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I know that, in my project-based learning classroom, students did presentations all the time for a variety of purposes. One of the key components of a PBL project is the 21st-century skill of presentation or communication. We know that this presentation can take on any number of shapes, from something formal to a podcast or even a poster session. I always struggled with getting quality presentations from my students. I used a variety of teaching techniques and examples, but there is one that I know can really help improve presentation skills: Ignite!

Ignite is a specific genre of presentation. An Ignite presenter only has five minutes to speak about the topic, and 20 slides to do so. Every 15 seconds, slides are moved along automatically. The overall purpose of an Ignite session is to empower and excite the audience around a specific subject matter, idea or topic. Ignite is used at conferences all around the world, at EdCamps, and even within professional organizations and businesses.

Ignite is similar to PechaKucha, where you have 20 slides that change every 20 seconds. Usually, someone is “offstage” to time the event by changing slides, which forces the presenter to stay on task and move forward in the presentation. The slides contain only images, which the presenter prepares. However, the presenter is usually not allowed to prepare a script. This demands improvisation and creativity while still trying to craft a message.

Final Product

An Ignite session can be a great final product for a PBL project or another unit of instruction. Although we might be inclined to push for a larger presentation, there are times when an Ignite presentation would be appropriate. It can help assess certain quality indicators of effective presentation, and can be a presentation that is more fun and engaging for both students and audience members. Imagine an exhibition night of multiple Ignite presentations! Consider an Ignite presentation as either a product or assessment for all students, or as another choice in the products students can choose from.

Practice and Scaffolding

Although you might demand a more lengthy or formal presentation as a final product, an Ignite presentation can serve as a great scaffolding tool. As students prepare for the bigger presentation, have them craft shorter pieces in teams or individually as practice. It can help them pick the right words to speak and find the right pictures to use as they reflect on and revise their final presentation. And it can serve as a great formative assessment for you as the teacher, along with helping students plan their presentation in manageable ways.


Instead of droning on with lengthy lectures, as a teacher you can use Ignite presentations to get important content or skills across to students. Yes, there is occasion for a more traditional lecture, but not all the time. What’s great is that any Ignite sessions you build can be stored for future use or exchanged with teachers in a PLC or PLN. We also love it when students teach students. Have them craft Ignite presentations on content to teach each other.

Ignite can be a great presentation tool to support your classroom and students. It helps to avoid “time sucks” while building presentation skills for your students. There’s no question that young people will find this form engaging, and they’ll enjoy crafting these five-minute programs. I know I do! Don’t forget to use an effective rubric to assess the presentation effectively, and to make sure that expectations are clear from the beginning.



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What I Love About Teaching

There’s a lot I love about being a teacher. Teaching is one of those rare professions that keeps your brain young, allowing you to continue your own journey as a student and a lifelong learner. We as educators speak often about creating lifelong learners, but if we aren’t buying into it ourselves, then our students don’t stand a chance.

Michelle Pfeiffer once said that being an actor allows her, with every new character, to learn something new, immersing herself in a distinct universe with each project. Being a teacher is that and so much more.

Keeping It Real

Each school year brings new people into your life. Each unit and lesson brings new perspectives. Each failure, when looked at formatively, can help you solve new problems. Each success, when used reflectively, can be even greater the next time.

Sharing oneself, thinking aloud, and being honest about what’s working and what isn’t is not about making the environment “softer.” It’s about creating a classroom in which students are at their best in attitude and character. It’s about classroom management being better because students want to be there, learning from a teacher who is also willing to learn from them. “The one who does the teaching is the one who’s doing the learning,” as they say.

Teaching is a job that encourages your own growth because to do it well requires your own continuous education. Some might say that’s a bad thing, but growth is about facing your demons — or just your imps — and dueling yourself for greater knowledge.

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

I believe true growth as a person can happen only by challenging yourself with situations that are not familiar to you. Throwing yourself into a job in which you can encounter people of different ethnicities and religions and with different philosophies, learning styles, and backgrounds can only cause you to grow as a person, and public education provides that environment.

And you never know how that will eventually translate. For some, it will mean a growth in empathy. For others, the fact that your brain learns something new every day becomes a means to fight old age. Remember those nuns from Wales featured in Time magazine a few years back? This group of long-lived nuns had theories about their own longevity as it related to their active brain activities. Learning, they believed, kept Alzheimer’s at bay and helped their minds stay intact even while their bodies aged.

Whatever your beliefs are, the fact is that a good teacher continues to be a student. This could mean you continue to be a student in a graduate class, or you could simply be a student of your own school community.

