Yesterday I had my students do 5-minute talks about their final projects, with 5-minute Q&A between each. There were a total of 9 presentations. They complained about this time limit much more than I expected, arguing that they’ll “never have a 5-minute conference presentation.” Au contraire! This is becoming much more common, especially at DH events, and anyway, who wants to sit through nine 15 or 20 minute presentations? Not me, certainly.
Anyway, I wanted to report that this was actually quite a success in that it wasn’t totally exhausting to sit through, and left us over an hour for further workshopping of the projects at the end of the three-hour seminar. I actually felt excited and energized after listening to so many varied project presentations but only for a short period of time each, for a total of about an hour and a half of talk/Q&A session. The students likewise expressed that they had fun and enjoyed hearing about each other’s work. So, my 2 cents that this is a very productive way for students to present their ideas and projects toward the end of the semester.
I also had this in the second-to-last session, 3 weeks before their final project is actually due. I think this makes the presentations more helpful for them than if it was in the last class. So, in short, I recommend 5-minute talks a few weeks to a month before projects/papers are due, and giving students a lot of time to workshop each other’s stuff!
I also admit I went “oh man, only 5 minutes?!” when I first read your post! I think it’s a great way to get them workshopping their ideas, though, especially to get more of a low-stakes presentation feel over a general class discussion about their progress. We do a digital pedagogy lightning talk series here at UM by graduate students and professors with a time limit of 8 minutes, followed by rotating 10 minute breakout sessions in small groups at the end. It’s been a really great format to get just enough information across. Great to know it’s working out for the classroom too!
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