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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Students and PowerPoint, Part 2

Part II - After the Lesson - April 3

Last week, I told you I was working with a history teacher on improving her students' PowerPoint presentations. This week, I was with them in the computer lab for a couple of days while they worked on them, and then sat in on about half the presentations in class. I'm going to send the teacher the links to these two articles so she can share them with her classes (if she likes), so this is both a recap for readers and a list of comments to the students:
  1. First of all, I was very impressed with the majority of the PowerPoints. Students had taken it to heart that the slides don't need to be filled with text. Several of them used very vibrant images, and some included animations to help emphasize their points. For the most part, text found on the slides was the important text, and was not all of the text. Good job, guys!
  2. What I felt was lacking - and this is no real fault of the students - was skill at presenting. Even though the presentations were fine, it was clear that the presenters were a little uncomfortable speaking in front of their peers, or didn't know or review the material. While, for the most part, they didn't read off of the PowerPoint slides (the worst of all presenter sins), many read directly from their notes (the next-worst).

    I completely understand the need to do this, though - very few people can be expected to become an expert on a topic in three days (plus a weekend), especially with six other classes to worry about - some of which may have been deemed by students to be more important than U.S. History. Perhaps what the teacher and I should've built into the lesson is how the students should prepare for the presentation itself -
    • reviewing the material ahead of time;
    • how to address the audience, not just the teacher (or the board);
    • engage the audience - don't just talk to them, talk with them (even if it's only once)
    • looking like you know what you're talking about;
    • practice with your partner ahead of time (even just 5 minutes) so you know how your presentation will go.

    These are just a few suggestions I'd like to pass on to the students. Overall, guys, I still think you did a very good job, and I appreciate you letting me come in to your classroom and work with you.
  3. Personally, I think one really useful element to add would have been to video the students giving their presentations, and then let them watch and critique themselves. (The teacher and I actually discussed this, and it didn't work out because of the timing of the presentations and other class considerations. Maybe next time...)
  4. What I'd really love is for you, the students in the class, to add your comments to this post, so that readers can hear what you thought about the overall lesson. Was it successful? Did it change how you thought about class presentations? Was it just the same old have-to-do-it assignment? Please share your honest thoughts with me. Use the link to this post, or look for this article in the April 2008 archives on the right side of http://techieteachr.blogspot.com. (Notice the missing "e".)

I happened to run into another teacher later in the day, and I was chatting with him about the project. He was very enthusiastic about it and wants me to come work with his classes, because he sees the same thing with his students. Between the two of us, we realized that this lesson is best placed at the beginning of the year, and delivered to students in such a way that they can keep these skills in mind as they give future presentations in class.

At this point, I'm thinking of trying to put together a series of lessons that teachers can use - either with my help or without - in order to help students improve their public speaking skills. If and when it materializes, look for it on the library section of techieteacher.org.

1 comment:

chanks777.wordpress.com said...

I am a media specialist and teach K5 through 5th grade students computer skills in a lab setting and your post on "Students and PowerPoint" gave me much to think about. One of my objectives in the elementary grades is to teach my students how to create a PowerPoint related to a topic that they are learning in the classroom. You are so right when you mention that students have the ability to create graphics, transitions, and all that fun stuff, but when it comes down to presentation, the skill (or desire) is just not present. I will definitely teach them the following before they present:
1. "Reviewing the material ahead of time"
2. "How to address the audience, not just the teacher (or the board)"
3. "Engage the audience - don't just talk to them, talk with them (even if it's only once)"
4. "Looking like you know what you're talking about"
5. "Practice with your partner ahead of time (even just 5 minutes) so you know how your presentation will go"

Great, yet simple advice! I appreciate the information.