"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." --John Dewey

Sunday, March 11, 2012

PowerPoints with Personality

Whether you love 'em, hate 'em, or fall somewhere in between, PowerPoint presentations have become something of a staple in every teacher's bag of technology tricks.  Some of us create our own PowerPoints to present curriculum content, some of us have our students create them to show they've learned the curriculum content, and some of us do a little of each.

Now, conventional Powerpoint wisdom tells us that as a general rule, less is more.  PowerPoint slides are, essentially, visual aids, and should not contain every word you intend to convey to your audience.  Most of your presentation should come from the presenter--as spoken word.   (If you've never seen it, take a minute to watch the "Life after Death by PowerPoint" video below.  It's definitely good for a giggle or two.)

Well, for seasoned professionals like us, that shouldn't be too much of a challenge.  Teachers are, after all, paid to speak extemporaneously in front of an audience on a daily basis.  But for our students, on the other hand, not reading directly from the presentation can be quite a challenge.  Fortunately for all of us, there are web resources available to improve the presentations of the shy, shyer, and shyest of students.

Present.me is a web tool that allows you to add a video narration to your PowerPoints, creating a presentation that is the next best thing to (sometimes even better than) a live address.  Your slides and narration appear side by side and are easy to synch perfectly for a flawless presentation.  Not only is this a good solution for eliminating the nervousness many students experience at the prospect of speaking in front of their classmates, it's also perfect for the teacher who wants to be sure every point of context is delivered, even in his or her absence.  (Wouldn't every teacher want him or herself as their own substitute?!) Recorded presentations can also be posted online so that even the students who missed class can hear every word that was delivered while they were gone.

Students too shy to appear on video?  MyBrainshark.com is the perfect solution for the shyer set. Audio narration can be added through this website, as well as some nice background music for effect.  (Read lots more about MyBrainshark, and see a sample presentation in the January 29th post of this blog.)

Now what about those students who tremble at the mere thought of speaking into a microphone?  Yes, there's even a solution for the shyest of your students:  HelloSlide.com. Using the Hello Slide website allows students to add narration to their presentations by simply typing what they want to say.  Sure, you can tell it's computer-speak, but it is far more natural than many computer-voices I've heard.  This website will even allow you to choose the language the narrator will speak, and the accent, to my untrained ear, actually sounds pretty realistic.

So there you have it--something for everyone.  Never again will you have to stare at the back of a student reading word-for-word from the text-laden PowerPoint presentation proudly projected on the wall of your classroom.  Now, if we could just as easily address the rest of these egregious talk taboos.

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