Archive for June 8, 2010

Pecha Kucha

Posted in Education with tags , , , , , on June 8, 2010 by telescoper

A few months ago I was invited to take part in an evening of Pecha Kucha in a hotel in Geneva. I’ll try anything once, so I agreed. I have to admit, though, that I wasn’t actually very good at it. Neither were any of the other scientists present.

No idea what a Pecha Kucha is? Well then you’re probably not an architect or an artist or a designer. Then again, you’re reading this blog so that’s pretty much a given anyway. Pecha Kucha is a style of presentation at which arty types display their portfolios in a strictly disciplined format. The standard form is twenty slides with twenty seconds allowed for each one, i.e. a total time of 6 minutes and 40 seconds. The timing is ruthlessly regulated.

Those of us scientists used to taking at least a few  minutes per slide find this format very challenging, but then that’s because we tend to have text and equations on our slides and they take some explaining. Designers and the like tend to just show pictures, and these should – if they’re any good – be pretty self-explanatory. I guess this is why the Pecha Kucha format is de rigeur in such disciplines while it has yet to catch on in physics.

I only just survived my initiation into the strange world of Pecha Kucha. Before being told what it was I thought it was a mountain in the Andes. I was reminded about it this morning by a tweet from John Butterworth (a particle physicist who, incidentally, has a nice blog of his own) confessing similar trepidation to what I experienced before I lost my Pecha Kucha virginity. The first time can be disappointing, but I hope he survived his inauguration.

Looking back on it though I think this might be an interesting idea to try in a physics context. We’re trying increasingly hard these to teach our physics and astronomy students transferable skills, but when it comes to presentations we’re fixated by the traditional presentation format. Why not get undergraduate students to do a Pecha Kucha about their project, instead of a 20-minute lecture? Why not include a Pecha Kucha in the PhD viva?

The more I think about it, the more attractive the idea seems. Has anyone out there tried a physics Pecha Kucha?

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