PowerPoint: Dead or Alive?

Since Microsoft PowerPoint was released in 1990, it has been a key tool in many classroom ICT programs and businesses.

There seems to be a reoccurring theme in social media that “PowerPoint is dead”. PowerPoint has been the butt of many jokes including this infographic by SlideRocket. Wikipedia outlines a history of the “death by PowerPoint” criticism, which was first coined by Angela R. Garber in 2001.

I don’t think it’s fair to say PowerPoint is dead. Certainly, poorly used PowerPoint should be dead!

My beliefs on this topic are:

  • There is nothing wrong with the tool; it’s how it’s often used.
  • PowerPoint is a great tool to support presentations and also has other uses such as digital storytelling.
  • In a presentation, focus should be on the speaker and their story/information rather than the slides.
  • Text should be limited and images should be used extensively.
  • Tell rather than write the details of your message.
  • Design should be simple, clear and consistent.
There are definitely many great alternatives to PowerPoint which I like to use myself, but it’s important to remember that these tools can also be used poorly.

I recently read a great post by Silvia Tolisana (aka Langwitches) which had a lovely focus on storytelling. I was inspired by a lot of her advice and decided I needed to teach my grade four students how to use PowerPoint well.

My students were researching  a natural disaster with a classmate/s. Their task was to:

  • Research the natural disaster.
  • Create a model or representation of their natural disaster.
  • Create a PowerPoint to inform the audience about the disaster.
  • Present the PowerPoint using speaking notes, and present their model.

A task earlier in the year where the students were using PowerPoint demonstrated to me that they had developed some habits which could be improved upon. The students were more interested in adding sounds, animations and a rainbow of colours, rather than collecting well researched information which they could present to an audience.

My team teaching partner, Kelly Jordan, and I wanted our students to:

  • Begin by dividing their topic into sub categories and work out the overview of their presentation.
  • Research by using books and credible internet sources.
  • Use resources that they understand, put the information in their own words and include a reference section in their PowerPoint.
  • Create a PowerPoint that focusses on using text that was no more than titles/key words.
  • Source, attribute and use Creative Commons images.
  • Create speaking notes to support their presentation.
  • Engage and teach the audience by presenting their model of the natural disaster.
 

The results were very pleasing. The students enjoyed giving each other feedback and it was clear that every student had come along way since their earlier attempt at presenting with PowerPoint.

Here is just one example (of course it was the presentation that went with the PowerPoint that was most impressive):

There was a focus on oral language, and students had learnt new skills in regards to planning, researching, referencing, attribution, Creative Commons images etc. Hopefully these are skills which the students will use again in the future.

The children loved having the choice of who to work with, what topic to explore and how to create their models. The models were extremely creative and varied. There was everything from a volcano piñata to a electronic earthquake, cyclone in a bottle, tsumani storybook, bushfire diorama, exploding volcano and more.

This project was definitely a learning experience for both the students and the teachers. In my eyes, PowerPoint is not dead and is something I will continue to use in my classroom along with an assortment of other tools.

Do you use PowerPoint? How do you use it?

What advice do you give students about working with PowerPoint?

Page Updated: Web 2.0 Tools to Embed on Your Blog

I have just updated my page about web 2.0 tools to embed on your blog.

Here you will find:

  • Tips for using and embedding web 2.0 tools.
  • A list of tried and tested tools from slideshows to videos and polls.
  • An embedded example of each tool so you can see what it looks like.

Please visit the page and leave a comment if you have any feedback or suggestions.

Kids and Online Tools: The Legal Side

There are so many free online tools out there that are fabulous to use in the classroom. These tools can potentially allow your students to create, collaborate, communicate and express themselves in a multitude of ways.

To find recommendations of tried and tested online tools to use in the classroom with step-by-step instructions, visit my other website Tech Tools for Teachers. 

While the legal stuff can seem boring, it’s important to be aware that children cannot sign up for many online tools, even many of those that seem designed for education.

Websites based in the US are required to comply with Federal Trade Commission ( FTC ) Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  This act restricts the collecting information from children under the age of thirteen.

