Thursday, January 19, 2012

PowerPoint is Still Dead

Well, that might be a bit extreme.  PowerPoint does have its place, but it is not as a daily classroom presentation tool.  In a fairly recent New York Times article about the use of PowerPoint in the US Military, high ranking officials have said that PowerPoint "makes us stupid,” and "...the program stifles discussion, critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making."  The article even goes so far as to compare debriefing PowerPoints to "hypnotizing chickens."  I don't know about you, but if PowerPoints can have that kind of effect on our well trained and disciplined soldiers, how must it affect our nation’s students?

This whole "project based/inquiry learning model" is great in theory and does absolutely work, but with traditional class structure, size, and scheduling barriers these projects can be few and far between.  I get it.  I am only here to offer up some alternatives to PowerPoint.  The idea is to mix it up a bit.  Keep the students brains engaged.

Prezi has been out for many years and many of you may have seen it or even used it.  I like to use it as a student project creation tool.  It is a right brain oriented activity and can sometimes be an "artistic" experience.  As a teacher I do not recommend you rush out and convert all your PowerPoints to Prezi, but rather suggest that you use it as an intro or closer to a unit of study.

Prezi has come a very long way since its inception and they do very regular updates.  Often these updates RADICALLY change the look of the tool, but the function always stays the same.   At the time of this post, I just finished what feels like the 25th update to my training handout.  Please feel free to use it or modify it to your liking (please give attribution).

Here is a Prezi that I use to present the tool to teachers.  I "borrowed" it from Paul Hill at the I did make some modifications to it to fit my needs.

*Update: Here is a link to an article on the subject of Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it) written by Seth Godin, a "NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author, a renowned public speaker and an agent of change.

Please note that Seth's audience is those in the business world and his suggestion of "buying professional images" should be overlooked.  If you are using your presentation in a classroom setting, your use of copyrighted images would be covered under Title 17 of the United States Code, section 110 (1).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Master of the web part II - Livebinders

This next "bundling tool" is a classic in the frugal world of ed tech.  Many of you have seen and or used it before, but no collection of web bundlers would be complete without a mention of Livebinders.  Livebinders is an ideal tool for bundling websites, videos, and documents into one safe, and easy to use website. One very cool feature about live binders is the ability to add editable pages right into the binder using a simple wysiwyg editor.

While I am sure most 21st century teachers know about and/or use Livebinders, I thought I would offer my own tips on the product.

  • Don't fear the "subtab."  Organize your tabs into main ideas and then add content using the subtab.  Do not get crazy with the subtab though.  I have seen quite a few binders with dozens of subtabs per topic.  Limit yourself to a half dozen or less per tab.  Who says you cant make additional Binders?
  • Uploading files (word documents, pdf's etc) is a great way to get specific content on a binder.  Unfortunately, office documents will only be viewable in Internet Explorer.  Consider IE is EVIL, I suggest converting all word documents to pdf and then upload them.  All modern browsers will permit full screen pdf viewing in binder tabs.  
  • Uploading copy-written materials?  Keep yourself safe by adding a password to the binder so only your students can access the content.  See downstream controls in the Teach Act.
  • Search other users Public Binders, copy them where applicable (be sure to give attribution), and modify them to fit your needs.

Finally, feel free to use/remix my one page Livebinders handout (updated 3-8-12) that I use to introduce teachers and students to this tool.

 photo credit: SoulRider.222 via photopin cc

Monday, January 9, 2012

Master of the web

How many times have you planned an amazing lesson that required your students to visit a series of websites (a' la webquest) and had it fail miserably?   How do I know that it failed?  We often set our students up for failure when we do not give them enough structure.   "Structure" can be a bad word in the discovery learning world of education that we live in, but without a trail to follow, your students will never get to the desired outcome.

Good news. The world of web 2.0 comes to the rescue with so many great tools (too many to actually list).  The idea is to construct your own "web tour" with various online tools.  You essentially bundle together a number of websites, online videos, etc, into one organized project.  Gone is the day of the paper handout with a list of URL's.  One simple, shortened URL is all that stands between your students and the material you have bundled together for them.

This is the the first post in a series where I will feature a different "bundling tool."  each of the posts will have the tag "bundle" and will provide all the resources you will need to implement that particular tool in your class. is my new favorite bundling tool.  It is simple and gets right to the point.  Just add a website, and video urls to a list and "stitches" them together in one nice little webtour.  Best part?  You can add annotations to each page. Annotations in the word of education = Directions.

Tip: Want to add accountability and assessment to your article bundle?  Consider embedding a Google Form at the end (I will post directions later for those in need).  Combined with, the quiz will grade itself!

photo credit: Eastern Arizona College via photopin cc

Media exposure and the brain

Every few years the Kiser Family Foundation releases the Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds study. The study examines a cross section of the nations teens and how (and how much) media they consume. The study is a must read for every educator.

I use this study coupled with Marc Prensky's now classic Digital Native, Digital Immigrants paper (part I & II) to help encourage fellow educators to embrace technology integration.

Below is a Prezi that I developed with the information from these two resources that might be helpful to you in your own journey.  You are welcome to share or remix it to fit your own needs.

Why I do what I do.

This child will be in your class before you know it.  Are you ready?

Joe's probably already sitting in your class.


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