The other day I was working on a new lecture idea, “Sharpening the Saw: Distance Learning for the Genealogist” and doing what I usually do, construct the outline first. The outline also serves as the core of my handout or syllabus material. A colleague, another genealogy lecturer, raised the question, “Isn’t it a bit risky to give away your outline? Some unscrupulous person could pirate your talk.”
I laughed because anyone who has heard me mention my handouts in outline form knows that I tell people its a guide so the learner knows when I go off topic. The outline never includes the anecdotes and confessions of my learning errors and those human interest hooks are often the key to people remembering my points.
But, my colleague did cause me to look at other handouts, and here are some thoughts based on the 2004 Federation of Genealogical Societies’ conference in Austin.
Some folks like to list parts of an outline in a simple numerical order. I’ve seen Paula Stuart Warren do this very effectively, and Thomas W. Jones. Its easier to refer to number 31 in a syllabus than to section IV.B.4, I guess. They also extend this numbering to the references
I remember a vey nice clean two- column wide handout that Paul Milner used for a lecture on “Effective Internet Use of England’s National Archives”. Now that I found it I still like the look, but wish there was a little something to break up the text more. But it was a neat look.
A good idea that turned out not so good, was to put the print over top of a reproduction in grey of an old engraved picture. The print was hard to read.
I like boxes with tables, or key concepts or sidebar stories. The previously praised Tom Jones does this very well I find. For some reason inexplicable to any but my psychologist friends, I like simple page borders. I wonder if they’ll interpret that as a desire for control or a call to have some one to control me. Its just me. Of course I also lecture on Canadian government border entry records, and put a border on that handout! Borderline something, did you say. Be cautious about shading those boxes and borders, because cheaper papers tend to make them appear darker than intended.
I love bibliographies, reference lists, suggested readings etc.– after all I am a librarian and bibliophile. But I think these things allow the people who attend the lecture or class to follow up, review your concepts and expand their knowledge.
If you know nothing about papers, drop by a local print shop and ask about printing papers. Learn about weights and brightness from the pros. It will be 30 minutes well spent.
I don’t like amusing scripts, though I have used a “Comic” something font a few times. Go figure. What I mean is that the intellectual content of the handout should not be constricted by the font chosen. I seem to be partial to Times-Roman, Arial Narrow and Palatino–oh and that Comic something sometimes. In print, research shows that serif style fonts are easier to use in texts. San serif fonts are ok in headers. Pamela Boyer Ported, a great editor and proof reader, tells me san serif fonts ( e.g. Arial) are the best in overheads and for your powerpoint style presentations. So guess what, the template I use for this blog dictates I use a san serif font. Again, go figure.
Handouts are part brochure, part newletter and part study notes. As we learn to create each type of document, we get better at creating handouts.
Final thought. When I create a handout I do two things. First I create a header that gives the title and copyright notice on every page. The footer identifies me, my business, and how to reach me ( address, web page, email etc.) I did not usually use he footer for anything more than a page number until Louise St. Denis at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies pointed out the opportunity.
What are your experiences with handouts and syllabus material. Any comments?