New for 2018/19, this will be the space where PD North members and some special guest Bloggers will share ideas and experiences. Watch this space and, if you would like to write a Blog for us, on the topic of further / adult community education and skills, please contact us:
WORD: 300 – 1,000 words. Keep it short and engaging. Something folks can read in their break, on the bus or in the staffroom when they have a spare moment.
STYLE: Flexible. We’re interested in: Voices from the classroom/staffroom. Resource explorations. Reviews of books, blogs and events. Think pieces. Descriptions of PDNorth exchange activity. Critical thoughts.
REFERENCES: If you choose to reference other people’s work, events, videos, resources etc please reference them and give them the kudos they deserve.
My thoughts and learning as I prepare training on alternatives to ‘death by Powerpoint’.
By Nicki Berry, PD (Y&H) Digital.
I have to
confess that of all the Microsoft Office applications, PowerPoint is probably
my least favourite. I used it briefly as a primary school teacher, many years
ago, but quickly switched to Smart Notebook and ActivInspire when interactive
whiteboards became the norm.
I can’t really
pinpoint what it is about PowerPoint that turns me off. It might not be the
application itself, but rather the way I’ve seen it used. We went through a
phase of every child in a class of 30 doing a presentation about their holidays,
complete with flying, whizzing and cheering items on each and every mouse
click. Even adult presenters can have a tendency to put too much on each slide,
sometimes with poor text/background contrast, and then just read it to the
audience, as though we are incapable of reading for ourselves.
So my heart
did an inward leap for joy when my boss recently asked me to prepare and
present a one and a half hour session on alternatives to PowerPoint for
engaging an audience. My audience will be senior managers, who give
presentations on a regular basis as part of their work – a potentially tough
group to try to downsell PowerPoint!
going to give you (and them) a brief glimpse of some alternatives.
I first used
Sway, whilst studying for my Master’s with the Open University. We were
discussing whether Wikipedia is an acceptable study tool (let’s not get started
on that here!) and here is a presentation I made for one of our tutorials.
There are advantages
and disadvantages to Sway. The biggest disadvantage, which Microsoft much
surely address eventually, is that is cannot be used offline and cannot be
exported, so if the Internet goes down, you could well be stuffed! Also,
branding is more difficult than it would be with a traditional PowerPoint
presentation, though it is possible to adapt colour schemes and fonts used.
are in some of the features that make it look that little bit more modern than
PowerPoint. It can be presented in slide mode, like a traditional presentation,
or by scrolling vertically or horizontally. This makes it good to share for
‘after the event’ viewing, as it is easy to find the section you want, quickly.
I particularly like the way that images can be stacked, allowing you to click
on them and shuffle through, just like a stack of cards. From an accessibility
point of view, it is great because you can switch easily to ‘accessibility
view’ and it automatically changes the presentation so that visually impaired users
can view it through a screen reader more easily.
presenting to an audience, I think many of us have that worry about whether
anyone is actually listening, engaging with us or understanding what we are
talking about. This is where some kind of quiz can be handy.
various quizzing tools out there but I like Socrative and find it fun and easy
to use. You can set up a quiz or survey to engage your audience during a
presentation and then get them to interact on their own devices (or you could
provide some). It works on PC, laptops, tablets, phones… pretty much anything
that is online. You show the question from the front, it sends to their device
and then all the answers can be seen, with various options on names, anonymity
and so on, on the screen. When working with a group, particularly in a training
situation, my favourite is to run the quiz as a race. I generally get a member
of the audience to choose what type of character we will race as (unicorn,
space ship, etc) but I was writing this in December, so reindeer seemed like
the only real choice!
of Socrative is that only the presenter (teacher) needs to have an account
(free option is more than sufficient for my needs) and the audience log in
using the presenter’s room code. So you don’t have to try to get your group set
up with their own accounts.
I also really
like the fact that all the results can be stored, exported and used later on to
inform further training. When I’ve used this for tutor training, I can easily
see who might need further support and who has really got the hang of what
we’re learning, so could support others.
This one can
be a little risky, so it’s only for the brave, in my opinion. It is based on
the concept of back-channelling. So first of all, what is back-channelling?
Well, it has always existed. Back-channelling is the communication strategy
that we use to let a speaker know that we are listening and following what they
are saying. So it can be as simple as just nodding, smiling or saying, “Aha!”
the idea is to engage your audience in live discussion and get feedback,
questions and comments on your presentation as you go. Depending on the nature
of the audience, it either works well or falls flat. If you’ve got a high
proportion of those kind of people who like digital multitasking… the ones
who are going to be on their phone, checking their Facebook while they should
be listening, and can probably pull off a reasonably convincing ‘I’m paying
full attention’ face whilst they do… they can be lulled into a middle ground,
where they get to do social media and listen and interact, all at the same
time. Just decide on a hashtag – #mysession – and ask your audience to post
questions, feedback, quotes they liked and what they are learning/will use back
in their day job. It’s worth checking that your intended hashtag isn’t already
going viral with something else though first.
Why do I say
it is risky? Well, not everyone will agree with what you are saying. They might
post negative comments or ask questions you don’t know the answers to. You need
to give some thought to how you would respond to these. I generally try to be
quite open, but set some guidelines at the beginning.
conversation can be all friendly and pleasant like this extract from an online
conference I attended in 2016.
though, the feedback and questions can be more challenging, as some TV
programmes have found.
course, if you’re going to use social media for something that really matters,
it’s worth considering that not everybody will have an account. I generally put
out a warning in the pre-course blurb, saying that we’ll be using Twitter and
it would be helpful if they could create an account.
