Classroom Tech, Part V: PowerPoint

I’m in the middle of a series of posts outlining how I plan on using technology during the coming school year. I’ll share some tools, resources, and ideas that I intend to use with students in the classroom, and hopefully you, the reader, will share some advice or thoughts of your own, either in the comments section, or on your own blog (just let me know if you do!).

This next tech tool is nothing new to any of us, and at this point, it barely counts as “technology.” The use of PowerPoint in schools has a long and sordid history, dating back at least to when I was in high school. So it’s not necessarily the tool that I’m focusing on here, but the way in which the tool is used. Over the last year, I’ve been frequently exposed to blog posts, seminars, books, and other resources on making learning visual. PowerPoint, originally, was supposed to help with this. Unfortunately, it has become a tool for presenters/teachers rather than for learners. Rather than spend a lot of time sharing ideas, I want to sum up the concepts that I’ve learned and share some valuable resources for using PowerPoint to make learning more visual.

Concepts:

  • Much of the learning I’ve done centers around using lots of images and minimizing text when using presentation software. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, check out the following two examples. First, the “old” way of doing PowerPoint (or, “what not to do):

    And now, the “new” way of doing PowerPoint (pay attention to the visual:text ratios):
  • The core concept for successfully using PowerPoint is to connect what you are saying to some simple, concrete imagery. Allow the images and visuals to add to what you are saying; let your audience make connections of their own between your words and the visuals in your PowerPoint.
  • Photos are infinitely more meaningful to audiences than clip art. Take the images below, for example. Both might connect to my main idea of “baseball,” but I think we can all agree that the photo is far more visually appealing and meaningful than the clip art.
     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources

  • Many of the concepts I’ve learned about are nicely captured in Garr Reynolds’ book, Presentation Zen. This is the key piece of literature for those looking to become better presenters. It focuses a little more on the theoretical aspects of presenting, but is an all-around good read.
  • Some other books and resources for the theory behind better presentations: A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink, which focuses on brain research and visual thinking, and Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte, which focuses a little more on the practical side of presentation creation.
  • In addition to those books, here are a few online resources to help get you started in creating “zen” presentations:

And that’s all for this edition of Classroom Tech. Next time, in Part VI, we’ll discuss one of the most contentious pieces of classroom technology: cell phones.

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