Monday, April 29, 2013

Presentation Technologies in the Classroom

Teaching our students how to give a good presentation is something that is often overlooked, but is so valuable! As part of our freshman Core Seminar I, I work with a wide range of classes. Some professors required students to give end-of-the-semester presentations while others didn’t. For those students who were required to give presentations, I didn’t want to do the typical “here are some options for you to use as visuals and now I click here to show you this feature and now I click here to show you another” type of demonstration. Ummm...Boring! But I also didn’t want to go too wild and crazy, just based on the personalities of the class and the classroom culture. Here’s what I came up with:

For the first 5-7 minutes of class it was the “traditional” setup where I gave my own presentation discussing the following points (with more detail than is outlined below):

  • Why is giving presentations important?
    • Here we discussed the need to give presentations in future courses as they advance through college, give presentations as they enter the workforce, etc. I also mentioned that it’s a handy skill to have if they ever wish to convey their ideas clearly and concisely to another human.
  • Intro to the basics of giving a good presentation.
    • In this part I discussed their need to really know their stuff, inside and out, do quality research, know the classroom where they’d be presenting, and practice (for the love of Pete, practice!).
  • Make an impression, and make it a good one.
    • I reinforce the need to start strong by having their opening memorized, how important it is to dress to impress, have a strong ending, and be sure that their key points are addressed (are they actually talking about what they’re supposed to be talking about?). I do give the warning to watch out for pacing, stay positive, and watch their posture, gestures, and vocal habits.
  • Remember your audience.
    • I mention the bored: bored equation--If the presenter is bored, the audience is most certainly bored, so finding a way to keep the audience’s attention, make it interactive, show your enthusiasm as a presenter, and talk TO the audience (not AT the audience) is so important.  If they can pull in a story or a real-life experience, that will help the audience connect with them as a speaker and the topic or issue they are trying to share. Oh, and don’t forget eye contact!

Then, I explained to the students that they would soon become the teachers. I printed out the questions (below) that each group would have to be able to demonstrate and show to their classmates how to use their assigned technology: PowerPoint (yes, some freshmen haven’t had to use PowerPoint before), Prezi, Google Drive Presentations. Because the classes can sometimes be pretty large, I usually wound up having two groups exploring the same technology tool. This doubling up isn’t ideal, but works--and can actually be helpful when one group shows one way to do something and the other finds another or uses a shortcut.  

I give the groups some “sandbox” time (time to get in there and “play” with their assigned technology) and then they present back (sometimes creating a very meta presentation about how to make a presentation using their tool, sometimes just walking the class through the steps). I prefer this hands-on approach because it’s more practical and forces the students to break that barrier of trying out a new technology.  If they’ve experimented with it in class, or have seen their classmates be successful with something new, then they are more likely themselves to try out a new piece of presentation software.


Things to consider/answer:

  • Tell us about the software.
    • Do you need to create an account to use this?
    • Is this something you purchase?
  • What are the basics:
    • How do you add information?
    • How do you edit information?
    • How is information displayed?
  • Advanced:
    • Can you add video? If so, how do you add video?
    • How do you add images?
    • Can you add transitions?
    • How do you change the way it looks? (Things like fonts, colors, images, layout, etc.)
    • Can multiple people edit the presentation at once?
    • Can you add charts and graphs? If so, how?
    • Can you create printouts/handouts?
  • What makes this presentation software different from the others? What makes it stand out?
  • What are some other features or elements that are important for your classmates to know about as they use this?

What other presentation tools or approaches do you use with your students?

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