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Presentation vs. Conversation

There’s learning to be had. Horizons to be broadened. Minds to be expanded (this can include yours and your students by the way). How do you best learn? This post has been stirring around for a while now, and I believe it was my good friend Steven Anderson that sparked it. He had tweeted something to the effect of, “How do we get away from the negative connotation of ‘making a presentation’?” My reply was, “How about ditching the word ‘presentation’ altogether?”.

This led me to think about Educon 2.3, which is coming up in about a week and a half. I’ve always liked how Educon referred to the sessions as “conversations” rather than “presentations.” Every session at Educon will be “an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.”

Let me clarify that I’m not trying to bash the idea of a traditional presentation. I’ll further clarify by saying that to me a “traditional presentation” is defined as one in which an audience sits and listens while information is presented on a screen at the front of the room. Do you think too much of this model is happening in our classrooms? What if more schools adopted the Educon model of conversing with their students instead of presenting to them?

Is there a place for this in K-12? Are we designing learning spaces effectively to foster this type of collaborative learning? How can we design lessons that foster both types of learning?

So back to my original question: How do you best learn? Listening to a presentation or being part of a conversation?


About Kyle Pace

Director of Technology, Google Certified, Apple Teacher, and connector of dots. Relationships are the key to all amazing things.


6 thoughts on “Presentation vs. Conversation

  1. I love presentations! I have to admit it. I’m a TED Talk addict and I learn best by listening and taking notes. I HATE being forced into conversations, although I enjoy being part of one.

    Posted by Susan Jean Stevens | January 17, 2011, 4:19 pm
  2. Hi Kyle,
    I like conversation! In one of the best sessions I went to last year, although presentation style, the presenter stopped once in while and gave 5-10 minutes of conversation time for participants to discuss amongst themselves. Sometimes he took comments and questions after the chat, but not always. It was a good compromise and really successful. Works in class too. I remember a while back we had a guest speaker for 6th graders and they were really chatty during his very engaging talk. When chastised afterwards for their’ impoliteness’, they pointed out that what he said was really interesting and they needed to discuss it in order to process, especially as he hadn’t taken questions along the way!

    Posted by whatedsaid | January 18, 2011, 7:41 am
  3. I like both presentations AND conversations. The critical part for me is that I have the choice – that the ‘locus of control’ resides with the learner.

    Having thought a lot about these issues, it has dawned on me that I need to opportunistically choose learning methods that suit the occasion.

    Sometimes I am in the mood to sit and listen, ponder and make notes – either privately or publicly (back channel).

    Sometimes my level of expertise with the topic at hand (none!) encourages me to listen to someone as they present background knowledge.

    Sometimes I am well-versed in a topic but struggle with nuance and so may need to have a diversity of opinion and perspective to help me sharpen my thoughts. A conversation will likely serve me better in that case.

    Sometimes I need non-linguistic representations of knowledge and want to absorb visual presentations. Or maybe the conversation could be supported with these multiple representations.

    Sometimes I am more introverted than other times and do not wish to engage in conversation.

    Sometimes I am so excited about something that I crave expressing myself through conversation – or presentation!

    Obviously, there are audience factors which also play into the efficacy of conversations.

    Ok…there are a few thoughts for this asynchronous conversation!



    Posted by peter skillen | January 18, 2011, 4:35 pm
  4. I too like both presentations and conversations but if given a choice I would probably choose conversations. In a recent planning meeting for an upcoming PD day our planning group decided to go with the keynote speaker’s suggestion that her talk be interspersed with small group conversations. The best of both worlds.

    Posted by elisaw5 | January 19, 2011, 12:00 am
  5. I believe in truth in advertising. Don’t try to walk me through a 90 slide “slide stack” in 90 minutes and call it a conversation.

    Posted by Becky Fisher | January 23, 2011, 2:03 pm


  1. Pingback: Let’s Get Together! | Finding Common Ground - January 29, 2011

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