In a perfect world, a lecture should be the least used mode of instruction. In fact, all forms of instruction should be as minimally invasive(1) as possible. That said, a great lecture by an expert can inform, inspire, or entertain.
Yesterday, I stumbled upon an impressive lecture by veteran MIT Professor Patrick Winston, simply titled, “How to Speak.” The lecture was recorded in its entirety eighteen months before his death. While I don’t agree with everything he says, anyone who speaks publicly or teaches from the front of the room will find plenty to learn from this masterclass.
Patrick Winston’s How to Speak talk has been an MIT tradition for over 40 years. Offered every January during the Independent Activities Period (IAP), usually to overflow crowds, the talk is intended to improve your speaking ability in critical situations by teaching you a few heuristic rules. Professor Winston’s collection of rules is presented along with examples of their application in job-interview talks, thesis defenses, oral examinations, and lectures.
You can get a sense of Professor Winston’s communication skills in his often hilarious tribute to his mentor, Marvin Minsky, at the 2016 memorial event. Patrick Winston and I are also contributors to the book, Inventing Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education.
MIT Press will publish a book inspired by the How To Speak lecture/course on August 20, 2020. Make It Clear: Speak and Write to Persuade and Inform not only addresses effective speaking, but writing as well. My copy is on order!
- Term attributed to Sugata Mitra and defined here at http://www.hole-in-the-wall.com/MIE.html
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.