Is it About Presenting or the PowerPoint?

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Having students create presentations is a very popular learning activity in many classrooms especially classrooms loaded with technology like eMINTS classes. Teachers love to have students create presentations to demonstrate what they have learned about a topic. Students are often times responsible for teaching others about what they have learned. Asking learners to do this encourages them to take responsibility and internalize content while building the necessary life skill of presenting to an audience.

But here is what is often heard when teachers are giving the assignment….PowerPoint PowerPoint PowerPoint…Is making a presentation all about PowerPoint?

There are many ways that students can show what they have learned. While PowerPoint is a great presentation tool it isn’t the only one out there and it isn’t always the most appropriate tool for everyone and every project. Assigning an entire class to use PowerPoint can make the activity easier to manage and requires a teacher to know how to use only one tool. But giving students an option in what presentation tool has its benefits. Students sometimes get more engaged in a project when they have a say in how it will be completed. Giving students choice can also begin to teach them about the benefits of using one tool over another and how the features of one might be able to help them convey their message in a more effective and meaningful way.

The biggest issue I hear from teachers is they think they need to create a different rubric for each option they give students. My suggestion…How about creating one “Presentation” rubric that could be used for all the different types of presentations in many different units. By including things teachers value like quality and quantity of information, creativity and originality of the media, and presentation skills such as clarity, focus, and eye contact, teachers will ensure that students walk away with the necessary understandings and skills they need in the future. Also creating one rubric for all presentations can save teachers precious time in the future.

Another road block many teachers run in to is the feeling that they have know how to use every tool for each option they give students. While having a good understanding of the basics of how a presentation tool works is beneficial, giving students tutorials for tools a teacher is less familiar with is another option. Another option might be to develop student experts that learn about different tools and be a resource for those using that tool.

Be aware, just like with PowerPoint, students can waste time “exploring” all of the bells and whistles and might need to be reminded that content comes first then customizing. They can easily be reminded of this by using a checklist or rubric to keep them on track.

A few alternate presentation tools you may want to offer students in addition to PowerPoint in your next project could include:

  • SMART Notebook
  • Movie Maker/iMovie
  • Prezi – “The zooming editor” create a presentation on a flat canvas and customize it with panning and zooming, imported media, the ability to collaborate and so much more.
  • Google Presentation Tool – now with drawing tools, animations, and the ability to collaborate
  • Zoho Show – Create, Edit and Share Your Presentations Online
  • Empressr – Media presentation tool. “Tell your story anyway you like. Add photos, music, video, and audio, and share it publicly or privately in an instant.”
  • GlogsterEDU – “Make your interactive poster easily and share it with friends. Mix Images, Text, Music and Video.”
  • TimeToast – An interactive visual timeline builder. “Timetoast is a place to create timelines that you can add to your blog or website.”
  • Animoto – “Turn your photos, video clips, and music into stunning video masterpieces to share with everyone. Fast, free, and shockingly easy!”
  • Extranormal – “Telling your story is easy… Choose from hundreds of actors. Type or record your dialogue. Select your background.” It’s that easy to get started.
  • Go!Animate – “Make a video online for free with GoAnimate!”

What might be some presentation tools you and your students like to use when creating presentations?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.