If you look in the terms and conditions of many tools, you will find that children under 13 are not allowed to create an account.

Some tools, such as PhotoPeach, state that “Persons under 13 years of age are required to have a parent or guardian review and complete the registration process.”

According to this article, there is currently a proposal in place to broaden the limitations in the COPPA act.

Australia has similar rules to COPPA and if you are working in a Victorian DEECD school, the same rules about signing up for 13+ websites apply. Find out more about DEECD’s social media policies here.

Ways I have gotten around these limitations with under 13s

  • Create a teacher account and work with the children.
  • Have students sign up at home with their parents when the tools allows this (eg. PhotoPeach).
  • Use tools that don’t require a sign up (eg. Tagxedo).
  • Use tools that allow teachers to create student accounts (eg. Storybird).

What this means for you

  • Be mindful that if an online tool requires users to sign up then there is probably a 13+ rule in place.
  • Check out the “terms and conditions” on the website to be sure. These can usually be found right down the bottom or up the top of a website.

I am certainly no expert on this topic. Please leave a comment if you have any further knowledge or advice.

What other tools have you used that don’t require sign up or allow the creation of student accounts?

New Blog by Shawn Avery: Tech Tutorials

One member of my PLN who I have formed a strong connection with is Shawn Avery (aka @mr_avery).

Shawn is a 6th grade teacher in Massachusetts and his class blog is http://mravery.edublogs.org

Shawn has some excellent ideas for integrating technology in the classroom and has done some inspiring work with movie making (check out his new Math Move Network).

Shawn is a big supporter of teachers and students around the world so please take a moment to check out his new blog, Tech Tutorials.

This blog reviews web 2.0 tools and provides screencasts (how-to videos) on how to use the tools.

You can subscribe to Shawn’s blog by entering your email address on the right hand side of his blog. You will then receive an email every time he publishes a new post.

Tech Tutorials

Enjoy Shawn’s blog and spread the word!

Looking Back 2004-2011

I finished university at the end of 2003 and started teaching in January 2004.

Like all graduate teachers, the beginning of my teaching career was a steep learning curve. Fortunately, I felt like I had a lot of role models around me on staff. As I embarked on my career, I remember thinking a lot about what makes a good teacher and what sort of teacher I’d like to be.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how much has changed in the past eight years. I know I’ve changed enormously since 2004 but have all teachers? Are those teachers who were role models for me in 2004 still roles models?

Sadly, in the majority of cases, the answer is no. The simple fact is, some teachers are teaching the same as they were in 2004 when the world was a different place.

There is no denying that technology has changed the way we live. So many of the tools I use now in my classroom, professional learning or administration have only come about in the last eight years.

Here are some examples:

  • Interactive whiteboards – I didn’t even see one until about 2007. Now most classrooms in our school are equipped with interactive whiteboards and I use mine for every lesson.
  • iPod Touch – Launched in 2007, I started using iPod Touches in 2008 and they’re regularly integrated into my curriculum.
  • iPad – Launched in 2010, I started using mine in the classroom this year.
  • Edublogs – Launched in 2005, I started blogging in 2008. Edublogs has now reached one million blogs.
  • YouTube – Launched 2005.
  • Twitter – Launched 2006.
  • Flickr – Launched 2004.
  • Facebook – Launched 2004.
  • Diigo – Launched 2006
  • Skype – Launched 2003.

The world had changed so much since I began. Who knows what the next eight years will bring. All I can say is I plan to ride the wave, embrace change, reflect and reinvent!

Image: 'The tube' http://www.flickr.com/photos/16932921@N08/2161046983

Image: 'The tube' http://www.flickr.com/photos/16932921@N08/2161046983

How has your teaching changed since you started in the profession?

Learning to Type

Over the years, the need for my students to be able to type has become increasingly important.

Being able to type with reasonable speed and accuracy helps students to better cope with the technological world they live in. Students are increasingly going to be held back in their school work, everyday life and future career if they don’t have adequate typing skills.