In my ten years of teaching, I learned more from other teachers, my students, and their parents than I learned from any class in my teacher-credential program. (True, that’s not difficult to do — but that’s another post.) In turn, when they saw my own enthusiasm for learning, students were more inclined to learn from me. And that’s how my own happiness and growth has translated into the success of my students.

What impact has a passion for lifelong learning had on your teaching? Please share your thoughts.

How To Create Quick Presentation Using Evernote

Doing presentation has become part of modern daily life, from a common school project to a multi-million dollar business deal, presentations are involved in one way or the other. The most common way of presenting today is using presentation-making software such as Microsoft’s PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote. The process requires you to compile your materials to the software one slide at a time. But if you use Evernote to collect the materials, you can turn them into cool presentations without having to rely on another software.

Getting Started

First, let’s clarify that turning your notes into presentations is a feature available for Evernote Premium users only. With that being said, we can begin with the first step.

This mode is also available in the mobile version but with only one customization option: switching between night and day mode. To open Presentation Mode on Evernote Mobile, tap the “More” button on the bottom bar, and choose “Present.”

To move forward through your presentation, you can use the “Spacebar” (or “Shift + Spacebar” to go back). You can also use the arrows keys to do the same.

Customizing the Display

There are only a few customizations that you can do since the goal of Evernote’s presentation mode is to create a quick presentation and not a flashy one. To access these Settings, move your pointer to the top right corner of the screen.

The first one is adjusting the Font size (Control + F). There are three available sizes: small, medium, and large.

The second option is toggling between Day/Night Mode (Control + N) to use a bright/dark background for the display. The night mode is easier on the eyes if you do your presentation in a room with less light.

And the last option is to choose Pointer Color (Control + P). The available choices are Blue, Red, and Green.

Creating Slides

Instead of going through your note continuously in the presentation, you can break it into “slides” to go one segment at a time.

To do that, move your pointer to the top left of the screen and choose “Presentation Layout” (Control + L).

Evernote is smart enough to detect paragraphs and different kinds of content, like images and videos, to suggest possible locations to break your note.

Linking Notes

From my experiments, it took me about one minute to turn my note into a minimalist and cool presentation. It would take at least fifteen minutes to make the same presentation using another tool.

Jeffry Thurana

Jeffry Thurana is a creative writer living in Indonesia. He helps other writers and freelancers to earn more from their crafts. He’s on a quest of learning the art of storytelling, believing that how you tell a story is as important as the story itself. He is also an architect and a designer, and loves traveling and playing classical guitar.

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When It Comes To Communication Skills—Maybe We’re Born With It?

When It Comes to Communication Skills—Maybe We’re Born with It?

Jenny Zuk, neuroscientist and speech pathologist, led a first-of-its-kind study that uncovered how neural networks in infants influence their language learning skills in early childhood. Photo by Kelly Davidson

Baby Brains and Language

When It Comes to Communication Skills—Maybe We’re Born with It? Neuroscientists find brain matter makeup in infancy is linked to children’s degree of language skills at five years old

From inside the womb and as soon as they enter the world, babies absorb information from their environment and the adults around them, quickly learning after birth how to start communicating through cries, sounds, giggles, and other kinds of baby talk. But are a child’s long-term language skills shaped by how their brain develops during infancy, and how much of their language development is influenced by their environment and upbringing? 

Following dozens of children over the course of five years, a Boston University researcher has taken the closest look yet at the link between how babies’ brains are structured in infancy and their ability to learn a language at a young age, and to what degree their environment plays a role in brain and language development. 

The new research, described in a paper published in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, finds that the brain’s organizational pathways might set a foundation for a child’s language learning abilities within the first year of life. These pathways are known as white matter, and they act as the connectors between the billions of neurons—called gray matter—that comprise the brain tissue. This allows for the exchange of signals and for all of the different tasks and functions we need to perform, as well as all of the biological processes that sustain us. 

“A helpful metaphor often used is: white matter pathways are the ‘highways,’ and gray matter areas are the ‘destinations’,” says BU neuroscientist and licensed speech pathologist Jennifer Zuk, who led the study. Zuk, a College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences, says the more someone does a certain task, like learning a new language, the stronger and more refined the pathways become in the areas of the brain responsible for that task, allowing information to flow more efficiently through the white matter highways. Recent evidence suggests that white matter most rapidly develops within the first two years of life, according to Zuk.

