun to be in the discussion, and I felt natural and interested. Overall, I had a lot of fun giving EdCafe presentations, and enjoyed being present for them. However, I think that I enjoyed presenting in the round table discussion more.

I felt that I gave strong, solid presentations with a lot of information included. I felt confident speaking in front of others, and in general I found it easy to present. One aspect that I need to work on in the future is the relaxation needed to lead an open discussion. Sometimes I get obsessed with giving all of the information I learned, teaching everything important. I need to work on letting this go, and providing space for discussion and thinking. In this way, I can allow for the other students in my EdCafe to participate more, and listen less.

As a member of discussion, I feel that I offered up good questions, helped the discussion, and listened quietly when appropriate. I’m not sure about which areas I can improve on as a participant in others’ discussions.

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