Educational Technology is tough to keep up with. Every day there are new apps, lesson plans, and ideas. For some teachers (like myself), this is what makes edtech such an exciting and energizing field. But for teachers who don’t have the time or desire to sort through websites full of reviews, finding and incorporating new tech can be incredibly daunting.
On top of that, there a lot of teachers who aren't super comfortable using technology in the classroom. Maybe you didn't grow up with a computer, maybe you've just never been great with technology, or maybe you haven’t had the time to find some good tools to try out in your class.
It’s for these teachers that I will writing these posts. I want to give you some straightforward, simple ways to incorporate technology into your curriculum. Ideas that are going to work the first time you try them. Ideas that will aim make your class more engaging and enjoyable, not more stressful.
So, where to begin? Well, in case the title of the post didn’t give it away, we’re going to start with presentation tools! I think this is a good place to start because these tools will work for any subject and grade level (hopefully…) and they can be used for student projects or teacher instruction.
And, for all of these “Where to Begin” posts, every tool I mention will have a link to a guide or tutorial at the end of the post. So, you can always scroll down to the bottom and check out some guides if you’re ready to get started with a particular program.
For today, I’ll be starting with some classroom ideas and ending with the different presentation apps you could try out.
Classroom IdeasCourtesy of Chuck Long on Flickr
Probably the easiest place to start is by creating a presentation to share content with your students. Sooner or later, regardless of the subject, you’re going to have to give your students some information. Why not ditch the overheads (at least for one lesson this month) and try a digital presentation? Don’t have an overhead projector? Maybe your school has a projector you could check out for the day, or a TV cart you could hook up to.
Not an option? Take your students to the conference hall or media room! A change of scenery and a change of lesson type might be a great way to shake up the class. If none of those are an option, then you might be out of luck for giving a digital presentation, but you can still have your students create presentations!
Which brings us to the next classroom idea, have your students show what they know by creating a presentation! They could create a summary of the book they just read, or an analysis of an historical event. They could even summarize the procedures from a recent lab or explain the rules to a new game/sport in P.E. class.
Even if you don’t have a great place to display the presentations, you can still have students email their work to you. If they don’t have computers at home, perhaps you could use the school’s laptop cart or take them to the computer lab for a day or two.
If none of these are an option, maybe your school’s computer teacher could loan you his/her room during a prep period! And, if the option is available, having your students share their presentations with the class is an awesome activity for building confidence, speaking skills, and a whole host of other abilities.
So, now that you've got some ideas brewing on how you could incorporate presentations into your classroom, let's check out the tools you could use!
First up: the classic, the original, Microsoft’s PowerPoint. My guess is you’ve heard of PowerPoint before and that you are at least a little familiar with it. If not, I’ve included a great tutorial at the bottom to check out. In short, PowerPoint is the original presentation machine. It’s easy to use, has a great variety of themes, effects, and animations, and most people have access to it.
Google Docs / Google Drive
Another free alternative to PowerPoint is the Google Docs presentation maker. The setup is relatively similar to PowerPoint and anyone with a Google account can use the tool. Plus, if you’ve got Android tablets in your classroom, this is a great way to make presentations on them as well. Here’s a shortvideo tutorial if you're interested.
Prezi is a web application that has been around for a few years, which is great, because it’s given the team behind it enough time to work all the kinks out. It’s a little hard to describe, but essentially Prezis are zooming, twirling, spinning presentations. You can include videos, images, links, and texts, and it’s incredibly user friendly. I frequently use the app with early elementary students and they pick it up very quickly. Here is asample prezi on how to make prezis so you can get the idea!
If you’re ready to take your presentation to the next level, VoiceThread is an excellent, free way to do so. With VoiceThread, you can upload a presentation you’ve made in PowerPoint (or other presentation makers) and add narration and written notes or drawings. Then, when people watch your presentation, they’ll be able to hear your narration and see the notes you’ve written. Other people can even record voice comments/reactions to your presentation. Here’s an explanation and example of a VoiceThread for you:
Presentations on Mobile Devices
Now, let’s say you’re lucky enough to have iPads in your classroom or perhaps a school iPad cart that you can check out. There are a TON of presentation making apps for the iPad, but here are two of my favorites.
First up, Haiku Deck. This is a relatively new app that does an awesome job of letting users build simple, beautiful presentations. You can import your own images, charts, graphs (and soon videos) and you have a variety of themes to choose from (more if you shell out $14 for the complete theme pack, but you don’t really need to).
It’s an incredibly easy app to use and the presentations end up looking wonderful. Here’s a short video you can watch on the basics if you're interested.
Finally, Keynote ($9.99 in the app store) is another great application for creating presentations on the iPad. Plus, you can import presentations from PowerPoint. You can incorporate videos, links, and images, and it’s all very user-friendly. There are even a variety of image and transition effects that you can apply to your presentations.
When you’re finished, you can connect your iPad to a TV, share it wirelessly via Apple TV, or email it yourself to watch on a computer. Check outthis video to learn how it works.
Wrap Up & Guides
So there you go, a whole bunch of easy-to-use presentation tools that are ready for trial in your classroom. If you’re new to classroom technology, why not make it a goal to try at least one of these this month. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, have your students create a presentation as well. If you ever have any questions on these tools, or any other technology problems, you can always email me, or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter. I am more than happy to help out in any way I can. Thanks for reading and good luck!