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.

star wars poster       death star



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