elearnr has moved!

8 December 2008

In order to have more control over the site and as a preventative measure so adverts don’t appear on it, I have moved elearnr to:

http://elearnr.org

Subscribers via RSS and email need do nothing, but please update your bookmarks! :-)


Beyond boring Powerpoint presentations.

3 December 2008

It’s easy to create a bad Powerpoint presentation. That’s because it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that because your audience is looking at something, they’re engaged with and by it. What is gained in clarity can be lost in repetition and boredom. Below are some ways to use Powerpoint more effectively and alternatives to spice up your content delivery.

First, though, here’s Don McMillan explaining some of the REALLY bad ways people use Powerpoint:

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5 quick tips if you MUST use Powerpoint…

  1. Never use a font size smaller than 24pt. If you have a large classroom, you may need to go even bigger than this. Stand at the back and check!
  2. Limit the number of words you have per slide. Don’t use them as an aid to remind you what to say. They should enhance what you are talking about, not repeat it! A great way is to limit yourself to 5 words and 5 bullet points. Alternatively, just use an image to represent your idea/concept/instruction.
  3. Find graphics that represent things you do frequently in lessons (perhaps from clipart) and always use these when doing a similar activity. For example, a pen writing for when it’s time to start work or two people talking for discussion/group work. These help reinforce good habits and aid classroom management.
  4. Use contrasting colours. The easiest way to do this is to choose an option from the ‘Slide Design’ menu. Otherwise, remind yourself of the colour wheel.
  5. Limit the number of different slide transitions in a presentation. One or two is classy, lots of different ones looks unprofessional.

Beyond Powerpoint…

There are lots of different tools that do a similar job to Powerpoint. For example, Keynote on the Mac and OpenOffice.org Impress (all platforms). But you don’t want to simply replicate Powerpoint’s functionality, you want to move beyond it.

Method 1 – Online presentations

Creating presentations on, or uploading presentations to, the Internet can be extremely useful. Not only does it give you access to better visual effects than Powerpoint can offer, but it makes them readily available to your students outside the lesson. The following three slides are taken from part of the very first lesson I had with Year 7 this academic year:

This is the same presentation when I uploaded it to Google Docs and tinkered slightly:

And here it is in the wonderful SlideRocket after using some of its functionality:

Zoho Show is another option. All of these are completely free or have a free basic option. I’d recommend Google Docs if you’d like to collaborate (or students to collaborate) on presentations and SlideRocket for fancy effects. The latter has a desktop version, although you have to upgrade your account to a paid-for version to be able to download it. Of course, if you just want to make your presentations available online, you could use SlideShare

Method 2 – Add interactive elements

  • Need to show some statistics and figures? Try richchartlive.com!
  • Add a short video clip to your presentation. Find it on YouTube, or another video-sharing site. Download and convert it (in this case to MOV or WMV format) via Zamzar.com. There’s an elearnr guide on how to do this here. :-)
  • The PicLens plugin for Powerpoint 2007 means you’re not restricted to a linear presentation – and it looks cool! (see below)

Method 3 – Use a completely different approach

Ask yourself, “do I really need to use a Powerpoint-style format?”. If the answer is “perhaps not!” then check out some of these suggestions:

  • Glogster – we’ve already been through glogs on elearnr. They are a great, visual way to present as you can embed videos, audio and images quickly and easily.
  • Mindmap – why not demonstrate good practice and create a mindmap to present ideas? Students can learn organizational skills from this, and there are a number of collaborative mindmapping sites, including MindMeister, bubbl.us, Mindomo and Mind42.
  • Wiki – a wiki is a collaborative website. It’s also a great place to embed content from other websites and therefore a useful presentational tool. Your audience (i.e. students or other teachers) can also add their ideas and thoughts to it at a later date – if you want them to! I like Wikispaces, but it doesn’t seem to play nicely with our school network. I’d recommend, therefore, Google Sites, Wetpaint and PBwiki. I use Google Sites to run learning.mrbelshaw.co.uk :-)

Finally…

Keep up-to-date with new ways and ideas for presenting ideas, concepts and content. The following are websites that can help:

Have YOU got any tips to share about good/bad practice when using Powerpoint?


How to use Google Earth more effectively.

26 November 2008

Google Earth is a fantastic, FREE, tool for teaching and learning. There are many, many different ways of using it. It’s almost as if the whole world is a canvas!

As befits Google Earth, the following are some ideas from educators around the world as to how to use the program effectively.

Tom Barrett has created a Google Presentation to which other educators have contributed. Check it out here:


 

Further Links:

Know any other useful links not in the guide or above? Please share them! :-)


Glogs – create interactive and rich media web pages quickly and easily!

19 November 2008

Blogs are great. But sometimes you just want students to use something that is intuitive, easy-to-use and looks great. Enter glogs!

Fortunately, Glogster, the place to go if you want to create a glog, has an education version. This means that you can set up glogs on your students’ behalf if you wish – although they can set up their own. Using Glogster is very straightforward and produces fantastic results you can either leave online or print out.

