I’ve always been curious to know what a room full of a few thousand people looks like for someone up on stage during a large keynote talk. So I setup my iPad on the table at the front of the ballroom for Adam Bellow’s keynote talk at MACUL 2014, and I used Frameograph to take time lapse photos every 5 seconds.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, and after compressing the footage to fit within 60 seconds of video (because who wants to watch nearly an hour of still shots with no audio), I’m still not sure what I captured. It’s not terribly interesting, at least not from what I see. To be honest, I’m not sure what I was expecting; it was an hour of a few thousand people sitting patiently listening to someone entertain them.
So I stuck a question at the end of the video, “what did you notice?” There may be no more startling revelations to be made other than MACUL attendees are quite attentive, and rather well behaved, but I couldn’t just let the video sit on my computer knowing that someone out there might have some other thoughts.
I’ve come to internalize that keynote talks are a rather odd beast, especially in our current era of educational thought. We profess how the lecture is dead, and yet it isn’t. The current “maker movement” is experiential learning in its most pure form; reflection and conceptualization are the direct result of concrete experiences. We herald small project based learning groups, and challenges that connect learning to applications in the real world. We beg for anything but one more lecture……and then we pay hundreds of dollars to attend workshops and conferences in which we spend the majority of our time listening to other educators lecture.
Be very clear about what I’m getting at, and read my next sentence carefully. I’m not saying that keynote lectures and talks are bad. I’m merely stating a curiosity that I have with the dissonance created in my own mind between motivating teachers to adopt new pedagogies of instruction, and the traditional lecture format that we use to motivate those teachers to change. Yes, keynote talks can be fun, engaging, humorous, heartfelt, and poignant. But after watching this video, I can’t help but wonder if there’s any other way to impact a room full of a few thousand people that doesn’t involve them sitting in a chair for 60 minutes.
Engaging keynote lectures will certainly always be with us, but I can’t help wonder what others’ perspectives are about them. I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you’re out there Mr. Bellow, I’d really love to know what you think about keynote talks.