On Monday, September 24, I presented at the 2012 Statewide IT Conference with my friend Sarah McAfoose. You may remember her from this spring’s Society of Indiana Archivists Annual Meeting. When we spotted the call for proposals over the summer we jumped at the chance to present together again, in particular because we have a shared interest in instructional technology–she teaches for IU’s IT Training department and I teach library instruction sessions. We opted to present on the oh-so-trendy topic of the flipped classroom.
Our time slot was from 4:30-5:00pm. I worked from 8-1, went to class at 1, snuck (okay, okay, sneaked if you really want to be a grammarian but it sounds so weird) out of class to practice with Sarah at 2:30, then headed to the Indiana Memorial Union at 4. We were slated to present in the Frangipani room, which resembled the fluorescent chamber of horrors that was my middle school cafeteria. We sat in the back of the room, anticipating to wait until 4:25 before setting up our equipment, as we had been asked to cut our presentations five minutes short (including questions) to ensure that the next presenters could set up their equipment and start on time themselves. Well, maybe the presenters preceding us didn’t get the memo, because this did not happen. We found ourselves standing awkwardly at the back of the room with some attendees looking on sympathetically at 4:30–when our presentation was supposed to be starting!–as the presenters continued to answer audience questions. Meanwhile, the moderator looked back and forth between us and the speakers without uttering a word, a less than helpful approach to her job duties.
Finally the group preceding us realized we were waiting and finished up, and a minute or two after we were supposed to start we approached the front of the room. Next, to exacerbate our late start, a flurry of that awful tech-induced chaos we have ALL seen go down in the front of the room happened to us. When we got to the presenters’ cart we were told to use the Macbook located there… except of course we had also been explicitly told via email late in the previous week to make sure to bring our own laptops, as there would not necessarily be one in each room. So then after they scrambled to find the right connector and we swapped out the Mac for Sarah’s computer, naturally it would not connect to the projector. We reverted to the Mac. What a scene! Flashdrives were being whipped out left and right; the speakers we brought with us got unpacked and swiftly repacked. By the time we began it was just about 4:40. We knew it would be a crunch to fit our 20 minute presentation into what, 10 minutes, given the Q&A and prep time for the next group? Sarah began the first half of our presentation, and naturally, the embedded video wouldn’t connect due to some difference between Windows and Mac systems. Thank goodness she was a calm and collected master at the helm as she made it work. Tim Gunn would be proud.When I started my half of the presentation (how to determine whether the flipped classroom is right for you & initial steps toward flipping your classroom), I was feeling a bit out of sorts in my surroundings. One of the funny thing about presentations is that you never know what the environment you present in will be; I always have a mental image that is completely dashed by the actual surroundings. In this case, I pictured Sarah and I happy as clams seated next to each other at a table. I didn’t imagine a little computer cart with an affixed video camera and a lone standing microphone. I didn’t imagine having to keep myself from compulsively running my hand over my paper as I stood there like a stand up comic up against a nonplussed crowd, that smug little camera winking and blinking with its tell-tale red dot. Indeed, by the time I started speaking I forgot to use the clicker lying innocuously on the cart. I didn’t remember until a few slides in. Rather, I leaned over each time to tap the arrow key on the keyboard, which I imagine appeared quite ungainly. Conclusion: I’m not so sure I’ll be watching this footage of myself. I am a fan of challenge, of toughening the heck up, but hearing/seeing/experiencing oneself on camera is a whole other pain point. You have to confront (and by that I mean answer in the affirmative) questions like, Does my voice really SOUND like that? Oh, wait, my profile LOOKS like that? And you relive the awkwardness of your own damn self. Captured! Archived! Extant! For me, the sensation of watching myself has always led to feelings of wanting to hide under a rock. On a good day, for a good presentation, I could handle it. For that hot mess? No thanks.
After I finished speaking, we asked if anyone had experiences with the flipped classroom and received a few comments: two teachers with good experiences, one instructional technologist with a bad experience. Afterward the latter woman came up to us, said she loved that we focused on the topic, and joy of joys, I was able to share my ideas for flipped library instruction with her. I am totally out of my depth in considering the flipped classroom in higher ed, but library instruction I can absolutely do.
I’m just overjoyed that we got through it. Sarah and I had prepared diligently and we knew our stuff, which made our situation at the Statewide IT Conference that much more frustrating. Add the fact that it was, hello, a technology conference and the whole story becomes laughably ironic. However, even our unfortunate experience doesn’t change how much I love presenting, instructing, public speaking. I am learning how to be better through trial by fire, and to me that is the apex of satisfaction. Lately I’ve mused about why I am pushing myself to present so much. Am I letting myself be an obsessive overachiever and contributing to future burnout? Should I be focusing more on my courses? It’s instinctual to push myself right now, though. The more I do the more I can do. I trust my intuition and that tells me to keep presenting and honing my skills, my confidence. I meet the coolest people. I think it’s turning me into a leader.
Sarah and I outside the IMU after our presentation. We did also take photos outside the Frangipani room with the sign that said our presentation title and names, all official-like, but we are washed out like nobody’s business (I look like like an alien due to my large eyes and the waxy yellow light). I could fit right in on a science fiction program in those photos, so here’s a better one. Nature!