We recently finished our first major project in Age of Ex. Our assignment was to research a certain aspect of the Renaissance and create a presentation, giving an overview of the topic and answering the essential question: “How can research on one person, event, trend, or characteristic of the world during the European Renaissance help us understand the world of that time?”. I chose Isabella d’Este for my project, an Italian noble-woman who began to redefine the role of women in the Renaissance, a very male-dominated society at that time. It took me a long time to decide how I wanted to present my project, where to put the focus. In the end I decided to give an overview of important events in her life and then discuss the role and abilities of women during the Renaissance. Though my own project wasn’t particularly innovative, what struck me most when watching all of the presentations was the enormous variety: the focus people put on their project, the way they presented, the programs that they used, and more.
Having done many projects similar to this throughout middle school, I’m very used to cookie cutter presentations. During middle school Humanities, everyone would go the easy route: simply copy and paste facts into bullet points on PowerPoint, use a pre-made theme, and you’re done. We would present staring at the board, reading off the screen, completely detached from an audience that almost never paid attention. As a consequence, no one retained information, and all that we got out of the unit was what we had researched ourselves, only a small part of what we were supposed to have learned. It’s not surprising that I don’t remember much of what we studied in those years, through no fault of the teachers; we just hadn’t learned how to effectively play to an audience, selling our information for maximum retention.
Through the first two months of this class, I’ve already seen quite a bit of improvement in the area of presenting. As I said before, during this project in particular, I was pleasantly surprised to see the huge variation in presentations on generally similar subjects. For example, two people in our class accidentally chose the same topic, but they presented it in completely different ways with different emphases, so it was equally interesting to listen to both of them. Everyone chose different ways to present based on what they felt comfortable with; people who didn’t want to talk the whole time entertained everyone with an activity, while people who liked giving presentations would use PowerPoint or pictures to back up their talks, and humor to keep the audience engaged. Several people passed around objects to augment their presentations, one person made a trivia game out of her research on Renaissance art, and someone else had us think of different uses for a fork to describe Galileo’s always questioning thought process.
All these huge differences in presentation tactics made everyone’s projects much more interesting to listen to. I mean, wouldn’t you rather play a game then listen to someone talk about a really boring subject for ten minutes? People played to their strengths, which made the experience more enjoyable for both the presenter and the audience. Everyone remembers better when there’s a way to differentiate between seventeen similar topics, but our class went one step further: we didn’t just make our presentations memorable, we made them entertaining, unique, and personal.
Renaissance Europe Map:
Play to Your Strengths: