Why Haven’t We Heard of This?

Pecha KuchaPecha Kucha comes from a Japanese term that describes the sound of conversation — or chit-chat.  It also describes a brand new medium for communication that was originally invented by Tokyo architects Mark Dytham (born in the UK) and Astrid Klein (born in Italy).  A Pecha Kucha is a presentation with slide show, utilizing 20 slides, each lasting 20 seconds.  So a single Pecha Kucha presentation will last six minutes and forty seconds.

The architect duo originally developed the performance medium to attract attendance at their performance space, SuperDeluxe.  However, the concept has grown to almost a hundred other cities, eight of them in the U.S.

It seems, with our renewed interest in creativity, communication, and collaboration as essential skills (Partnership for 21st Century Skills & ISTE NETS Refresh), Pecha Kucha may be an interesting medium of communication for assignments that ask students to express what they have learned.  Twenty by twenty may be a bit large for some assignments, but it may be ok to assign Half (半分) Kuchas or Quarter (四分の) Kuchas.

As I was reading about Pecha Kuchas, I was envisioning self-contained presentations, with audio built in.  But seeing some of the events, they are stand-up presentations with timed slides counting down.  I’m thinking, however, of including videos of 20/20 versions of my presentations with my online handouts.

Anyway, here are a few resources that you might access to learn more about this communication scheme:

Image Attribution:
Lativ, Moed. “Pecha Kucha Nite, By British Council.” Moediativ’s Photostream. 23 Jun 2007. 25 Aug 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/ml/604026958/>.

17 thoughts on “Why Haven’t We Heard of This?”

  1. Dave, I found out about this a few years ago through a design competition that required entrants to use it. I tried to introduce it to my administrator to use in staff meetings — people with agenda items could present a Pecha Kucha and meetings would be A)faster; B)more succinct; and C)more individuals could share. He wasn’t ready to go there. If only I had a dime for all the times my district or administrator wasn’t ready to go there, especially regarding tech…sigh.

  2. I guess I need to keep up on Japanese corporate performance art. Frankly, I hope we can move past kids making PowerPoint presentations focused on technical elements (# of slides, # of bullets, font, etc…) and about things they don’t care about presented to disinterested audiences – if presented at all.

    Prior to interactive white boards (their cousin), PowerPoint may have done more harm to educational computing than anything else. Edward Tufte does a masterful job of demonstrating how it’s a terrible medium for grown-up tasks too, including how PowerPoint may have even been responsible for the space shuttle explosion.

    I’m sorry, but I do not share your optimism for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills stuff or the ISTE NETs. You can buy me a sweet tea in a few years when both documents turn out to have been largely ignored, unimaginative hot-air.

    The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is the perfect metaphor for the PowerPoint culture. A group of computer company middle managers slap some futuristic clip-art together with empty rhetoric and disembodied quotes about how wondrous/scary the future will be and then go back to selling hardware and software.

    ISTE, on the other hand has lost its way. How could it take this many years for them to discover that imagination and creativity is important in education? This is merely a way to sell new standards materials and enrich their corporate “partners.” As I documented http://www.districtadministration.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=1186 and http://www.districtadministration.com/pulse/commentpost.aspx?news=no&postid=19424, you can not find many examples of creativity or innovation in the new NETs.

    I take this critique seriously. It is not based on mere skepticism, but deep concern that our own community may be harming its mission.

    When would you like to get together for that tea?

    🙂 Gary

  3. Gary, has anyone ever called you a curmudgeon before? You need a happy pill. I’m only joking, of course. I disagree with your statements about PowerPoint. I think that it is a powerful communications tool, that kids should learn to communicate with. I agree that many teachers have taught PowerPoint, rather than teaching communication with PowerPoint. But the tool isn’t the problem.

    What I find intriguing about Pecha Kucha is it’s defined format. If it’s communication that is the point (and I’m not going to ignore an opportunity because I assume that teachers aren’t capable of getting the point), then you are challenging students to communicate through a somewhat limiting and, at the same time, empowering medium. You are challenging them to shape their message, and I think that this will be a useful skill. Not the 20/20 format, but the shaping and adapting.

    As for 21st Century skills? I agree to some extent. Neither programs are well defined. But if we are where ISTE’s document wants to do be five years from now, it will be because of some very exciting work done between now and then. There will be some fascinating conversations.

