Death by PowerPoint v. life with Google Docs
Ever assigned a Powerpoint presentation? If, like me, you immediately cringe, then you probably have. Despite the obvious pros of individual creation of a visually-based technological experiential learning task, there are too many cons:
- Some kids are horrible at using Powerpoint, and some are better than you are. The divide is enough to keep you away altogether.
- Different versions of the program virtually assure you will have someone who cannot show their presentation because of some sort of compatibility issue. For instance, our laptop carts cannot do .pptx, but many kids have that at home. I understand there are converters, but it is impractical to set this up on presentation day.
- Cool transitions, themes, and graphics, 93%, crafting accurate information into readable slides, 7%. Students prioritize flash over substance.
- Flash drive hell. My USB port on my presentation computer has seen a lot of action. It is now semi-functional, and I expect it to crap out any day.
- Did anyone forget their presentation? Oh, 13 of you did? Great, we will reschedule the entire week for you.
- Students reading paragraphs of text from poorly designed slides is so delightful.
Truth is, the creation of student Powerpoints, even for a patient teacher, requires copious amounts of computer lab time, plus a great deal of presentation time. Next time, try this:
Photo and graphic slide shows on Google Docs. They can work on them at home or at school, they are all shared with you, so you can queue them up one after another, and most of the above issues are solved. I ask my students to use a simple background, and use only pictures, graphics, or visual design they find on the internet. They must cite and tag each photo with a hyperlink leading directly to the original. They may use no more words than what may logically caption a photo or title a chart. The images become the visual accompaniment for the presentation, and they must rely on their own knowledge for the speaking portion. The pictures help remind them what they are speaking about, and they can use cue cards to help them along. Since there are no fancy transitions or complicated bells and whistles, any student can master it in 10 minutes or so, and will need to focus on the arrangement of content in a logical fashion, not on triviality. I have used this for book reviews, topics from the Elizabethan era, and biographies. If you are really ambitious, these could be put in a folder shared by all, so they could be referred back to later, for visual connect to go with notes, etc.