Debriefing: Attempt to Educate

The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat.

If you’ve ever attempted to “teach” to any audience, you know the mixed emotions that the end of class (or another presentation) brings you.

Yesterday I experienced both, with perhaps a tad greater victory than defeat. For my own part, I felt better than usual with how the mechanics of the program worked.

I used Prezi for the first–but not the last– time, and as a visual speaker’s prompt it was exceptional, partly because the very visual-spatial arrangement of the main points (versus Powerpoints flat linear progression) was much easier for me to remember in advance of projecting each “page.”

The animated transitions–in small doses– are also more stimulating that a simple fade-in or dissolve, and the students have grown used to this kind of animation, each of them having been responsible for creating their own projects in Prezi. My 12 year old granddaughter yawned when I offered to teach her a new whiz-bang trick on the computer. Been there, done that.

Also in the victory side of the ledger, there was student engagement with the issues. I should qualify that: with some of the students with some of the issues in one of the two classes. We’ll call it faint success.

On the other hand, one of two failures was distressing as it may account for the following:

No hands went up when I asked if any had heard of Richard Louv, Bill McKibben or others I had hoped would be at least familiar if not well known to them. Nope, not even near the horizon.

No hands went up when I asked if any had ever heard the term Anthropocene. None had ever watched the Story of Stuff. And so on.

The first failure could be explained by sheer ignorance or indifference to the issues that would bring these personalities, movements and terms into the student’s reality.

The second possible failure is that some few might have answered by raising their hands, but there is the predominant attitude of non-participation, of passive education, or of fear to be seen as a nerd or to have their opinions known and disapproved. What are your thoughts?

At any rate, they can’t say now that they never knew about the role they will play–or will choose not to play–in the Anthropocene.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Hi Fred,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation in the class. I am sorry that my peers were not as receptive and unwilling to participate – I should have spoken up more!
    I truly enjoyed your talk and left feeling impassioned about my hope to pursue agriculture and even discussed your talk with my friends and family later that week. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us and I hope to read more of your blog and work in the near future. Sorry again for my class, I hope you will count this as one more success 🙂
    – Laina
    P.S. I will see you at the movie on Saturday!