Choose Your Weapon… Wisely…

As an English teacher, I have to remember that a huge and largely underdeveloped part of my standards are speaking and listening strategies. This often means presentations. I’ve decided to no longer teach how to use PowerPoint as a part of class. This generation should be able to handle a computer, so the few who cannot need individual instruction. That being said, there is one major problem we face as educators. While a huge percentage of students have home access to computers, few of them have access to Microsoft Office. For some reason though, when I assign a presentation project, they cannot help themselves but click that old, comfortable icon: Image There are so many other choices, though! Each has its own “thing” that it does better than other softwares. I only wish we could link them all together. My go-to choice for a presentation is Google Docs (now called Google Drive, but I cannot seem to drop that habit): Image Google Docs has a lot going for it. First, it’s free. Second, I am able to upload and download files to it in the form of PowerPoints. Best of all, it doesn’t have any bells and whistles. No dissolve, star-fade, etc. You click the show, it moves to the next slide. No problem. Also, because Google Drive has a history function, you can’t lose your work. It saves every few seconds or keystrokes. The downside to Drive is that you need an internet connection to use it. That’s pretty minor, considering how rarely we give presentations somewhere where you don’t have internet access. Even then, you can download the presentation using Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer. While I’m at it, I should also point out that it doesn’t have a great selection of layouts or templates. A great tip… if you have PowerPoint, start making a presentation using one of its templates, then upload it to Google Drive and continue editing it. You get a great template with all the other benefits of Drive. Just remember… you have to upload it first, you cannot “apply it” later. Glogster is an interesting piece of software for a visual aid. Image This software allows students to make an interactive poster or collage, in which they can not only add text and static pictures, but also add animated GIF files, insert YouTube videos, and create links to various websites. I’m not saying that I would use this for a serious presentation meant to teach an in-depth presentation, but I would use this towards the beginning of class in order to get my students interested in giving presentations. Finally, my new favorite, PreziPrezi_Logo[1] I would love to embed a Prezi here, but I cannot seem to get it to work. That’s fine. You should be able to check out my sample here:  Hamlet Prezi. Prezi is very visually appealing to students because of how it transitions. I’m not usually a big fan of transitions, but this software does it well. Also, it isn’t as linear as PowerPoint or Google Docs/Drive.  I do break some of my rules. For instance, I love using a big background for 3D mode and then have text in there as well. Prezi seems to work well, even then. One major problem is that there isn’t a lot of community support as far as embedding it in blogs or school CMSs beyond just serving up a link as I did above. Try them all out. The best thing about breaking away from PowerPoint is that I don’t have to worry about my computer going belly-up and losing everything.


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