EAA Teaching Case Study

Case Study Submissions

Case Study: July 2020

Using PechaKucha in the Classroom

Editor’s Note: The lead author of the following teaching case study is an undergraduate instructor, but PechaKucha is probably an even more popular digital teaching strategy with high school instructors.

Written by Jeannette Cockroft, Associate Professor of History and Political Science, Schreiner University (Kerrville, Texas)

Coauthored by Cecila Barlow, MFA, Manager of the Center for Print and Digital Production, Schreiner University (Kerrville, Texas)

Photo illustration by Willa Davis. Original image supplied by Shutterstock.com.

View PechaKucha article in the EAA Online Archives

Course: “The History of Modern Asia”

Lesson Plan Content

Pecha-kucha is a presentation format in which twenty slides are each presented for twenty seconds (for a total of six minutes, forty seconds) with no embellishments other than live narration. To design a research project using this presentation style for undergraduate students in my modern East Asian history class, I modified the traditional pecha-kucha structure described by A. Maria Toyoda and combined elements of the digital storytelling outlined by Samantha Morra to create a multi-phased research project. Each step represents a milestone in the development of the final product and is coupled with hard deadlines designed to keep students focused and on track to complete the project by the end of a fourteen-week semester.

Five steps comprise the process. The first is the choice of topic; the second, a research paper that provides the historical context and significance of the topic as well as factual material such as the who, where, when, why, and how of the topic. The research paper allows the student to explore a subject of interest beyond the course syllabus and guides the choice of images. This assignment also allows for the assessment of students’ writing and research skills, which is one of the student learning outcomes my department strives to develop. Step three occurs once the professor has evaluated the paper; it may then be rewritten so that the student can clarify his/her understanding of the material or adjust the emphasis of the research. The concern here is that the topic chosen is broad enough to facilitate the search for images and at the same time, focused enough to be effectively explored in a meaningful way within the allotted six minutes and forty seconds. Step four is a story circle, during which each student presents a rough draft of his/her the pecha-kucha. This includes all twenty slides as well as preliminary script for critique by both fellow classmates and the instructor. Several rubrics which can be modified for this project are available for the evaluation of both the design and content of the pecha-kuchas (https://tinyurl.com/yxokwu6x and https://tinyurl.com/y5glwtds)

Although the original pecha-kucha format emphasizes synchronous, live narration, this project requires students to provide voice over narration of their slides in the allotted twenty seconds per slide, thus allowing for the assessment of students’ oral presentation skills. 

PowerPoint can used for the creation of the creation of the slide show and several screen recording programs are available to record the audio. Screencast-o-matic can be downloaded onto personal computers; the basic service is free and other options are available by subscription. QuickTime is available on all Macintosh computers and works well for the project. Camtasia also works well and provides a 30-day free trial. However, many educational institutions often have this available. Regardless of the screen recording software used, the basic process of assembling the pecha-kucha is the same. The slides are loaded in PowerPoint and the program is set on presentation mode. The student then speaks into a microphone to record the narration. Snowball microphones work best to eliminate extraneous noise. Other tips to avoid background noise include turning off the air conditioning or fans and getting as far away as possible from children and pets.

Outcomes and Student Feedback

The challenge of this pecha-kucha project is for students to use both the PowerPoint and screen recording software to create one, integrated file. To do this, students must practice the script several times to ensure that the narration of each slide is 20 seconds. Students often prefer to cheat by using a movie editing software that does not require them to practice timing the script and that may allow more than 20 seconds of narration per slide. Cheating as well as the temptation to cut corners on practice can be minimized by deducting points in the rubric for failing to use the appropriate software. 

I have used this project in several sections of Modern Asian History over the past six years. Students have produced projects dealing with such diverse topics as Japan and Comfort Women; the White Lotus Rebellion and the editorial cartoons of the Russo-Japanese War. Despite a natural student proclivity for procrastination, course evaluations and student comments indicate that students value the opportunity to explore a topic not discussed in class and enjoy presenting their research in a novel, digital format.

CALL FOR CASE STUDIES: Middle School, High School, and Undergraduate Instructors

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