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!
Anyway, I’m 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.
The advantages 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.
When 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.
There are 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!
One advantage 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!”
Using Twitter, 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.
Sometimes the conversation can be all friendly and pleasant like this extract from an online conference I attended in 2016.
Sometimes, though, the feedback and questions can be more challenging, as some TV programmes have found.
Finally, of 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.
By Chloe Hynes (PDNorth Social Media Comms)
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 adult learning.
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 about money
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 Classroom etc.
Using Screencast with learners
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 inflections!
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 example:
- 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 paper.
- After a learner watches your feedback they redraft their work and make another video to you explaining how they have improved it.
- 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 colleagues
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 another.
-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 resource.
+ 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!