Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Presenting in Arabic – (in) dignity and connecting at Cairo University

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I am a little nuts. I have no dignity. I was invited to present at this really formal event at Cairo University, by the organization that does the quality assurance for higher ed… I am always nervous to present in Arabic but noticed most other speakers spoke in colloquial not Modern Standard, so I thought I would be fine.

And after all the dignified presenters before me, when it came to my part to present about flipping the classroom, I did this:

I asked for the wireless audience mic, stepped off the stage and asked my colleague Mark to move my slides for me. I told the audience to expect a different presentation, that I would not be lecturing them. I had my slides, but I was walking among the audience, looking into their eyes and when someone’s eyes lit up, I let them talk. Someone from the audience explained what flipping the classroom was. Another person explained what peer instruction was. Another person talked about role play. Yet others brought up challenges and others in the audience responded with examples from their own context.

It was… Aaaaaawwesooooooome. I am sure some people hated me for disrupting the system. They may never ever invite me to a dignified event again, but here is what happened:

I let them know I did not expect them to be blank slates. I let them help me present
I let them know I did not pretend to know their context. I let them offer it themselves
They smiled
Boy, were the people smiling.
When I finished (slightly over my time because the audience just wanted to talk so much) the other panelists were almost high-fiving me 🙂 and one of them called it “this is active presentation” (a la “active learning”). I had to leave early (rude, really, but i have a child waiting for me at home) and on my way out audience members kept high-fiving me (not literally, but waving at me and smiling and thanking me).

Never, ever, will I present standing in one place again at a conference. What would be the point? Of course the effect in other institutions wouldn’t be as strong 😉

Another indignity i committed today was funnier. My colleague from work (one of about 3 people i knew in the whole event was sitting with the other panelists on our panel at a balcony near the stage. But the door to reach him was locked, so I just sat on the railing and jumped over (turns out Mark had done the same).

I had a few really cool informal interactions in between. There were a few Finnish people on my panel and I found the ed tech person who is into connectivism and yayyy had a f2f convo on connectivisim with someone who knows what its about! And told him I had just had George Siemeons on hangout at an event last weekend.

There is more but I have to go now…

5 Comments

  1. What an incredible experience for you and for them!

  2. Superb, Maha. Well done! I gave up PowerPoint in 2011 (unless I am addressing an audience made up mostly of people who have English as a second language) and I like to use “shock” techniques like this. Which shouldn’t be shocking but often are!

    • I still had a Haikudeck (i.e. mostly visual) presentation on the screen. But the beauty was in the interpersonal 🙂 and yeah it shouldn’t shock ppl and prob wouldn’t another audience. Let’s see if i ever get invited again!

  3. but ‘how much’ was learned? and were the ‘objectives’ met? was the discursive space striated? we’re the ‘connections’ made real ? was the microphone a secret agent? are you Oprah ? does anyone remember what was said or just what was done? did you ‘feel’ you were at a conference or in a classroom – or at home?

    Half jokes aside, good on you!

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