I first heard about Screencasting about 5 years ago during a
small action research project being carried out at work between a few colleagues
and myself. We were exploring ways of giving learners feedback that’s individual
to them, personalised and not following the ‘one size fits all’ department wide
approach of the time. One of my colleagues decided to use Screencast’s which
was an absolute game changer for me and opened up a world of tech used right in
So, what is Screencast-o-matic?
Screencast is a program that allows you to record (visually and
audibly) your screen. It also allows you to record yourself by webcam either at
the same time as your screen recording or just you on your own.
You can record as many screencasts as you like for free but
the maximum is 15mins.
You can upload to your own Screencast account, Youtube or
download as a video file and do with it what you like!
Screencast-O-Matic have a tutorial video that shows how easy
it is to use. To access go here: https://screencast-o-matic.com
and click ‘Watch Our Video’.
To visualise what a screencast looks like, here’s one I prepared earlier…
A little comment
Before I get into the thick of Screencast approaches and
issues/considerations, please note that this blog is exploring the FREE version
of Screencast which I believe most practitioners would be accessing. However, there
is an Educational paid for version with many more bells and whistles to play
around with including video editing and full integration with Moodle and Google
The colleague I mentioned above explored using it whilst
giving feedback to learners on their written work in Word. Our learners were
ESOL learners so listening to your tutor’s feedback for some was much more
productive than trying to read hand written notes. The audio feedback allowed
our learners to go back and rewatch/relisten which they can’t do when they receive
feedback in class (unless they record you). He originally trialled this with
our highest learners who were Entry 3.
I also had a bash using this same technique but with the lower
levels but instead of recording Word, I would scan in a piece of their
handwritten work and save as a PDF. Then, I would create a screencast highlighting/
circling/ underlining certain parts and talking through their work. I found for
the lower levels it was best to also film my face as I spoke so learners could
see my facial expressions and my lips moving. For all learners it was a good way
for them to get used to my accent and my voice as their teacher complete with regional
If you and the learners have the technology, a really good
way to reuse a video like this, could be for learners to transcribe what you’re
saying by adding subtitles on Youtube (or writing a script on paper).
In any classroom use of screencast, consider how you can
reuse the video you’ve created so you’re economical with your production time. Even
better is if your learners like using it, they could create their own. For
Ask learners to walk through and complete a
mathematical problem on their screen. This can be added to a revision bank used
with by learners in the class.
For literature explorations : ask a learner to
describe a passage, highlighting phrases/sections on the screen as they go to
highlight figurative language etc. You could create a reaction video or just
notes (for the whole group) – but the main brunt of this activity is providing the
learner with time to think and verbalise their thoughts before committing to
After a learner watches your feedback they
redraft their work and make another video to you explaining how they have
Ask one learner to watch another learner’s video
and ask them to transcribe it or interact with it in some way.
Make videos with wrong information in or missing
information (like an audio version of a cloze task/gap fill) that you can reuse
with other classes.
Using Screencast with
I’ve used Screencast with peers and colleagues mainly to visualise
how to use specific technologies whether in the classroom (e.g. Padlet above!),
organisational (e.g. Google Drive) or personal (e.g. how to add a signature to
an email). Since working with the PDNorth team, I’ve began to curate these in a
more organised fashion via the PDNorth Youtube. Similarly, I’ve heard about PDNorth
professional exchanges who’ve created screencasts as the APs in their organisation
to share on their Moodle with their colleagues. Another group made a digital
learning wall in the staffroom with QR codes to Youtube videos and screencasts.
Whilst screencasting in this way and for this purpose is great
for staff CPD on the go / in your own time, it’s always better if the workload
is shared. Whilst this is easier said than done in practice, there’s always something
you can learn from a colleague and there’s always something you can share with
-You only get 15 mins! However, I think any more than this would be too long anyway and you’d lose your audience. — Whilst you can pause and resume, if you make a mistake you can’t edit it out.
-The close captions/subtitles process isn’t user friendly.
-You need to download a recorder which may not be possible on work computers depending on your system permissions.
-Depending on how you use it: it could just have one time use.
+ / – If using for feedback: it
may be easier for the tutor to verbalise and show what they mean than write it
down and it may be the best way for the learner to receive that feedback.
Likewise however, tutors may find it more time consuming than writing written
feedback and the learners may not give time to watching the video, not have the
technology to do so or may ignore it completely.
+ It doesn’t require wifi to record (once
the recorder has been downloaded).
+ You have a choice of where you can upload
it. Including the ability to download as a video file and share/upload however
you choose (rare with free apps).
+ simple and easy to use meaning a lot of
our learners are able to get on with it.
+ It can be a reusable and recyclable
+ It’s so personable!
+ It can be used by teachers and learners
alike. I’m sure there are so many more ways than what I’ve tried out and I’d
love to hear about all the other ways that Screencast-O-Matic has been used!
A story of two digital “dinosaurs” foray into blogging and other digital unknowns!
A couple of members of the PDNorth team (Sue Lownsbrough & Petrina Lynn) have begun a journal detailing their journey navigating digital literacies from personal to organisational/work to classroom/training use. They cordially invite PDNorth members to follow them on their journey…