Odyssey – Dynamic Learning System: Conversation with Leon Conrad

Created: Monday, May 25, 2015, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 4:00 am



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Leon ConradLeon Conrad is a highly experienced voice-centered communication skills specialist who has run training courses in voice-centered communication skills for business for over 20 years. He is co-founder and lead trainer at The Academy of Oratory and teaches communication skills for negotiators for The Negotiation Lab. Leon is passionate about traditional arts and crafts, storytelling, and about reviving the integrated approach to classical liberal arts education. Leon performs as a storyteller and performance poet. He lives in London, UK.

In this conversation, Leon discusses his book, Odyssey – Dynamic Learning System.

Geetesh: Tell us more about your new book, Odyssey – Dynamic Learning System – and how you conceptualized and evolved this book.

Leon: Odyssey, in a nutshell, is a simple approach to education that makes learning more effective, engaging, inspirational, and fun.

Odyssey works like a game. It’s based on a grid of colored shapes — each with an intriguing word, diagram, or picture on it. The goal is to travel through the grid, starting at the top left, visiting a set number of shapes. The goal is to end up at the blank shape at the bottom. The blank shape symbolizes a key learning point — because we don’t know what that will be, the shape is left blank. The content will emerge as a result of going on the journey.



David Pinto first developed the idea when he taught Maths to secondary schools students in the UK. He developed it as a desperately needed alternative to the traditional jug-mug approach to education, realizing that students were crying out to be inspired, engaged, and that they wanted things to just make sense. Odyssey allowed the delivery of necessary syllabus-based content, while fulfilling the need for being inspirational, engaging, fun learning — and encouraged students to make sense of the subject matter for themselves, each in their own way.

The results he got were impressive — in one case, after 5 weeks using an Odyssey Grid with a class of 13- to 14-year-old students working at level 3 out of six levels, they all moved up. Of the 24 in the class, 21 moved up a set — already outperforming those in the set above them — and three shot up to the top set.

David and I became friends after a chance meeting on the top of a double decker bus in London. We shared a common interest in a holistic, integrated approach to education, but it was around 3 years after our initial meeting that I found out about Odyssey. David explained how it worked and I used it when I was teaching an Oracy to Literacy program based on storytelling at a primary school in London, which the students loved and did really well with. When I told David what I’d done, we were both surprised to find I’d developed a new way of using the system. As a result we decided to write a book which covered both approaches.

I found PowerPoint really useful in developing teaching materials. As we recommend presenting material in riddle format, and vary the type of content as much as possible, the ability to hyperlink from shapes on a navigation slide and embed different kinds of content was really useful.

Geetesh: Presentations such as those created and delivered using PowerPoint can be both linear and dynamic (non-linear) — in which scenarios, can a presenter and an audience benefit more from a slide sequence that’s dynamic rather than linear?

Leon: Since the book came out in January, we’ve given presentations on the system using PowerPoint. We’ve designed presentations using an Odyssey Grid approach and have got audience members to select their own journey through the grid, learning about the approach by being immersed in it — which has increased engagement, and enjoyment, made presenting and learning more fun.

I’m a big fan of PowerPoint – used well. The great thing about the program is that both linear and non-linear approaches can be used alongside each other as appropriate. Why go for an either/or scenario when it can provide a both/and option? While the overarching approach to going on an Odyssey journey is non-linear, any shape could link to a linear slideshow sequence if the content lends itself to being explored that way.

Odyssey is an incredibly flexible system. It’s got four main advantages over traditional approaches to presentation or education. It’s content-free, it’s scalable, it’s adaptable and it can work at any level.

OdysseyFirstly, being content free, it can be used to teach any subject. It can literally be used by anyone to teach anything to anyone. Secondly, because it’s scalable, it can contain anything from a whole year’s syllabus, a term’s project, the content for a single training day, but can also be used in an even shorter intervention. Thirdly, because it’s adaptable, you can design Odyssey Grids to suit different requirements — and there are many variations described in the book. For instance, you could explore David’s approach to delivering a syllabus which is cumulative, in which one segment develops out of another, or Leon’s approach to delivering a syllabus which is interconnected, but not necessarily cumulative. Last but not least, we’ve used Odyssey Grids at many different levels — they work for corporate training and tertiary education as well as at primary and secondary levels.

Odyssey is released under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial License.

The book is available from major on-line retailers worldwide and can be ordered from independent bookstores or you can get a signed copy from OdysseyGrids.com.

If you’re an Indezine subscriber, you can use code ‘Indez15’ at checkout to benefit from a 10% discount on your first purchase from OdysseyGrids.com.

A sample Odyssey Grid that introduces the concept of what an Integrated Approach to Liberal Arts Education means can be downloaded for free from the OdysseyGrids website here.

David explains the very simple idea behind Odyssey on this YouTube video.

Categories: books, interviews, powerpoint, presentation_skills


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