Of course, we still write with pencil and paper daily in our grade two class and have formal handwriting lesson,s but I find typing lessons and practice is often neglected in the primary curriculum.

Throughout the course of each year, I see a big improvement in students’ typing skills just from the regular practice they have with blogging, however we try to do typing practice where we can. This has become easier with the 20 netbooks and 10 classroom computers we now have in our class of 43 students. Typing practice is now a regular activity in 2KM and 2KJ.

Typing Test

Last week, I had the students take a typing test.

Thanks to @rebeccacarr87 for suggesting 10 Fast Fingers Speed Test which, despite the ads, was perfect for my grade two students. It contained high frequency words and no punctuation. It also gives a simple “words per minute” (wpm) score.

typing2

I wrote the students’ best wpm score on a class list and told them we’ll retest again with the goal of improving by the end of the year. The score range was 4 to 21 with an average score of 9.5 wpm. It will be interesting to see how they improve. I only wish I had thought to test them at the beginning of the year!

Teachers of older students might find this Typing Speed Test more useful as it contains more complex paragraphs including punctuation. This test gives a speed and accuracy score.

Typing1

Online Typing Activities

I have put together a collection of free, online typing games for my students into this Sqworl.

The link is http://sqworl.com/9r5u8p

Typing sqworl

Feel free to use it with your students too!

Lessons Vs Practice

I like to give my students a mix of formal tuition in typing as well as practice time.

How people get to the point of being able to touch type is something that interests me. I learnt “by doing” while my colleague, Kelly Jordan learnt through formal lessons, however we both got to the same place as proficient touch typists.

If you consider yourself a touch typist, I am interested to hear how you learnt to type. Did you learn by doing or did you learn through formal touch typing lessons?  Please complete this quick poll!


How do you approach typing lessons and practice with your students?


Do you know of any other good typing websites?

Windows 7 Features I Love

I’ve been using Windows 7 for eighteen months now. I felt a bit silly when I finally decided to learn how to use one of Windows 7 most advertised features the other day- the “Snap” feature to display two windows side by side. It looks great!

This discovery made me think about the large number of Windows 7 users I know who aren’t using some of the great features Windows 7 has to offer.

I’m the type of person who is often looking for a better way to do things so I am sometimes perplexed to see many computer users happy taking the long route. I continually find myself frustrated using the computer in my classroom that is hooked up to the interactive whiteboard and is running Windows XP. I miss some of my timesaving features!

I thought I’d share some of the Windows 7 features that I love. Please comment with any other features you enjoy!

Snap

This feature makes comparing two windows side-by-side and multitasking a breeze. A few days ago, someone asked me if I knew how it works. I admitted that I didn’t after trying to figure it out when I first got Windows 7 and giving up too soon!

To use this feature, simply make sure the two windows you want to put side by side are restored (the “square” option in the top right hand side of your screen).

1. Drag the title bar of a window to the left side of the screen until the mouse is on the edge of the screen and an outline of the expanded window appears. Alternatively, press ‌Windows logo key Picture of Windows logo key +Left Arrow.

2. Release the mouse to expand the window then repeat to arrange the other window on the right hand side.

snap

Don’t get it? There is a video demonstrating the feature here.

Sticky Note

This is an incredibly simple feature which I understand is enhanced from the Windows Vista feature. I use the sticky note for my to-do list. I have experimented with all different sorts of ways to maintain a to-do list in the past from an actual paper sticky note, Outlook task list, Word document and Firefox add ons. The sticky note is simple, can be colour coded and goes everywhere with me (and my PC).

sticky note

Find out more about sticky notes here.

Search in the Start Menu

If you’re like me, your PC is a maze of documents, videos, music, pictures and other applications. When I’m looking for something, I simply open the Start Menu and type in the name of the file I’m looking for. Voila! Search results appear in seconds. No more wading through libraries and racking your brain to remember where you filed things!

start menu

Improved Taskbar

The taskbar is the tray with icons at the bottom of your screen. Pinning and jump lists means you can have the files and applications you use most right at your fingertips. Windows 7 lets you organise your taskbar with the programs you use most with bright clear icons, much like a Mac.

