Archive for the ‘Presentation Tools’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Hate PowerPoint? Here are 5 REAL Alternatives

This post “Hate PowerPoint? Here are 5 Alternatives” from Read/Write Web has been floating around the web this weekend.  With the exception of Prezi (which I will list here as well), this post lists four other programs that are basically PowerPoint clones.  Here’s an alternative set:

1. Prezi - I use Prezi quite a bit, but not all the time.  It is right for presentations that still need a linear flow overall (that’s what the path is … a linear flow).  It is also right when there is a “big picture” that will help you make sense of the information being presented.  But it is not always the right thing to use.  Most of my Prezis took at least 20 hours to build – these are not “throw it together at the last minute” affairs.  A poorly-designed Prezi is just as bad as a poorly-designed slide deck, so don’t use it unless you have a good design in mind.

Image of Playing to Learn Prezi

2. Mindmaps - I give a LOT of presentations off of mindmaps.  I find the flow of the presentation can more easily morph to the needs of the audience this way.  As

the participants ask questions, I can easily guide us to different parts of the mindmap to answer the questions and explore new resources.  I have about ten active mindmaps, but here are some of my favorites for presentations:

Image of Mindmap

3. Google Sites – If you want participants to be able to explore resources during the presentation, how about a quickie website?  Google Sites is great for this.  I’ve built a couple websites that were built for presentation purposes

4. Crowd-built alternative (Google Doc, Mindmaps, Chat Rooms) – If you have a room full of people and they all have access to computers, harness the power of the crowd to create the resource.  It goes something

like this … “We’re going to learn about _____ and if you find any links, insights, or tips helpful, then please add them to the [mindmap/google doc/chat room].  At the end of the talk/workshop, you’ll be able to take this resource with you.”  Here are two examples from past presentations.

Image of Google Doc for Wolfram Alpha Workshop

5. Animoto – I gave a Travelogue about my trip to India last year that was built entirely of Animoto videos with music of India and

photos/videos from the trip.

My husband and I narrated over the videos.  My students and I have been experimenting with teaching through Animoto videos.  Any time you need to share a lot of images and short video clips, Animoto could be a great option.

Image of Animoto video (women in India)

I’ll offer up one more alternative. Just learn how to create a well-designed slide deck. If you do it well, it shouldn’t matter which slide-deck program you use.  If you create bad PowerPoints you’re perfectly capable of creating bad Keynote presentations too.  I found that reading books like Presentation Zen and Slide:eology laid a great foundation for learning how to build better slide decks.

Finally, ask yourself, Why do you hate PowerPoint?  Is it because you actually hate PowerPoint, the software?  Or is it possibly because most presenters that use PowerPoint put less than 1 hour of thought into designing their presentation.  A good presentation takes considerable thought to form, design, flow, audience, and venue.  I’ve seen bad presentations in Keynote, bad presentations in Prezi, and bad presentations from presenters that “in an effort to avoid PowerPoint” used no visual resources whatsoever.  The quality of the presentation usually boils down to one thing:  How much time and thought did the presenter put into creating a learning experience for the audience?

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PostHeaderIcon The Calculus Tweetwars

I wanted to wait until I was SURE that this was going to happen before I mentioned it here.  My Honors Calculus II students have decided to “tweet” The Calculus Wars for modern times.

Their assignment was to read “The Calculus Wars” by Jason Socrates Bardi, and then come up with a project (individually or collectively) that requires them to further explore something from the book.  A few years ago, I had one student in this course and he build the Leibniz Calculating Machine the animation software Blender (you can see it here).

Anyways, this year, there are three students.  During our discussion of the book, we observed that the scientists involved were like the bloggers and tweeters of their time, sending and publishing an incredible amount of correspondence (some anonymous) via really old-fashioned mail (i.e. SLOW).  Then we wandered into what it would look like if the Calculus Wars happened today and all the characters were in Facebook (friending, unfriending, fan pages, wall posting, etc.).  Ultimately, the students decided to work together to create a modern-day recreation of The Calculus Wars.  Facebook turned out to be too difficult (each follower would have to “friend” each character in order to see the storyline play out).

The students have written a rather lengthy script that includes a rather large cast of characters.  In order to get the twitter accounts, they had to first get email addresses for each character.  Let’s just say we now know how many email or twitter accounts you can set up on one IP address before you get blocked for the day.

We originally tried to use Google Wave to build the script (since it allows for simultaneous collaboration), but it proved to be too glitchy and clunky to get the job done.  About two weeks ago we began transferring the entire script to a Google Doc instead (which, surprise! Also allows simultaneous multi-user collaboration now).  The script is now built as a table so that we could map out the years (1661-1726) against the dates of tweeting, tweets, and who is responsible for putting up the tweets.  There are just a few tweets per year in these early years, but when the Calculus Wars heat up, it will be a lot of work to get all the tweets up properly.

The Calculus Tweetwars started yesterday, and you don’t need a twitter account to follow it.  Just visit the CalcWars Twitter List several times a day to see what’s happened in the lives of Newton, Leibniz, and others.  If you DO have a twitter list, you can just follow the list, and you’ll see all the characters show up in your tweetstream.  Please feel free to interact with the characters as if they were members of your own PLN (personal learning network).

This might seem like a strange academic project to you, but the purpose was to increase awareness of what the Calculus Wars were, and help students see math as something that has not always been so static.  Given that they already have 67 followers after 24 hours, I’d say that the students will be successful with their mission to educate others.

Again, you can follow the project (for the next two weeks) here: http://twitter.com/#list/busynessgirl/calcwars

Enjoy!

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PostHeaderIcon Record with a Document Camera and a Flip

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In my Math for Elementary Teachers (MathET) course, we do a lot of work with math manipulatives, puzzles, and games of various sorts.  Some of this work can be done with virtual manipulatives, but only if all the students have a computer too.  As a result, we do a lot of classroom work with old-fashioned hands-on math manipulatives, and I demonstrate using a document camera.

Since the beginning of Fall semester, I’ve been trying to figure out how to record these hands-on demonstrations to put in the online course shell, but the best I could figure out was to hold my little Flip video camcorder with my left hand while I write and rearrange the board with my right hand. (Note that there is not room on the document camera station for a tripod.)  Unfortunately, this results in a shaky video, it is tiring, and it’s hard to do everything with one hand.

After doing this for about six months, on Monday I had this flash of insight (one of those ideas where you wonder why it took that long to have the idea).  I was considering the idea of using masking tape to affix the Flip to the Doc Camera during class (which wouldn’t work because of the need to press the on/off button) … and I realized that I had a very simple solution in my pocket.

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Here’s a closeup:

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This works surprisingly well.  The top and the bottom of the viewing area are a bit cut off, but with a little experimenting, and knowledge of where the working area is, this is a surprisingly slick and cheap way to record.  I also recommend having a mini-whiteboard so that you can circle items, write notes, and generally “mark up” the viewing area without doing any damage to your document camera.  The glare off the whiteboard does create a slight glare spot on the image, but it’s much easier than using sheet after sheet of paper (picking up the manipulatives between each sheet of paper).

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Teaching College Math is a blog where I write about the scholarship of teaching and learning math, math technology, and share my ideas for activities and games for teaching math. All posts from this site are cross-listed there, so if you want to read these posts "with the math" you want to subscribe to Teaching College Math instead.