3 Tech-Savvy Powerpoint Alternatives

We’ve all snored through text or slide-heavy Powerpoints before.  The next time you have to create a presentation, consider some of these more engaging alternatives!


These 3 resources each explore the what (how the resource works), the when (uses in the classroom), and the how (how they can replace Powerpoint)!

Thinglink

What

Take any image and turn it into an interactive dream as you link in videos, pictures, articles, and comments!  They work particularly well if you have a classroom blog or other website your students can access.  The Thinglink above contains more links with details on introducing you to this fantastic resource.

When
  • Introduce yourself to your students in a fun new way!
  • Instead of assigning your 30+ students to all make Powerpoint reports (taking endless hours afterwards presenting in class), assign them to make Thinglinks, publishing them to a class account or on the class blog!
  • Rather than taking class time to go through a Powerpoint, give them a homework assignment to explore a new Thinglink that gets them thinking!  You can just put up an image with questions for them to start wondering and thinking (see example below), or include multimedia to really familiarize them with the subject before doing further study in class!

How

Say you want to present to your students information on documents and systems that helped influence the United States Constitution: the Magna Carta, the Iroquois Confederacy, the Mayflower Compact, and the Articles of Confederation. With a powerpoint, this would be a very linear discussion, covering each topic consecutively, perhaps with videos sprinkled throughout.  With a Thinglink, however, you can link all the videos, media, and thinking questions into one image, and then publish it to a classroom blog or another platform your students can access.  Students can then explore all the links in a manner that best suits their learning–re-watching videos that were confusing for them, or reading articles at their pace that give them even more information!  Check out an example of how we put this together below.

Prezi

What

A Prezi is a zoomable presentation that engages viewers as it flows from idea to idea in unexpected, animated ways.  The video above chronicles the development and benefits of using Prezi as it goes through an actual Prezi!

When
  • You can embed a Prezi into your classroom website any time you want your students to be able to explore a concept at their convenience.
  • Great when you want to help your students really “be there” with regards to your big idea in presenting.  The Prezi below does a beautiful job of this!

  • Especially amazing when you want to teach about anything connected to timelines.  Check out the Prezi below for an example of what we mean!

How

A Prezi can be used exactly as you currently use Powerpoints–in fact, it even has a feature for you to upload existing Powerpoint slides into a Prezi template!  Only, then, you get to play with the 3D templates and zoomable features to help bring it to life!

Skype Virtual Field Trips

What

The definition of what makes a Skype virtual field trip is confined only by your own imagination!  Watch this video on Skype’s education page for a wonderful introduction!  Connecting through Skype, you can interview activists, have docents show your students around museums, or even take students on virtual road trips (see that field trip described in more detail here, along with 4 other amazing examples)!  An article from Scholastic explains how it provides “customized curriculum” and “global connections.” You can either pick existing lessons from Skype’s page on classroom use that you can schedule right away, or connect with other teachers around the world with similar project goals using your Skype account and profile!

When
  • Meet classes with whom your class is quadblogging
  • Give students an opportunity for authentic learning experiences when budgets for actual field trips are tight!
  • Explore other cultures as you connect with people and places outside your own country!
How

Forget making a Powerpoint with the who, what, when, where, and why of wolves in North America: Schedule a Skype interview with an actual wolf expert for students to interview and learn from after they have prepared some questions!  Not only does this dynamically bring learning “off the page,” but it hones students’ communication skills as well!

Photo Credits: Photographer (featured image)

SourcesWays to Use Thinglink in the Classroom

Practical Student Blogging

If you’re like most teachers, you have 47 other tabs open besides this one: your grade-book, email, lesson plan resources, and a couple articles on stress management.  So how can you implement student blogging without tipping the scale?


Blogging Benefits

The countless benefits of student blogging are likely what led you to this article today!  Some that we at the Honors Grad U family have witnessed through experience include:

  • Authentic audience: Parents, teachers, peers, and even fellow students across the globe can view, comment, and contribute to the learning!

  • Developing practical tech skills: Besides the obvious benefit of typing practice, blogging is a perfect tool for introducing and practicing skills from copying and pasting to simple HTML editing to maintaining various digital accounts.

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  • Multimedia Literacy:  Growing up, we all made dioramas from shoe boxes, wrote 5-paragraph essays, and crafted posters.  However, 21st century students can and need to also become fluent in an ever-expanding pool of digital resources.  Blogging gives them practice in creating and sharing pictures, Youtube videos, Educreations, Thinglinks, Infographics, Prezi’s, and much more!

  • Engaging Assignments/Projects Through Student Choice & Variety: It can be difficult to keep the passion burning when you introduce a persuasive writing unit.  However, when you also introduce the idea of also including persuasive imagery, as well as actually sharing their work with their intended audience, suddenly things get much more intriguing and personal for each student!

  • Simpler Teacher/Student Collaboration: You’ve experienced the dredge of writing comments on dozens to hundreds of assignments–and that’s only after deciphering questionable handwriting!  Once students have posted various artifacts to their blogs, you can easily type feedback–and depending on your platform, that can even be made private!