In addition to white matter development, scientists have long known that the environment also plays an important role in shaping a person’s language abilities, Zuk says. But many uncertainties remain about whether nature or nurture is more dominant in determining the makeup of white matter and how well a baby learns to communicate. 

In their study, Zuk says, she and her colleagues sought answers to several specific questions: from very early on, to what extent does predisposed brain structure play a role in development? Does the brain develop in tandem with language, and is the environment ultimately driving the progress of both? And to what extent does brain structure in early infancy set children up for success with language?

To investigate this, Zuk and Boston Children’s Hospital researcher and study senior author Nadine Gaab met with 40 families with babies to take images of the infants’ brains using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and gather first-of-its-kind data on white matter development. No small feat, considering the babies needed to be sound asleep to allow for crisp capture of their brain activity and structure using MRI.

“It was such a fun process, and also one that calls for a lot of patience and perseverance,” says Zuk, who had to master the challenge of getting 4-to-18-month-old babies comfortable enough to snooze through the MRI process—the loud sounds of an MRI could be very disruptive to a sleeping baby. “There are very few researchers in the world using this approach,” she says, “because the MRI itself involves a rather noisy background…and having infants in a naturally deep sleep is very helpful in accomplishing this pretty crazy feat.”

It’s also the first time that scientists have used MRI to look at the relationship between brain structure and language development in full-term, typically developing children from infancy to school age. 

One important white matter pathway the researchers looked at using MRI is called the arcuate fasciculus, which connects two regions of the brain responsible for language production and comprehension. Using MRI, the researchers measured the organization of white matter by looking at how easily water diffuses through the tissue, indicating the pathway’s density.

Five years after first rocking babies to sleep and gently tucking them inside an MRI machine, Zuk and her collaborators met up with the children and their families again to assess each child’s emerging language abilities. Their assessments tested each one’s vocabulary knowledge, their ability to identify sounds within individual words, and their ability to blend individual sounds together to understand the word it makes.   

According to their findings, children born with higher indications of white matter organization had better language skills five years later, suggesting that communication skills could be strongly linked to predisposed brain structure. But, Zuk says, this is only the first piece of a very complicated puzzle.

“Perhaps the individual differences in white matter we observed in infancy might be shaped by some combination of a child’s genetics and their environment,” she says. “But it is intriguing to think about what specific factors might set children up with more effective white matter organization early on.” 

Although their findings indicate a foundation for language is established in infancy, “ongoing experience and exposure [to language] then builds upon this foundation to support a child’s ultimate outcomes,” Zuk says.

She says this means that during the first year of a child’s life “there’s a real opportunity for more environmental exposure [to language] and to set children up for success in the long term.” 

Zuk and her research partners plan to continue investigating the relationship between environmental and genetic components of language learning. Their goal is to help parents and caretakers identify early risk factors in language development in young children and determine strategies for strengthening babies’ communicative skills early on in life. 

This work was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Green Skills: Definition And Sector

Unveiling the crucial role of green skills and expanding global demand

In an era where environmental sustainability has become a pressing global concern, the demand for individuals equipped with “green skills” has soared. Green skills refer to the knowledge, abilities, and expertise required to address environmental challenges and promote sustainable practices across various sectors. These skills are pivotal in shaping a greener future, from renewable energy and waste management to sustainable agriculture and green building design.

This article delves into the definition of green skills and explores their significance across different sectors. We will examine how green skills contribute to combating climate change, conserving natural resources, and mitigating the environmental impact of human activities. Additionally, we will delve into the growing demand for professionals with green skills in energy, transportation, manufacturing, and more sectors.

Join us as we uncover the multifaceted world of green skills and understand how they shape the transition toward a sustainable and environmentally conscious society.

Understanding Green Skills What Are Green Skills?

Green skills refer to the competencies, knowledge, and qualifications required to support sustainable development and address environmental challenges. These skills go beyond traditional technical expertise and encompass a multidisciplinary approach. Green skills are essential for promoting eco-friendly practices, renewable energy adoption, waste management, conservation, and other sustainable initiatives.

Moreover, green skills are not limited to specific sectors. They are applicable across diverse industries, such as manufacturing, transportation, construction, hospitality, and beyond. By integrating green practices into their operations, businesses can reduce their carbon footprint, enhance resource efficiency, and meet evolving consumer demands for sustainability.

The Importance of Green Skills

As the world faces pressing environmental issues, the importance of green skills cannot be overstated. These skills enable individuals to actively participate in the transition towards a greener and more sustainable future. Green skills empower professionals to identify and implement innovative solutions, drive energy efficiency, reduce carbon footprints, and promote responsible resource management.

