Presentation Tools for Teachers (& Students)...

...that aren't overdone.

This year, my colleagues and I moved into a renovated building. One of the upgrades that every teacher experienced was a classroom equipped with a ceiling-mounted computer projection unit, a Mobi (mobile whiteboard), and a Laptop.  As a result, the number of us using PowerPoint for every lesson has grown exponentially. The explosion of Power Point aided lessons has in some cases led to an exponential growth in students placing Power Point on the same level as thick worksheet packets and lengthy standardized assessments. Further, many teachers are starting to feel the same way after being subjected to poorly constructed and delivered presentations by students. What happened to this tool that at the start seemed so engaging and dynamic?

Essential Question:

How do teachers navigating this new world of projection screens, Smartboards, etc. keep things fresh? Let's look at some presentation tools and techniques available to any teacher with an Internet connection.

A word about technique:
Before we speak of tools, let's talk about what makes a good presentation. Power Point, after all isn't a bad tool. Unfortunately, it's laden with amateurish design pitfalls from the "stock" templates and backgrounds (which have improved substantially with the 07 release) to predictable layouts and endless bullets. What's more fun, is seeing someone mistake bullet points for paragraph markers, fill his or her slides with text, and read the entire text of his / her presentation to you from the slides in a painfully monotone performance.

Whether or not you're a fan of Steve Jobs, the man can give an effective presentation. This is a list available in various forms and various places. A friend of mine actually took these notes from a professor's (I believe her name was Bergstresser) lecture. I whittled them down even more.

  1. Identify a theme.
  2. Make your theme clear and consistent - unveil a single headline.
  3. Create a heading that sets the direction for your meeting.
  4. Provide the outline for the presentation and verbally open and close each section with a clear transition in-between.
  5. Make it easy for your listeners to follow your story.
  6. Passion and enthusiasm - choose the right vocabulary - so WOW YOUR AUDIENCE! / Have fun and be excited!
  7. Sell an experience. Not just numbers and statistics. Make it meaningful. (Place numbers in context).
  8. Analogies help connect the dots for your audience.
  9. Make presentations visual and easy on the eyes.(whitespace & grid theory)
  10. Paint a simple picture that doesn't overwhelm.
  11. Be sure that you can identify the memorable moment of your presentation.
  12. Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse some more!!!!

The main key here is "Show and Tell" The presentation tool shows and you tell. I go a step further with my students in asking them to use the PechaKucha (20x20) technique, which is all visual.
  • 20 Slides
  • 20 Seconds Each
  • a well designed / chosen graphic on every slide.
Some templates:
Finally, I like the way Sean Silverthorne summarizes the Jobs litmus test for your presentation:
  1. Does each slide convey just one idea?
  2. Are images sometimes [I would say often] used instead of words to convey those ideas?
  3. Do the slides make use of empty space?
  4. Does the deck sometimes disappear, leaving nothing between you and your audience?
  5. Have you minimized bullet lists, distracting effects and eye charts?


Billed as the "zooming presentation editor", Prezi excels at fun transitions and non-linear presentations. Like Power Point, though, it is equally susceptible to bad design. Notice how the official Prezi promo video uses the same techniques discussed above, combined with this cool interface.  Do all of the smash-mouth, roller-coaster transitions you want to; a badly constructed presentation will still be terrible to sit through. 

The End of Slideshows; this tool allows you turn any collection of graphics and short video clips into a movie set to music. Combined with Myna from Aviary, this is a mega-creative tool for students. You can make 30 second video shorts for free or apply for an edu-account, which comes with codes for your students.

Free traditional (PPT-like) Presentation tools for teachers in schools that haven't bought Office:

Other assorted stuff that may be useful:
...particularly if you don't need to "present" in the traditional sense but you need a captivating way to teach a lesson on the Smartboard or Projection Screen.

 More Presentation advice awesomeness:



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