Let’s Get Zen!

I decided to make changes to my presentation for my unit on Rat Trap Vehicles. I use Google Slides to guide my classes in each lesson of my unit. I teach the same lesson to all five of each grade level classes. So in this case I use the Rat Trap Vehicles presentation 5 times for each of the Grade 4 classes that I teach. The Google Presentation also helps me to make sure that my message is consistent to each of my classes. Perhaps this is not the best use for a slideshow?


Full disclosure: I have to redo this one anyway. I have decided to move away from rat traps as the “engine” for this project and use mousetraps instead. They are a lot less dangerous to use. I have more experience using mousetraps for this type of project (my predecessor used the rattraps and I was just continuing what he had been doing). So the use of the term Rattrap instead of mousetrap will be confusing to my students.The presentation is also mostly incomplete so this is a good presentation to fix up. So long story short this is a useful assignment for me that is going to add value to my unit. What you see below is the original presentation that introduces the unit. 



This is an interesting assignment for me because when I prepare a presentation part of what I am doing is making sure that each class gets the same message. Because of this I often use way too much text in my presentations. I often end up reading it to the class. Why do they need me if they could just read it themselves? In Project Zen Matt Helmke suggests the use of a leave behind document. I usually embed my presentations in my blog so that students can refer to them later but I am not sure that very many of them do. I could easily create a “leave behind document”… in this case a Google Doc that I could share with them through Teacher Dashboard. This much more detailed document would be more appropriate for this purpose. In our Unit on Lego Robotics the Grade 4’s have made use of a document that I created to guide their learning so this will be nothing new to them. Another chance to put good ideas into practice.



In his Ted Talk Garr Reynolds emphasises the use of storytelling as a technique for an effective presentation. This is where I am feeling a little bit of struggle. I don’t really see myself as telling a story when I make a presentation like this to the class. I do see how telling a story or turning my design brief into a story could be a great hook or inspire some great thinking in my classes. This will definitely be a work in progress. I will say that as I added images to my slideshow I could feel a story coming together. I am not sure what the story is. It just seems to me to be more of a story that my students can get behind and definitely make their own. Perhaps this is what he is talking about when he says that you have to think of your audience first and make them care. The images I have chosen should engage my students into really imagining what they want their vehicles to be. Instead of telling them what they should look like I am letting them imagine it themselves. I have also cut away the non-essential elements of the previous presentation. The newer version is cleaner and I believe much, much more interesting and engaging. Now it is time to field test the presentation to see if it really is Zen enough for my kids!

5 thoughts on “Let’s Get Zen!

  1. Awesome! Way to go!
    You did a great job of “zenning” your presentation and definitely it seems more thoughtful to your story… even if you’re not totally sure of what your story is 😉

    I think the biggest change is that your first presentation was definitely more leading YOU through your presentation and what you wanted to cover. The zen approach is harder not only because you have to be mindful of the images you choose but also because it means the presenter needs to be organized and understanding what the message is! That to me… is the toughest part 😉 I think as a presenter nerves hit and we depend on the slides to guide the ideas we wanted to present.

    I really love the video you shared- I am going to share this with my students for Exhibition. I would also, if it is okay with you, love to share the difference between your slideshows to see if students see the difference and spark conversation on the purpose of a presentation (story telling, theme, big ideas etc).

    Thanks for posting and inspiring!

    PS how awesome is your project??!

    1. Thanks for the amazing feedback.I agree that the first presentation leads ME through the presentation so I am a little nervous about forgetting what I want to cover. I think it will be worth it though. I am glad you like the video, feel free to share the two slideshows with your students.

      The project is super cool…the kids love it!


  2. Viewing the images in your second slide show had me hooked from the first one! It is amazing to see how just one powerful image creates so many questions, in someone’s mind, versus the text and image that often tells the person what they ‘need’ to think! I think your second slide show opens up a whole new level of openness and creativity for the students to experiment within. I can’t wait for J to tell me / show me, how he creates his car using the power of a mouse trap!! I am sitting here myself wondering what I would do!

    1. Thanks for your feedback Bee. I am super excited to see where J and classmates will take the inspiration. It’s going to be a lot of fun, that’s for sure!

  3. Hey Andrew…

    I’ve been working on my zen techniques as well. It really takes time to consider how to get the message across without words. The most interesting thing that I took away from the idea of revising how we present is that the presentation should not be able to stand alone. I think that I was also someone who tried to make presentations that could be posted on Moodle for later review, but as I discovered this makes the presentation less engaging in class… which is the truly important part.

    Using the presentation as a backdrop to inspire or engage students is great… but supporting it with your explanations is what makes the whole lesson truly an effective visual learning experience.

    Isn’t it funny that a simple change from small images with text beside them to large images with text on top of them can really put the zen in pre-zen-tation?

    Well done.

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