Hover your mouse over icons with open windows to preview them. Another way that multitasking is made easier!

taskbar

Find out more about customising your taskbar here.

Show Desktop

The show desktop button is incredibly handy if you have lots of windows open and you want to access your desktop without closing everything.  Simply hover your mouse over the rectangle on the bottom right hand side of your screen to view the taskbar and click the rectangle to access your desktop. Unclick to go back to your windows. What did we do before it?

show desktop

Snipping Tool

This is such a quick and easy way to make a screen shot to annotate, save or email. Screen shots are really handy when you’re capturing images of your desktop for blog posts (see below!). I’ve also used screen shots to email someone a computer error, capture an important Tweet and create instructions for handouts among other things! Simply type “Snipping Tool” into your Start Menu to find this feature and don’t forget to pin it to your Taskbar, you will probably be using it a lot!

snipping tool

Learn more about Snipping Tool here.

What are your favourite Windows 7 features?

Are there any features you’d like to see in the next version of Windows?

Top 10 Email Tips

Email is something many people have been using for 10-15 years now. I remember first getting an email address in 1999 although the way I use email has changed dramatically since then.

I would never have thought of checking my emails over breakfast in 1999 yet now my breakfast email session is ingrained into my daily routine.

When I started teaching in 2004, I would never have thought about emailing parents. Now a day rarely goes by where I don’t have some sort of email correspondence with parents and I send out an e-newsletter fortnightly (I wrote more a post about emailing parents here).

It’s safe to say, email is a big part of my professional and everyday life.

While the first email was apparently sent in 1971, it didn’t start to become more widespread until the late 1990s. The popular webmail provider, Hotmail, was launched in 1996, while Yahoo Mail was released a year later in 1997. Interestingly, Gmail wasn’t launched until 2004 and didn’t come out of beta (trial) until 2007!

Even though email is far from new and is a form of technology most people are now “using”, I often wonder how well it is being used.

People not checking or replying to their emails is an absolute pet peeve of mine. I am quite amazed that email has been around for so long now yet in many businesses and organisations, it seems to be optional whether it is used or not. I wonder, for the first 10 to 15 years that phones were around, did people sometimes decide not to answer them?

Many people complain about getting “so many emails” and they just seem to throw their hands in the air and not know what to do about it.

I kept track of how many emails I was receiving for a few days and was extremely surprised to find I am receiving well over 100 emails each day! I knew it was a lot but because I have clear organisational strategies, email isn’t a frustration to me as it is to many.

It seems to me that there is very little information given in workplaces or schools about how to use email efficiently. I wonder if many students who are provided with an email address are given any management advice. The tips below may help fuel a discussion with your class or make your life easier.

Image: 'autoroute à emails...' http://www.flickr.com/photos/29647247@N00/60963915
Image: ‘autoroute à emails…’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/29647247@N00/60963915

Here are my top ten tips for making email a seamless and useful part of your life rather than a constant hassle

1. Three choices – delete, file, respond: If you deal with each email once, you will save a lot of time. When you read a email, delete it if it is not useful or the correspondances if over, file it in a folder if you need to keep the email for reference or respond straight away if the email needs a response that will take only a few minutes. The only time I leave emails in my inbox is if they need a response that will take more investigation or longer than five minutes to compose.

2. Create folders: In order to complete the first step well, you need to have folders. I use Outlook which also allows you to create sub folders. Eg. I have a folder called “school” and sub-folders such as “parents”, “excursions” and “PD”. I prefer this sub-folder method so I don’t have scores of folders to wade through.

3. Check daily: Many experts say it is best to choose set times during the day to check emails in batches (eg. at lunchtime and at 4pm). This is a good idea if you find you are being distracted by email, however I prefer to have Outlook open all the time and I just check it whenever I have a few minutes. Regardless, it is a good idea to come up with a routine to make sure your emails are being attended to regularly.

