Part I: Presentations

Slide of pie chart

Icon designed by Jack Cai

One area I have focused on for the faculty is presentation development. PowerPoints are a viable tool, especially for our online courses. All textbook publishers now supply supplemental material like instructional videos, PowerPoints, and printable material. As an institution, and across the country, we are focusing on how to make the online learning environment as engaging as possible. Presentations (as I will expand on the point later, it is not just PowerPoints) can be a powerful learning tool for students, online or face-to-face… if some care is taken in developing them. This post will first look at why we use presentations and investigate some issues connected with those reasons. In the second post I will talk about some basic ideas to help make presentations better and share a small Symbaloo mix of presentation options you can use for developing your presentations.

Three reasons we use presentations.

1. To Present Information

Using a presentation is a great tool to present new information or to review information for students. The information is usually focused on the main ideas. But this is also the stumbling block and cause of backlash against presentations.

Issue One: Same as the Book

Many publishers’ presentations are simply the same content as the book but in slide form. Why should a student read the book when the presentation is the same content? Even instructor made presentations can fall into this trap of just copying the same content as the book. Which connects to the next issue.

Issue Two: Built to Read

Even publishers do this, there is so much information on a slide that a student might as Blurred Compture Textwell read the book. In an online course the presentation might be embedded in the Learning Management System or converted into a PDF. That makes reading the content even more of a challenge because the information is reduced in size. Not a good learning situation for the student.

2. To Foster Thinking

Yes, this connects to reason one, but consider the difference. Many times a presentation is simply the information for the class. What if you considered constructing the presentation so that the student understands a concept or is asked to reflect on their understanding? Math is a great example for this. No matter what type of presentation a math teacher might use (PowerPoint, video, or an online whiteboard) they are going to use an example to show the process. This is a powerful way to approach a presentation, even if you are not a math teacher.

As an English instructor I can use this approach to enhance my students’ learning in a number of ways. Let’s look at similes. When teaching this literary element I will use examples to reinforce the idea. But what if I presented on the process? Take a feeling, like heartache. Explain that when we can’t think of the right word we can connect the feeling to something similar that a reader might know. Next I would instruct the students to build the simile. Not only do the students understand the idea, but they learn to write a simile.

3. To Inspire

Inspiration on blackboardWhy are Ted Talks so popular? Are they presentations? Yes, in fact many of them have slides or visual aids in some form. Do we learn from them? Yes. Sometimes the presentations provide new information, sometimes they review information, and sometimes the presentation fosters our thinking. But what Ted Talks do best is inspire.

Take a second. Think about that in your classroom, whether it is face-to-face or online. What if you built your presentations to inspire? OK, I’m not talking about recreating a Ted Talk for every PowerPoint you have, but consider a few ideas of how and why we want to inspire students.

First, we can build their confidence in their knowledge and skills. Many times a presentation is a stand alone activity. We ask them to view a presentation or take notes as we present. Then what? There are so many ways we can connect practice, reflection, or other types of activities to a presentation. Consider Khan Academy. The basic formula is video presentation, followed by question / activity. Repeat. No, I don’t think every presentation needs to fit this cycle, but by connecting the presentation to something that helps the student build their learning, then we build their confidence for that subject.

Second, we can help them as individuals. Obviously gaining confidence in the subject matter does this, but presentations can be a great avenue to reinforce personal characteristics. The idea of hard work is reinforced in my English 1010 course. At appropriate times I will discuss that a certain assignment will take work. An example is editing. I emphasize that editing essays take work whenever I can; class announcements, assignment descriptions, and presentations.

Presentations can take different forms. Presentations have different purposes. In the next post I will share some ideas and tools that will help you change the axiom of death by PowerPoint to “Learning with Presentations.”
Share your thoughts in the comments below or contact me on Twitter.


About jboelhower

I am a husband and a father. I have been in the field of education for over 20 years.
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