Sunday, July 27, 2008

Using Presentation Software to Pace Lessons in the Classroom

This post will focus not on the how-to of creating presentations, but the how-to of using presentations in the classroom.

Thinking about this a bit, what jumps into my mind is that by combining sound, video, and text into one document, we can control the pace of presenting it all, and eliminate time-consuming transitions between media which cause students to stop paying attention.

Of course, achieving this smoothness of presentation requires a lot of preparation of the presentation ahead of time (which can be very time consuming). The silver lining to that is that because we're using a digital medium, we can easily save our presentations to be reused with other classes of students.

Similarly, teachers can share their lesson presentations with each other and fine tune them, working collaboratively to dramatically reduce preparation time. This kind of peer-review process could lead to an overall increase in teaching professionalism.

Particularly for complex projects requiring a lot of materials, having a step by step presentation, perhaps with embedded video, would be a great way for students to be able to review instructions, and for the teacher to save time, use fewer materials, and make less of a mess.

The benefits when the teacher is using presentation software are pretty clear. But the benefits also extend to the students. As previously mentioned, students can review instructions by looking at the presentation again. They also benefit from a more professional presentation; a fine-tuned presentation which has been peer-reviewed is going to result in a better learning experience than if the teacher is essentially winging it, presenting a lesson plan for the first time.

Students benefit from learning how to use the software (the particular package doesn't really matter, they're learning how to conceptually use presentation software, knowledge which should be transferable to any package) and building transferable computer skills.

Transferable computer skills and comfort with computers are of course far more valuable than learning any particular piece of software in depth. By the time our students are our ages, they'll be talking about the old computers they had in school, that had piddly quad-core processors, a measly 4 GB of RAM, and actually used monitors and keyboards instead of neural interfaces...

Since they're working with presentation software, a presentation is potentially something that can be done as a group, which teaches all the various skills involved in cooperation. When the student(s) present their presentation, they also can practice the various components of public speaking, which can range from simply becoming comfortable speaking in front of a group, to developing their own signature style of engaging an audience.

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