4. Use a subject line and paragraphs: Make your emails easy to read. A subject line lets the reader know what the email is about and paragraph breaks make emails so much easier to read.

5. Keep your mailbox size down: Some web-based email programs like Gmail have a very large storage limit, however many work emails. like Edumail, have a set storage limit (although Edumail was recently increased). This means you need to empty your sent folder and deleted folder regularly. If you don’t, your inbox will become full and you won’t be able to receive any more emails. Even if you’ve put emails in folders, they still count towards your storage limit. When emails come with attachments like photos or documents,  I usually save the attachment and delete the email immediately.

6. Think before sending: This probably doesn’t need too much explaining. When you send out an email, it is permanent. You need to make sure you’re not writing something that could be taken the wrong way or be considered controversial. If you’re not sure, leave the email to reread later or ask a friend to read over it for you. Err on the side of caution!

7. Get to know your email program and save time: While some email programs have more features than others, it is a good idea to take the time to play around and learn how to use the features available to you. A little time spent learning can save you a lot of time in the future. Some example of time-saving features include distribution lists which let you create a group of people you email regularly all at once (eg. a school team or parent group). Email filtering is a feature that lets you automatically process emails into certain folders or into a certain priority order. Some programs, like Outlook, also let you drag and drop emails into your calendar.

8. Don’t open suspicious attachments: Everyone should know not to open email attachments from people you don’t know as they could contain viruses or other unwanted programs.

9. Use a signature: Create an email signature with functional links to help people get to know you and your digital footprints. My signature links to my blogs, Diigo and Twitter accounts.

10. Unsubscribe from emails you don’t need: I used to be guilty of getting too many email from newsletters, “deals of the day”, blog feeds etc that were wasting a lot of my time and not proving to be overly useful. Last year, I did a cull of these sorts of emails and now enjoy a less cluttered inbox. You will find an “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of most automatically generated emails.

What are your email tips?

2011 School Year Begins

Today was the first day back at school for teachers in Victorian Government Schools.

All schools are spending the first three days on professional development and planning.

This year my school is focussing on in-house professional development. Each Monday night teachers will be presenting on Literacy, Numeracy and ICT. I am in charge of ICT professional development.

Last year, I set up a weekly lunch time ICT Drop in Session for teachers to assist them with blogging, IWBs and general ICT questions. I hope to continue with this this year to follow up on my Monday night sessions.

Today I presented to my staff about ICT. My guidelines were broad so I decided to offer my Top Ten Tips to Integrate Technology in the Classroom.

The ideas in the presentation are some of the areas that I will cover in PDs throughout the year. I knew not everything in the presentation would appeal to all teachers however I hoped there was something to inspire everyone.

The highlight of the presentation was skyping with the wonderful Linda Yollis in California, USA. Linda not only spoke about some of the ways she had used Skype in the classroom but demonstrated how Skype is actually used for those teachers who were unfamiliar with this tool.

How does your school structure professional development?

What are you focussing on at the start of the school year?

What would you include in your Top Ten Tips for Technology Integration?

Learn It In 5: Instructional Videos

Last week’s Tech Tools for Teachers was about the site Learn It In 5.

Click here to read the newsletter.

Learn it in 5 is a powerful library of how-to videos, produced by technology teachers, for the purpose of helping teachers and students create classroom strategies for today’s 21st century’s digital classroom. These step-by-step how-to videos walk teachers through Web 2.0 technology, demonstrating how to use Web 2.0 applications like blogs, social networks, podcasts, interactive videos, wikis, slidesharing and much more.”

This is an example of a Learn it in 5 video about Wordle. As you’ll see, they give a step-by-step explanation of using Wordle in the classroom in less than five minutes.

These videos could be great for your own self-paced PD or could be shown to a staff as a quick ICT PD.

There are videos on all sorts of topics such as Google Docs, Animoto, Diigo Groups, Google Reader, Wallwisher and more. Click here to check out the full list of videos.

Could these videos be useful to you or your staff?

Do  you know of any other sites like this?