Any teacher who has ever embraced technology will tell you that the process can often be a two-edged sword. Learning it can take some time, but the benefits can often far outweigh the effort expended.
In a world of ever-increasing demands upon teachers, the role of technology has been very ambiguous over the last couple of decades. For some, “technology” has been dumped in their classroom with no manual for instruction. For others, the opportunity exists but no resources are available, and if they are, they’re often not what the teacher needs or wants.
Faced with an exploding array of expectations and acronyms concerning the on-the-horizon technologies, many teachers just tune out.
Rely on What You Know
For many teachers, however, there have been only a few constants–the use of the Internet and presenting information using PowerPoint. If you’re one of these teachers, this blog is for you. Since its focus is the systematic development and presentation of information, we’ll walk you through the steps of presenting that information to your students in ways that don’t make use of bullets.
In fact, we’re going to avoid the use of bullets as much as possible throughout this blog by showing you various alternative ways of presenting the information that reduces cognitive load, provides the information in more manageable chunks, presents the info in alternative ways such as video and audio and graphics. And, maybe some text, but not too much.
Experiment with New Tools
We’ll also present to you a new set of tools that have been created over the last half decade that have won awards for their ease of use, the rapidity with which they can produce interesting instruction, and the ways in which you’ll be able to poll or quiz students. And most importantly, how the information can be made available to your students on a 24/7 basis. There’s a trade-off with this opportunity, however. For decades, teachers have learned well how to be consumers of what’s available – everything from spirit master copies to photocopied handouts, to videos on the web.
What’s In Your Instructional Future?
What we’re calling for in this text is that you take the next step in teacher and instructional evolution: start producing materials that are geared directly to what you are teaching in your course or class, instead of finding a PowerPoint that “almost” addresses what you are teaching. Instead of simply being a consumer of available information and resources, become a developer and contributor!
Anyone who’s had to distill their material into a PowerPoint slide knows what we are talking about. This material is directly related to what you are teaching, so there’s a one-to-one match between the objective of your instruction and the material that your students see. And, if you’re not fainthearted, you probably present the information as a presentation in class. Kudos to you!
Does it take more time? Yes, but what you produce can be used again and again, for months or even years–as long as the information is still relevant and periodically updates. When it’s not, get rid of it and swap in newer, more relevant material. In the short term, it will take extra time; in the long run, though, it will save you lots of time!
What You’ll Need
This doesn’t mean that you need expensive production sets, large cameras, and professional talent. You’re talented enough, you know the material, chances are you already own a computer and have PowerPoint. What you will also need, though, is a good microphone. Not the wimpy one that you picked up at the local WalBox, but a pricier one that you’ll find at vendors such as M-Audio and online retailers. Since audio is a vital component of what we’ll be doing, you want to assure that you get the best quality you can afford–usually around $40.00 to $120.00 dollars US. Save your receipt; you can deduct the cost from your taxes.
Not Just Another Pretty Voice. But, as we’ll see, information provided in PowerPoint isn’t always audio; in fact, it’s usually sparse, often text, and all-too-often in bullet form.
Bullets are seductive; you can hammer out a thought, hit return, hammer out the next one, hit return, on and on until you’ve drained your brain. At that point, you’re done. Not.
Though tongue in cheek, there’s a reason for the phrase “Death by PowerPoint”– and usually it has everything to do with bullets. Getting your thoughts down is an important first step–and for many, doing it this way is more than appropriate. But assuming that your well-prepared PowerPoint at this bullet-ridden stage is complete and ready for action is just plain cruel to your targetted audience.
To learn about one group’s successful foray away from bullets and towards a more graphic approach to presenting info, click or tap Learn More, and review the examples below that are profiled on NPR.org.
As Julie Young, the president and chief executive officer of the 97,000-student Florida Virtual School, recently interviewed for an Education Week article about schools that use tools to customize instruction for students:
“A host of new devices and programs, such as 1-to-1 laptop initiatives, online courses, digital lessons, interactive tools, and smart assessments, have shown learning can take place at all hours of the day or night and at different levels-or even subjects-within the same classroom. The new technology takes the old model of personalization and makes it more scalable, Young suggests. But that doesn’t mean students should be totally in charge of their own learning.”
Julie Young, Florida Virtual School
Julie launched the first statewide, internet-based public high school in the U.S. Since then, FLVS has become the nation’s largest and most influential virtual education program for students K-12, reaching students all over Florida, the U.S., and the world. The recipient of numerous awards, FLVS provides a student-centered educational experience that leverages technology to transform education worldwide, one student at a time.
Bottom Line: Don’t make PowerPoint bullets a way of life… Consider getting and playing with a microphone; put your best radio voice on. And, consider the role of and extent of your possible use of technology in your classroom.
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