Here’s how to get started:

You can check out a couple of my GCSE History students’ glogs here and here.


Take your computer with you with PortableApps!

10 November 2008

Sometimes we have to use computers that are not our own. Many times we have more than one that we use – for example one at home and one at school. Wouldn’t it be great if you could take all of your settings from one computer to the next, instead of having to configure each individually?

Enter Portable Apps. It’s a suite of free and open-source applications that can be installed anywhere, including a USB flash drive. Users can then run the applications from there, in effect ‘taking their settings with them’!


Getting to grips with the school email system

5 November 2008

Using an email system instead of a paper-based one has many advantages, not least the money-saving aspect and speed of communication. Our school needs to have every member of staff using the new Microsoft Exchange-based system instead of the previous Azzuri one ASAP.

Check out the guide below to get started:

You can use an application called OWAnotify to check your emails on a regular basis:

Click on the icon above to go to the site to download the application. I suggest saving it to the following location:

You should configure the settings as follows:

If you have any problems with this, please ask either Jason Spooner or myself (Doug Belshaw) for help! :-)

Remember that the address for accessing your emails outside of school is http://exchange.ridgewoodschool.co.uk


Using del.icio.us to synchronise bookmarks & find new, exciting stuff

22 October 2008

This week’s elearning staff session is on del.icio.us, the ‘social bookmarking’ site. As I mention in the guide below, I find it useful for 3 reasons:

  1. Storing links to useful websites and web applications to access wherever I am.
  2. Discovering new resources that other educators have recommended.
  3. Creating a repository of useful links for a particular purpose (e.g. a department or for pupils on a certain course)

Using del.icio.us to synchronise bookmarks & find new, exciting stuffUpload a Document to Scribd

There are many more features of del.icio.us than I’ve had chance to explore in this session. For information about some of these, check out this slideshow from Jon Hoff:


Give your students a voice with VoiceThread

13 October 2008

Sometimes it’s hard to get the views of everyone in a class. When you’ve 25-30 students in front of you, it’s easy to miss the views and ideas of the quieter members of your class.

That’s why VoiceThread is so good. You put some type of stimulus material – a picture or video, for example – on the website and then invite your students to give their opinions on it. I’ve been using it with my GCSE History students for them to be able to practice analysing historical sources. The great thing is that each user can annotate pictures and videos to illustrate their point. They can also use a microphone or webcam to record their thoughts, too!

Follow the guide below to get started with VoiceThread and click here to see one in action!

Give Your Students a Voice With Voice ThreadUpload a Document to Scribd

How to create engaging video starters without any creative talent using Animoto

7 October 2008

Students inhabit a visually-rich, media-driven world. Sometimes, as educators with limited time on our hands, it’s difficult to compete. Animoto is an easy-to-use and extremely powerful way of creating short videos to grab students’ interest. Better still, it’s free for educational use!

Follow the guide below to get started… :-)

How to create engaging video starters without any creative talent using AnimotoUpload a Document to Scribd

Here’s a video I produced using Animoto in an attempt to encourage more Year 9′s to opt for GCSE History:


Never lose a document again: how Google Docs can change the way you and your department work!

26 September 2008

Instead of attaching documents to emails, why don’t we attach email addresses to documents? That way, everyone sees each update of a document (e.g. a scheme of work) and there is a central repository for departmental or school files.

Watch this video:

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Google Docs is part of a wider suite known as Google Apps. There’s a version of this called Google Apps Team Edition that allows only those within an institution or business to collaborate on documents. You can access Ridgewood’s login page here. Only those with an @ridgewoodschool.co.uk email account can access this (which includes pupils, so be careful who you share documents with!)

Step 1

Sign up for an account. Follow the instructions using your school email address.

Step 2

Login to the Ridgewood Google Apps dashboard using the username/password set up in Step 1. You might want to bookmark this login page for ease-of-access next time!

Step 3

In the dashboard area you have several options, the rest of which you can explore at your leisure. For the moment we’re interested in Docs, so click on that!

Step 4

The Docs overview area is fairly straightforward. Documents which have been shared with you are accessible to the bottom-right. You can click on the toolbar to create a new document/spreadsheet/presentation/form/folder, upload existing documents (in Word .doc format, etc.), and share these with others:

Step 5

Once you have created or uploaded a document, click on the blue Share button to the top-right of your screen in the editing window. Then click on Share with others:

Step 6

You can view the ‘revision history’ of the document by going to Tools/Revision history in the editing window. This shows every change that has been made to the document. You can revert to any previous incarnation of a document if necessary!

Step 7

Play! Explore what Google Docs can do. Once you exhausted that, have a look at the rest of the offerings within the Google Apps suite – Sites (easy departmental websites), Calendar (plan course/departmental/school events), Start Page (customised ‘home page’) and Chat (real-time text chat like MSN Messenger)

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