Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

I was so honored to present at ISTE for the first time! What an experience! But did you know? There’s waaay more to preparing an Ignite Talk than I could have ever imagined. Explore just ONE of my most powerful moments that’s got my reflection in a perpetual spin cycle.

By the International Society for Technology in Education’s definition at iste.org, the ignite format is where “Presenters will have just five minutes and 20 slides each to share their passions in a continuous rapid-fire presentation!” Slides auto-advance every fifteen seconds.

Heeding advice of fellow ISTE igniters and friends, I created twenty simple slides that wouldn’t be overwhelming. Even that was a learning process all in its own. Slides were finished, and I had a general script in mind… but what exactly would I say? It was in the writing and researching processes where my learning extended far deeper than I ever thought possible.

To prepare an Ignite Talk is to evaluate information. Constantly. The eWISE Inquiry-Based Research Model was adopted by WCPSS.  Wall display created by @SusanLBock.

Fifteen seconds per slide? You can say A LOT in fifteen seconds… right? Over the next few days, I composed my “final draft” script for each slide. DONE! And then I practiced saying the words with the fifteen second auto-advancing slides.

Wow. I was way off. I was trying to say too much.

After trimming a few phrases here and there, 100 words less should help. DONE. But the truth is that I wasn’t “DONE.” And really?

I learned–all over again–there is no “DONE.” Learning is a lifelong process. We need to celebrate the learning process for learners of all ages.

After backspacing over 400 words as a result of several rehearsals and recordings, new challenges emerged. What about: transition phrases between slides; integration of individual slide ideas; overall flow; emphasis; intonation; and body language? But even if you could talk nonstop for five minutes–should you? Isn’t it better to leave at least a few seconds for the audience (and yourself) to process? And if that pause time would help my message be better received, then I would need to backspace even more words.

“The Ignite process causes you to distill exactly what you are going to say.” Kerry Gallagher was right again.

To me? Preparing an ignite talk was like crafting a tweet. In my mind, only fifteen seconds per ignite slide was similar to 140 characters per tweet. Here’s how:

  1. Type everything you want to say.
  2. Backspace characters for which you have no time or space, keeping main ideas.
  3. Before pressing send, proofread for grammar, punctuation, and tone.
  4. Before pressing send, consider if what will be heard is what you intend to say, and how it may make others feel.

You need both the right amount of characters AND the right kind of character.

I really like ISTE Student Standard 6d, found here:



Below, fifth grade learners customize their recorded meteorology message to be PERFECT, because they know their intended audience is NOT the teacher–it’s their peers! Isn’t this the essence of ISTE Student Standard 6d?

Ignite Presentation Slide 17


Ignite Presentation Video (slide 17 referenced at 4:05)

I really marveled at how these young learners cared so much about their message that they literally edited and re-recorded several times. It’s true. Learning really is interest-driven, process-oriented, adventurous, messy, and rewarding.

In a time where we can send a message to the whole world in just one click, I wonder:

  • What if we all invested more time in customizing our message and medium before igniting conversation with any audience?
  • What if we all had to backspace 400+ words before pressing send?
  • What if our transactions had less characters and more character?

I wonder: Would THIS ignite authentic, creative communicators?

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