  • Easily Accessible Digital Learning Portfolio: Say goodbye to clunky binders with half-ripped-out pages from September by the time you get to March!  If you just consider the use of a few tags, you can already imagine how much easier it would be to navigate the archives of a digital portfolio.

Simple Steps for Success

  1. Pick a Platform:  Spend time exploring your options, privacy needs, and budget.  Most platforms are free on a basic level, but if you want more storage, you’ll want to consider budgeting for your account.  You can even try talking to your administration for some budgetary help, especially if they want to purchase a group package for your school!  Kidblog, WordPress, and Edublogs are all common options that allow you to add users with you as the administrator and moderator!

  2. Permission: Make sure you discuss your school’s privacy policies with your administration before you get started, especially if you’re the first teacher at your school to start student blogging!  You may just need to make a permission slip from parents for each student, or you may find that media permission slips have already been submitted to the school!

  3. Carve out class blogging time: This is probably the hardest step of all!  However, if you are an elementary school teacher, just a weekly 30-45 minute time slot should be enough to get them started!  For secondary levels, you may be able to do more at-home blogging assignments, but you’ll still want to establish at least a little class time for modeling how to use the resources (see below).

  4. Internet Safety & Respect:  Before students enter their blogs for the first time, make sure they are all familiar with basic safety rules, including sharing their personal information (this website is full of teaching ideas).  Also, practice proper etiquette in commenting on paper (see lesson ideas here), before launching into the real deal!  Creating and signing a class blogging contract for future reference is always a plus, too!

  5. Establish clear expectations:  Decide what’s most important to you for their blogs.  If you expect capitalized titles, tags for every post, and a reflection, make sure it’s clear from the beginning.  Let students know you won’t publish any posts missing basic expectations (but make sure they are reasonable for your students’ level as well)!

  6. Choose a few resources: While you’ll definitely want to introduce them one at a time (see below), spend some time beforehand identifying and familiarizing yourself with the main resources you want to teach your students to use.  We recommend choosing one resource for each subject you want your students to be able to exhibit.

    1. Math: Educreations is fantastic resource that allows students to explain their thinking as they draw while also recording their voice!

    2. Reading: You can use Audioboo to have students record their reading skills throughout the year!  Particularly for younger students, it would be powerful for them to literally listen to their progress from September to May.  For a free option (Audioboo maxes out after 3 minutes), you could also use Youtube, even covering up the camera so it just records their voices.

    3. Writing: Obviously, the simple text of a blog post is a great way to share student writing throughout the year. However, you can easily liven things up by introducing a word cloud maker like Wordle.  Not only would it add some beauty to their published piece, but it can also help students visualize their most common word usage in essays!

    4. Art: Older students will likely already be familiar with Photobooth to simply take pictures of their art pieces, but you may need to spend time teaching younger students how to take and upload photos to their blogs.

    5. Science/Social Studies: Thinglink allows students to collect several online articles, videos, and photos into one beautiful interactive presentation!

  7. Introduce one at a time:  Even if it takes several months, it is worth teaching and  practicing just one resource at a time!  Before moving to the next resource, thoroughly familiarize them by allowing them to explore several examples, create a few of their own on their blogs, and collaborate with one another’s work through commenting.  We’ve also found it effective to print and display a board of step-by-step guides for each resource for students to reference in the future.

  8. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL!!  Every chance you get, model how you would like them to use each resource.  Using your own blog account, create multiple examples of each resource for them to reference.  Remember to also model quality comments on their own blogs throughout the year!

  9. Make sure it’s accessible to parents: One of the most rewarding aspects of student blogging is to watch parents connect authentically with their child’s work!  Make sure links to student blogs are available on your classroom blog, and/or email reminders to parents after students have finished blogging projects!

Additional Ideas

Once you get into a groove with blogging, here are a few other ideas to consider to keep things exciting for your class:

  • Student Blogging Challenges: Websites like this one offer wonderful challenges for students to tackle in their blogs!  You can always get creative and craft a few of your own!  For high schoolers, this can even be in the form of working on scholarships, such as our very own Honors Grad U Scholarship, as students share their progress on their blogs!

  • Quadblogging:  This is one of the best ways to connect globally with classrooms just like yours!  Four classrooms form a quad, with each class taking turns being the  highlight classroom, while the other three visit their blogs and leave comments!  One member of our Honors Grad U family has experienced connecting with classes from the U.K. & China!

  • Consider social media: Another way to break down your four classroom walls is social media, including Twitter (Click here for our post on Twitter for teachers)!  Educational hashtags can allow your students to quickly find feedback from around the world.  For example, #comments4kids is specifically intended to post links to student work for others to leave comments!

  • Badges: www.classbadges.com is a fun way to motivate students to work to visually earn various achievements!  You could also use them in conjunction with your student blogging challenges!

Hopefully, these steps allow you to tackle student blogging in a manageable, practical way!  Leave a comment if you have any questions or additional ideas as you get started!


photo credits: DeathToTheStockPhoto (featured image)