Bumping the Lamp
What I've dreaded happening for months is now official. My school will open August 6 with 100% distanced learning. For 8 years I've made it a point to meet my new AVID before school started. Now, I won't even get to meet them when school starts. I'll have more to say on this later but for now let me just say that we teachers have to admit right now that we are not ready for this. We cannot pretend that this distanced learning is just going to magically work now that it "counts." We will need to use every tool in our kit, and learn a whole bunch more, if we are going to see any success with our students.
With that in mind, let's bump some lamps!
Be Our Guest is a book from the Disney Institute focusing on Disney customer service. Put simply, it is their relentless focus on the guest that makes them so successful. The book is a quick, easy read that I highly recommend, especially as we enter a world where our guests will be a bigger mystery to use than every before.
Early in the book the author introduces the concept of "bumping the lamp." It refers to intense attention to detail. You find this in all aspects of Disney from the small seashell pieces that speckle the walkway in front of Ariel's Undersea Adventure at California Adventure to the Mickey-shaped foods found everywhere throughout the parks.
The book describes how the idea has been in place since Walt's days as an animator. The idea was finally given a name during the creation of Roger Rabbit. There is a scene where a live actor bumps a lamp causing shadows to dance across the room. This became an issue with the animated Roger was added to the scene. It turns out real life lamps don't cast shadows on cartoon characters! The scene is very brief and would likely go unnoticed by most. Still, the animators took the time to animate the shadow on Roger as well. They didn't want anything to pull their guests out of the experience.
Now let's think about just our first day with our new kids. Actually, let's go even easier - first minute! How many opportunities for bumped lamps are we going to run into? More than you might think at first thought. What if your shirt has a bit of green in it that goes invisible with your green screen effect on Zoom? What if your desktop background pops up, even briefly, as you change shared windows? What does your camera pick up behind you or, perhaps more importantly, of you? Are your new kids getting nothing but a close up image of your chin? (I've seen it a lot in the last few months.)
More than any time previously we have to design, plan and rehearse every minute of that first day (ideally the first week but I'm trying to be real.) We have to get our new guests into our experience as quickly as possible and not let go. You know how it feels to be gripped in a great performance (if not, you somehow didn't watch Hamilton this weekend!) You know quickly you bond with others sharing that performance with you (if not, you somehow didn't watch Hamilton with others this weekend!) However, you also know how awful a bad introduction to a teaching experience can be. We've all been to PD Workshops and Conferences that having us rolling our eyes within the first minute. That presenter is going to have to work to get me back on their side if my first introduction as their guest was a personal introduction slide with 12+ lines of text and a (yes I'm going there) bitmoji.
There is a ton to consider when it comes to visual presentation. I've been talking about this for years and I won't rehash it all here but consider your fonts, consider your color patterns, consider your animations (which is to say, limit them!), consider that over your students' wifi it is very possible everything will but just a bit blurry so text size really matters, consider that sound and video do not translate well over Google Meet (but pretty well on Zoom), consider that it is very hard to see all your guests along with chat and your own screen all at once on Zoom (but pretty easy on Meet) and consider that your guests are going to be TERRIFIED. We've done nothing but scare them for the last 5 months and that isn't going away.
We have a ton of work to do in the next month. Let's be real about it. Let's make sure to pay close attention to details - they really do matter.
*If you want some guide materials on presentation tips, I highly recommend The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. It is a great starting point for visual design. Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show is a fun look at how Disney looks at visual design (and apparently nearly impossible to find in print.) It isn't as practical as the former book but well worth the read. Lastly, I've got a couple recorded presentations on the front page of this site of shows I've put on in the last couple months about these topics. I hope you will check them out! We're in this together.