Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Vital Visualization 2/03/09

The things we know best are the things we haven't been taught.

Marquis de Vauvenargues
A mid winter hello to you.

Any good teacher will say that the best way to teach is to set out the finger posts and trail markers that allow a student to discover knowledge and understanding on his own, and when he comes back to the teacher and explains how things are to resist the, oh, so difficult temptation of saying "That's what I was trying to tell you."

I have known people, myself included, who were baffled and bored by complicated instructions only to discover on their own what they were trying to discover in the classroom. I used to tell acting students "Acting is simple, it's just not easy." When one finally puts all the pieces together and develops out of them a system that works, it's usually a very simple one.

I used to teach a seminar in public speaking in New York City and one of my lectures was on the subject of using graphics to accompany a talk. I tried to explain that a good illustration can enlighten a specific event or point in the story, amplify what's being said and draw the listener into wanting to hear about it. Graphics are less than effective when they simply entertain or give a picture of what you are describing anyway. If a picture can do it better, then use the picture. Why describe an elephant if you can show a picture of one. On the other hand, if no one in the room has ever seen an elephant, putting up a picture of one before you say a word can create curiosity and attention to the talk.

Very few of my students got the point. One woman came in with a bunch of cartoon figures she had drawn. They were cute and funny, but they did nothing to create an interest in what she was saying. In fact they detracted from that interest. But the best use of graphics in the seminar was the man from somewhere down south who put a large pad on an easel and wrote in big letter across the top C B W T and left it there with no explanation. Then he drew a simple outline of Manhattan. He drew a small circle in the center and started his talk. He explained how he and his wife toured around the city, how they left their hotel, how they went down to Times Square, then over to the garment district, how they checked out the Village and Wall Street, walking all over the city. All the time he was speaking and describing what they had seen these letters C B W T were up there at the top. As he spoke he drew lines on the page, beginning at the small circle., The lines connected with each other to show where they went. The last line took them back to their hotel. Then he put the marker down, stood aside so we could see the whole journey marked out and then said "I call it the Country Boy Walking Tour."

We had been looking at those letters C B W T for the whole five minutes he spoke, it created a mystery, held our interest and did it's job as a graphic should. It was so much better than if he had written Country Boy Walking Tour at the top before he started. After the class that day I complimented him and asked him how he come up with that idea. He said that he didn't know what he was going to talk about but that while they were walking the title and the subject came to him.

All the teaching and learning is just to prepare yourself for the moment when the light bulb goes on, whether it's when your in the office, in the lab, on the stage or on the street.

Be a summer morning in a friend's life today.

DB - Vagabond Journeys


Arlene (AJ) said...

A wonderful read today, you make us all stop and rethink all we do and how we can continue to grow in a positive manner. "Be a summer morning in a friend's life today", touched my heart. I'm going to call a dear friend that I haven't talked to for a while to say hi and I love you. Thank you DB.

a corgi said...

I loved your last line DB about being a summer morning in a friend's life today!

this was also enjoyable to read about the way different people teach and learn! thanks :)


Beth said...

Funny...I have a folder in my picture file called NWT: Nutwood Walking Tour! LOL

Great entry, and great points about how to capture an audience's attention.

Hugs, Beth

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

A picture can be worth a thousand words, or it can be worthless. It is a matter of context and presentation :o)

Alice said...

Hi DB. I enjoyed reading this and want you to come get your "Friends Award" on my entry tonight:).....

Janice said...

In winter I get a headache if I do too much deep thinking...

Be a summer morning in a friend's life today

I will try my best.