Furthermore, green skills are crucial in fostering economic growth and job creation. As industries strive to adopt sustainable practices, there is a growing demand for skilled individuals who can navigate the complexities of green technologies and initiatives. Green jobs are emerging in renewable energy, waste management, sustainable agriculture, environmental consulting, and green building, providing new employment opportunities and career paths.

Green Skills in Different Sectors

Green skills find applications in various sectors where the demand for sustainability-oriented professionals continues to grow. Let’s explore some key industries that rely on green skills.

Energy Sector

The energy sector is transforming significantly with a shift towards renewable energy sources. Green skills are crucial in this transition by providing the expertise to harness and optimize renewable energy technologies. Professionals skilled in solar power, wind energy, hydroelectricity, and geothermal systems are in high demand as the world seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Construction and Architecture

The construction and architecture industries have a substantial environmental impact, making green skills indispensable. Professionals well-versed in sustainable building practices, green design principles, and energy-efficient construction techniques are sought after. They contribute to developing green buildings, eco-friendly materials, and low-carbon infrastructure projects.

Transportation and Logistics

The transportation sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the demand for green skills in this industry is rising steadily. Professionals with expertise in electric vehicles, sustainable logistics, public transportation planning, and eco-friendly mobility solutions are instrumental in reducing emissions and creating greener transportation systems.

Agriculture and Food Production

The agriculture and food production sector faces the challenge of meeting the world’s growing demand for food while minimizing its environmental impact. Green skills in this industry focus on sustainable farming practices, organic agriculture, permaculture, agroforestry, and efficient resource management. Professionals with these skills help promote sustainable food production, biodiversity conservation, and responsible land use.

Waste Management and Recycling

What Is A Skills Matrix?

A skills matrix is a short, descriptive but incredibly useful picture of a team’s capabilities.

Skills matrix are the connection between your organisation’s goals and the actions it needs to take to complete them. 

Boards should pay extra attention to skills matrix because the level of scrutiny on their performance is generally increasing dramatically. So, they must ensure they have the right skills to function correctly.

A free skills matrix template

A skills matrix is a visual representation of all skills available on a given team. It might track a small group, a department, or even an entire organisation, depending on its size. 


It is designed in a cross-reference graph format, with names on one axis and skills across the other. 

Skills are usually further defined using a proficiency level so that readers can see


skilled a person is in a particular area.

These scales can vary. A typical example is to use numbered scales (1-3 or 1-5), with the higher numbers representing more proficiency.


Here is a free Ability6 skills matrix template – clearly laid out and well organised. Download this template. 

Why is a skills matrix important?

You wouldn’t build a house without the right materials, you wouldn’t bake a cake without the right ingredients, and you shouldn’t start a project at work without the right skills on your team. 

Skills matrixes help you determine this. They’re clear, concise, handy for comparisons, and have the basic info you need to be sure of your team’s capacity.

How important is a skills matrix to boards?

Extremely important. Boards are teams too, so tracking the skills of each member is not only worthwhile but essential to ensuring a board’s success. 

Boards are, after all, the bodies that set company direction. Their skill sets must reflect the company’s mission. So it’s important to know what skills you have on your board and, crucially, what gaps there are to fill.

How do you make a skills matrix?

It’s a simple process:

Determine what skills you need to take your project forward.

For a board, this means careful analysis of where your company is going and the expertise you need to get it there. 

Determine the proficiency of your current team in those skills.

Use a scoring system like the one described above. 

If possible, assess the willingness of team members to use their skills.

This matters a lot on boards because directors will often have skills in many areas and may only want to use some of them. For example, a director who spent years in banking before moving to marketing might prefer to focus on the latter. 

Lay your data out on the matrix. Use a standard digital tool like Excel or Google Sheets for simplicity.

Who evaluates skill proficiency?

This depends on the context, and there is no one right answer. 

You can ask the subjects to self-evaluate and give their score, but critics of this method will say it introduces the potential for bias through over/underconfidence. 

Line managers could do it, although this is usually not applicable to board members. 

Subjects could undergo a skills assessment, allowing independent observers to score them. 

The matrix could use formal qualifications as a benchmark. Increasingly, board members are turning to specialised qualifications to realise their full potential.

In summary

Skills matrices are graphical representations of the skills available to an organisation. 

When done correctly, they will show a team’s capacity to complete a task and highlight areas where new talent may need to be brought on board. 

Given this potential, they are vital for boards.

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