What is learning?

Time for new stuff!!! Ah, love the learning!

(Social) learning: how we evolve (together) by questioning our environment
(Social) learning: how we evolve (together) by questioning our environment

After over three weeks hectic weeks that kept me away from blogging, I’m happy to finally be back on the (WordPress) dashboard to share some recent work. And the biggest item on a long list of ‘to blog’ is this presentation that I just prepared about learning. I will be giving this presentation today for an all-staff meeting at IRC as an introduction to one of our ‘travel free weeks’.

Travel free weeks are given a negative name (about what we don’t do: travel – we’re all supposed to be around) for what is essentially a week of organisational learning. And learning we do and talk about at IRC. A quick search for ‘learning’ gave back 992 hits on our website – on a total of I suspect over 12000 items. This is seriously core to our business. But do we always refer back to the theory and practice of learning, at personal, organisational, collective and even societal level? That I question, and anyway for whoever wishes to work on learning, going back to the white board with the ‘where are we at’ question every so often is just a standard (good) practice. That is the key to becoming a learning organisation. Remember Einstein: “It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.

So here’s the presentation. I made it on Prezi, because it’s a new tool I wanted to (indeed) learn about, also because I think its fresh feel may put the audience in a different seat and engage them in a different way. I got triggered to use Prezi when I first heard @Joitske (Hulsebosch) tweet about it, then when I read this great blog post by Robert @Swanwick about his own experience with Prezi and finally when I saw my first Prezi about designing an academic poster, by Adam Read. But no more talk now, check the presentation:

… or online: What (the heck) is learning?

My learning curve with Prezi?

  • It’s funny how it actually feels like Prezi has been around and we do Prezi-type presentations all the time, whereas the logic of the presentation is very different to Powerpoints and it really has the advantage of focusing on one point at a time, which gives the audience a better chance to relate what you’re saying with what they’re seeing. Oh sure you can (and should) do it with Powerpoint but we all know our tendency to use as much of a white space we can with text, text and more text, especially when we’ve been trained to keep Powerpoints to an average of 10-15 slides – something we are un-learning at the moment, but it takes time to un-learn!
  • The development logic takes a while to master, not least because it involves a lot of zooming in and out to write text in small enough a display to keep it invisible when scrolling from one bit of text to another in the presentation.
  • I really like the canvas logic, the liberty and reduced linearity that you enjoy when developing and showing the presentation.
  • Framing the elements of your presentation in consistent blocks is helpful but perhaps the last thing to do in the presentation because any edit on the presentation requires you to zoom in on the element you need to edit and the overlay frame tends to be the element you pick up when you try to edit a smaller element.
  • I haven’t yet explored the possibility to embed video and audio bits and I hope it is possible or there is a (Power)point to keep using PPTs (which can do that). There is anyway as Prezi should just complement the current offer of presentation tools and find what works for you, and most importantly what because matters in the presentation, with Prezi or else, is what YOU are saying, not what’s on display.
  • I found the set of backgrounds rather limited too and hope it is easy to use new/other backgrounds.
  • Finally, for future presentations I will think further about the way I wish to use because there is a lot of learning (and effectiveness) potential there, but even with a simple – read: no-surprise – presentation like mine the surprise effect is there yet – I reckon!

Let’s see how my colleagues react to it! This, in itself, would deserve a reply blog post, don’t you think?

Related blog posts:

Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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  1. Hi Swan,

    Thank you for the comment! And I agree that the navigation logic requires a mind twist (it’s all about un-learning and re-learning isn’t it?) but indeed more practice should greatly help us get better at developing Prezi’s and viewing/using them. I’ve seen some really good ones on prezi.com. Looking forward to more.


  2. Ewen, Gr8 blog post. I found the learning curve also to be steep. Oddly enough though it wasn’t the technology that was hard to learn, but the different way of thinking about the flow.

    I firmly believe that as we build more presentations in this manner, we will start to rely on patterns that will greatly increase our building efficiency.

    The end viewer certainly gets a much better experience than just a series of linear rectangles. Thx for the link to my blog post.

    All the best,

  3. Hi Joitske!
    Thank you for the message.

    It took me quite some time to work on this presentation.
    Of course it took me a long time also to prepare the presentation and the flow of ideas, especially because I wanted to give a broad (even though far from comprehensive) overview on the topic of learning, but working strictly on the Prezi took me about a day, mainly because of the zooming in and out, going through the prezi again and again until the balance felt about right.
    So a rather steep learning curve but I suspect the next Prezi would take me half that time at max because a) this prezi was long and b) I know now how to prepare it in the best circumstances. As usual, it really is the preparation that takes most time, I reckon.
    Have a try and let us know!
    Ciao 🙂

  4. Thank you Carl, nice one!

    And your feedback is not only nice, it’s useful and brought about in a totally non-threatening way, which to me shows how much of a mature learner and communicator you are – and a friend at that!

    I’ll indeed add the main frame before starting the presentation next time I work with Prezi, that’s a great suggestion.


  5. Cracking presentation Ewen, really thought provoking and clear. Would love to be a fly on the wall this afternoon. Nice to be introdcuced to Prezi too. I liked the sense of movement. I kept wanting to see the whole landscape though to be more orientated. Perhaps starting out with a longshot of the whole presenation to set the scene would have suited my learning style better 🙂

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