Back in July, the Big Nephew’s school held ‘independent learning week’. Amongst lots of other interesting activities, Big Nephew worked on his own to make a poster. He chose one of his favourite topics, and the finished product is impressive for both content and presentation.
More recently, students on my course were invited to submit poster proposals for a research day. I wrote a proposal based on a paper I’d presented last year at another event, and ear-marked last Sunday afternoon to make the poster. ‘You just do a PowerPoint slide’, one person said. ‘It’ll be easy because you’ve already got all the information’, said someone else. Easy for them, maybe. Not so easy for a dyspraxic who was behind in cutting-and-sticking at nursery school.
On Sunday, I realised that it’s REALLY BLOODY HARD to summarise a 20-minute paper in under 800 words, which is what poster gurus recommend. Particularly when the paper was written for a completely different audience to that for the poster presentation. The obvious solution was to go out and drink wine. On Monday morning, slightly hungover, I started work on the layout. PowerPoint was an unequivocal disaster, too painful to discuss here. Eventually I switched to Pages, with the new strategy of ‘Pretend it’s a GCSE set work revision sheet’. Thinking in that more familiar mind-set did help, but it was still slow-going. On Monday evening I thought it was finished. On Tuesday morning one proof-reader spotted several SPAG errors and the other politely offered to re-format it, which he felt would be easier than explaining the process to me via Facebook Messenger. It took him three minutes to deliver a presentation transformation of Fairy-Godmother standards.
The printing services people were very helpful when I couldn’t understand Canadian paper sizes, but it was irksome to pay $60 for something that had caused such stress. I’d just about calmed down by Wednesday when I FaceTimed Mum and Dad. “I’m going to collect my scientific poster now”. “Scientific? That’s not really you”, was Dad’s response. Mum followed up with “Neither is poster-making”. Apparently they still bear the scars of my Year 8 Geography homework. There was some comfort on Thursday, when I realised I could use coloured paper for the handouts so that they’d match the actual poster. But really, I could’ve got the same buzz from just printing my normal assignments on coloured paper, without all the poster-pain.
The actual event was valuable for two reasons: Looking at other peoples’ posters was a good way to learn about current research (and pinch poster-making ideas!) and answering questions about my own work prompted me to view it from a different perspective, particularly since the comments were largely from people unfamiliar with the setting in which the research had occurred.
So, what have I learnt from this experience? That I am less of an independent learner than the Big Nephew (who’s six). That because I have helpful, skilled friends who bail me out, it doesn’t matter. That restructuring existing work into a new format is a good reflective exercise. And that I’m still as daunted by layout as I was in Year 8 Geography.
PS. Breaking with tradition, this blog has two accompanying photos. When I asked Big Nephew for a poster pic, he also sent a photo of the Death Star model that he’d made (independently, obvs) to accompany his poster. I did not make a model. But only because I didn’t want to rain on his parade.