  4. I love the idea! As has been pointed out, teachers and kids know how to “do PowerPoint” already. This would be an interesting change of pace with a familiar medium.

    From watching a few of the youtubes, it eliminates the dreaded “reading of the PowerPoint slides to the audience” because the slides are more supplemental to the presentation – rather than being the actual presentation. It allows the kids creativity with text, pictures, etc. Their script could be the written portion of the assignment, incorporating grammar, punctuation, footnotes and all that we want kids to be learning.

    As an aside, I attended 2 of your presentations in Prince William County, VA this past week. Lots of great material! Thanks so much for coming to speak to us.

  5. While I do not believe that PowerPoint is the savior of modern civilization or education, how can anyone really look down on a medium that helps workers, teachers, and students to communicate clearly and concisely? PowerPoint and its stepchild Pecha Kucha are great in that they allow us to take a lot of information, parse it down to what is essential and prent it in such a way that it is our own yet still within som relatively rigid confines. I would love to have a classroom where 25 students could get through a unit’s worth of research and the presentations of such in a tight window of time. Fantastic.

    Yes, sometimes PowerPoint is little more than notes on computer, but at least even then it is organized, clear and more professional looking than handwriting on a white board. Also, PowerpOint and the like can be uploaded to a website and downloaded from there so that students can pay attention rather than merely try to transcribe what they are hearing and seeing.

    Wake up people. We can thumb our noses at everything that comes our way and list how each thing won’t work. This will keep us exactly where we are. Or, we can embrace change and make it work because we do need to step forward and bring teaching and learning up to speed.

    There is no magic wand we can wave to make education work well everywhere. However, there is magic in the learning process.

  6. My first thought as I read this post is that Pecha Kucha is like a Haiku for presenting. By having the slides limited and timed, the emphasis is on being concise and effective. The presenter has to rehearse and know the content fully to coincide with the slides. It sounds like a great way to have kids learn how to focus on what is really important to communicate.

  7. David,

    I’m sorry you’ve found it necessary to resort to name-calling. A few days ago, I was a skeptic. Now, I’m a curmudgeon. These are hardly outrageous slurs and I am fully capable taking a punch, such dismissive language signals to your readers that I’m not to be taken seriously.

    I do not arrive at my critical views lightly. I take my work and improving the world of children deadly seriously.


  8. Pecha Kucha is a form of performance art. It is quite a stretch from a valuable educational activity.

    As for the assertion that the tool, PowerPoint, isn’t the problem, I heartily disagree. So does Edward Tufte. I suspect Marshall (the medium IS the message) McCluhan would agree as well.

    Most school PowerPoint presentations lack coherence and communicate very little about topics kids don’t care about to disinterested audiences. The focus is too often on the false complexity associated with fonts and clip-art and less on communication. PowerPoint has become a verb in school – the WHAT you do with computers. It is a drain on computing resoures that features in 1/3 of the new ISTE NETs vignettes, despite the calls for creativity and innovation.

    One danger with “defined formats” is a lack of respect for individual learning styles. The audience experience or curricular requirements subjugate the actual content.

    You readers might enjoy the article I wrote about being tortured by PowerPoint at back-to-school night in 2004.


  9. Gary! I meant the name Skeptic respectfully, and curmudgeon, affectionately. I highly respect your opinion, am amazed at your writing style, and admire your knowledge and courage. ..and I can see how those two comments, so close together might have come across with the affect that you accuse. T’was not my intent, and I apologize.

    As for PowerPoint? Again, I point, not to the tool, but to the teacher. If the teacher is teaching PowerPoint, then the affect will be as you describe. However, if the teacher is teaching communication, and expects students to defend the features that they implement in terms of the presentation’s goal, then it becomes a powerful tool. It seems to me that this is one of the problems with our pressing the “integrate technology” mantra. The effect, all to often, is ineffectual and sometimes counter productive uses.

    As far as the limiting nature of Pecha Kucha? Well that’s true. But it seems to me that almost any assignment or medium is limiting. I think it’s what intrigues me, that through limiting the format, we are forcing learners to be resourceful and discerning. But again, that happens more from the nature of the assignment than the tool or the format.

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