Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mastering Old Tech-the PPT Dilemma

My class recently completed what most instructors would say as the dreaded PowerPoint Assignment. However, despite the groans I have heard from colleagues, I continue to use and exploit this tool so my students can learn about the flexibility of this program. Let me start by saying that I teach a computer applications class to a group of 8th graders but despite the very 20th century title for the course, I make every effort to allow my students to explore their imaginations, engage in creative problem solving, while appealing to the affective aspects of their learning. I have the benefit of not having a formal curriculum which allows it to change dynamically from trimester to trimester or from assignment to assignment.

Back to this dreaded PPT assignment. The first thing we covered were issues that can make a PPT presentation ineffective. We brainstormed different concepts using Inspiration and then launched into the assignment entitled the "Lousy PowerPoint". The assignment itself is nothing new. Many teachers have asked their students to create Lousy PPTs, but my goal was to also incorporate many of the "wiz bang" options available to users.

After developing presentations that exaggerated and highlighted poor presentation skills my students were then asked to redo their PPTs so they could be delivered effectively in front of an audience.

As my students were developing their new and improved PPTs, I was struck by how much they picked up from designing and critiquing each others lousy PPTs. So, is the oral presentation dead? I hope not because public speaking is a valuable skill that should be groomed and practiced regularly. Presentation software has unfortunately been misused by so many users that many teachers blame the product rather than the instruction. Guidelines and rubrics are all fine and good but the true essence of creating an excellent presentation is having good public speaking skills. So let's be sure to include those items in our guidelines and rubrics too. After that, it is all a transition away.

Helpful tools for presenters:
-rehearsal time
-wireless mouse
-wireless keyboard
-internet connection
-practice space that mimics where the presentation will be given


J Clark Evans said...

I agree that it is important to give our students opportunities to 1) practice giving oral presentations and 2) learn to be effective users of new technologies. I recently did taught a unit on Romantic poets with a research and Power Point presentation component. We watched this great video ( a class to tackle the concept of using PPT effectively. I then posted my students' PPTs on my blog: From this you can see the slides that they made, but you cannot see the talking that they did when they didn't rely on reading off of their own slides.

alexragone said...

Hiram -- Definitely check out: and Garr's Google Presentation:

Presentation skills are more important than ever. I like the idea of limited the time to communicate an idea or doing different types of presentations for different audiences. Using video to evaluate presentation can be effective as well. How about remote presentations? Lots of ways to remix this.

I may be teaching an 8th grade tech class next year, and if so, would love to do some collaborating. - Alex

alexragone said...

just subscribing to this thread.

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