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From Speech to Teach: Translating Metaphors in Education

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This post was written when I was in the midst of philosophically re-designing an educative experience for the philosophy program that I started at a high school in Eugene, Oregon. It's a look at how the design of an amazing speech/presentation might be seen as an analogy to a good educative experience.

A modified design structure based first on this analysis turned out to be incredibly profound.


[Enter Nathan circa 2010]

I believe design is an extremely important aspect of any project, though unfortunately it is often overlooked, whether the project relies on conceptual, practical, visual, or any other form design. This seems to be especially true with real-world projects where the results are not only measurable, but visceral as well.

I rediscovered this video today and since he does an amazing job taking his live audience along with him, I thought I'd analyze what he's doing. It seems like translating and modifying his presentation's structural design could provide us with a great starting place, and a way to quickly make our ideas actionable. There's definitely some work to be done with this if we think there's stuff we can take from it though.

So here's the progression of his talk as I interpret it. It's a very good/entertaining talk anyway, so watch along, if you feel so inclined, as you read this. Each bullet point following a number states his particular execution of the point in his talk:

Beginning the process

  1. Introduction
  2. Demonstrate progression of an example of the message you want to get across.
    • Plays progression of piano performance of children
  3. Explain what's going on in the example.
    • "Two-buttocks playing," each had particular amount of impulse.
  4. Connect the example to an example outside the field being discussed.
    • Businessman transforms his business into a "one-buttock business."
  5. State the goal of the activity about to be engaged in.
    • "I'm going to bring 100% of you along with me on this."

Framing the activity

  1. Demonstrate what appears to be the solution to the problem (audience doesn't know it's actually not) to put a finer point on the problem.
    • Played Chopin with some dynamics, then played the 2nd time and said "this is probably what happened..."
  2. Deconstruct what's going on in the new example (Chopin)
    • Explains the structure of the Chopin piece and how the pieces fit together.
  3. Demonstrate your message through participation of audience
    • Plays descending arpeggio and signals audience to sing the resolution. "See, nobody's tone-deaf. We can all do this."
  4. Use analogy to argue your point by showing how the same rule is applied in a different field, that is already commonly accepted by the audience.
    • Shakespeare also stalls resolution in Hamlet.
  5. Summarize structure of current example (Chopin)
    • Quickly narrate progression of structure (to prime the audience for the upcoming activity).

Activity directions and excecution

  1. Explain to the audience what they're going to see.
    • "You're going to see one buttock playing," and implicitly, "you're actually going to appreciate it."
  2. Give audience a sense of purpose around a vision (i.e., the vision that your message implies).
    • Nelson Mandela, and "bird who flies above the field and doesn't care about the fences underneath."
  3. Give specific, actionable instructions for how to participate in the upcoming activity/experiment.
    • Implicitly communicated: "Follow the structure of the song that I've mapped out for you."
    • Explicitly communicated:  "Think of someone who you adore but who is no longer around." (Give examples to make it easy for the audience/participants)
  4. Do the activity/experiment
    • Plays Chopin with "one buttock playing."
  5. Transition to bridge the gap between the activity and the debrief discussion.
    • Claps with the audience, then explains why by connecting it to to street kids to show that they were able to really listen (his primary message, is implicitly stated again here).

Post-activity discussion and debrief 

  1. Talk about a real world, personal experience that hits this point home for the audience/participants.
    • "Street kid who never listened to classical music was able to cry for his deceased brother."
  2. State message explicitly, point blank.
    • "So I made up my mind that classical is for anyone and everyone."
  3. Show implications of this new vision (his primary message) vs. other common views.
    • "How would you be in the world if you believed that X vs. if you believed that Y? It would be completely different."

Connecting with the participants 

  1. Explain your own experience as to how/why this message is so powerful. (Goal is to connect with audience/participants)
    • "I realized the conductor doesn't make a sound, but "depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful."
  2. META: How to know if you're successful in your activity/experiment and what to do if you're not.
    • See if their eyes are shining; if not, ask "who am I being that my children's eyes are not shinning?"
  3. Call to action
  4. End with a story [Nathan: Usually #3 and #4 are reversed--his order is both uncommon and very effective]
    • Auschwitz story

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