Ignite presentations are structured slide presentations, that feature twenty slides that automatically advance every fifteen seconds.  As an attendee of ISTE I have always been impressed by the educators that participate in the Ignite sessions.  Each Ignite presenter I have seen has given off an air of calm and conviction in their topic.  How do they do it?  How do they not crack under the fifteen second time pressure?  How do they even begin to craft their presentation?  At The Fletcher School I teach Integrated Studies which has a focus on digital citizenship and technology.  What better place to give Ignite a try?  The project lends itself to teaching research skills, photo citation skills, and public speaking skills.

Ignite presentations have an extremely wide range of topics.  Some of my favorites are Better Living Through Fast Food by Jay Thompson and How to Give an Ignite Talk by Scott Berkun. While these topics are fun and entertaining, I wanted my classes presentations to have a little more meat to them, especially as the first student suggested topic was “Why do Reese’s cups stick to the wrapper?”  Definitely interesting, but I was hoping for topics that were a little more worldly and pushed the students beyond the borders of their private school world.  

I stumbled across the Rock Your World curriculum and decided to use it to my advantage.  We began by looking at the Declaration of Human Rights and the Public Service Announcements Rock Your World directed us to on Youth for Human Rights.  We used these to determine the interests of the classes.  After reading the Declaration and viewing the public service announcements, each class gave suggestions and we came to a consensus on a topic to begin researching.  

The best Ignite resource I found was by Olivia Mitchell: The Fastest Way to Create an Ignite Presentation.  She lays out planning an Ignite presentation in six steps:

  1. Create an outline using her presentation planner
  2. Convert the planner into 20 slides – no pictures yet!
  3. Finesse the script so it fits into the 15 second time limit for each slide
  4. Find pictures for each slide
  5. Practice with notes
  6. Present

The biggest mistake I made was to focus on the five minute time limit, not the fifteen seconds per slide time limit.  When verbally reading the written slides each class came in at the five minute mark, I thought we were golden.  After finding the visuals for the slides and thinking we were done, we did a practice run through with a fifteen second timer.  What a disaster!  It turned out the script for some of the slides only lasted six or seven seconds.  We then had to make some very hurried edits in order to be prepared for presentation day.  We practiced in the classroom as well as the room we would be presenting in.  Practicing in the actual room gave the kids a bit of a wake up call of what presentation day would be like.

Our efforts were worth it, presentation day was fabulous.  Parents of the students came, as well as the students from sixth and seventh grade.  There were definitely some nerves, but the each group did a great job.  Parents enjoyed seeing their kids in a public speaking role and each student left the presentation with a sense of accomplishment.

I am thrilled with the outcome of the Ignite presentations.  I am already looking forward to seeing which topics the students will chose next year!


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