By Rebecca A. Hines
For many of us, PowerPoint was one of the earliest, easiest ways to take a step into the technology age in education. Seemed easy enough: Take our existing content and notes, turn them into bullet points, apply a colorful background, save, and viola! A digital, reusable presentation for sharing content with our learners.
The presentation program has been around for over 20 years now, and certainly has its proponents and detractors. In fact, the program has even been famously blamed for contributing to the Challenger disaster for being used to summarize critical information into bullet points that weren’t read/processed by its audience! The poor use of presentation software such as PowerPoint has been the focus of many online articles and videos, and taking a moment to learn best practices by considering tips from marketing is recommended for all educators using the program.
Consider your own presentations. Are you using basic principles of design as noted by master presenters? Run your presentations through this simple five-question filter from the article, “The Steve Jobs Simplicity Test for PowerPoint Presenters”.
- Does each slide convey just one idea?
- Are images sometimes used instead of words to convey those ideas?
- Do the slides make use of empty space?
- Does the deck sometimes disappear, leaving nothing between you and your audience?
- Have you minimized bullet lists, distracting effects and eye charts?
It always helps to learn more presentation tips, especially considering that we want to pass these tips on to our learners. Being able to communicate orally and digitally will be key for their college and career readiness, so we should expect quality presentations not only from ourselves but our students.
New Ways to Use PowerPoint Content
Since its origins, other advances in technology and shifts in education have made PowerPoint valuable beyond simply sharing bulleted content in class. Specifically, we can now easily take our existing presentations and make them available and accessible to our learners 24/7 by narrating and posting online using a tool such as SlideBoom.
SlideBoom is a free PowerPoint hosting site that allows you to upload your presentation to the web. The file is converted to Flash, and a url (web link) is created that can be shared with students, parents, colleagues, etc. The file can be embedded on another web page, or can be accessed through the web link. In either case, students can view the content you post any time they have a web connection.
Because SlideBoom allows you to upload slides with images, audio, and video, your content can be more accessible than ever.
Locate a presentation you are preparing to use in the near future, or create a review presentation from slides used in the past. Adding narration will allow you to delete some of the on-screen words as you supplement with your own oral content. Follow these steps to create an accessible, quality web-based presentation.
- Run the presentation through the Simplicity Test mentioned earlier.
- Add any needed images and delete any unnecessary text.
- Narrate your presentation in PowerPoint. For most version, you will go to Insert/Audio/Record audio. Most laptops now have built-in microphones, and if you are using a desktop or laptop with no mic a webcam or inexpensive mic will do.
- Create an account in SlideBoom, and upload your presentation.
- Share your account with students so they can view new materials as you make them available.
- To make your presentation most accessible, add a transcript.
There are many ways today to present information in digital format, and we all want to avoid “death by PowerPoint”. None of us should be reading text slides to learners as our content delivery mode in this day and age, but we don’t have to throw out all of the content we have created, either.
It’s time to get to some Spring Cleaning of our old presentations, and repackage them for next year. Use sound design principles and add accessibility through narration and web hosting to ensure all students have unlimited opportunities to learn.
CEC member Rebecca A. Hines is a faculty member at the University of Central Florida, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in technology in special education and specializes in inclusive practices. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.