Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Powerpoint – Ugh

Ms. Richmond’s class (Juniors and Seniors) came by to do research on Afghanistan to prepare and build background knowledge prior to reading The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. We did comparison searches using Google, Google Scholar (GREAT new resource, by the way), various databases, and we also looked at what was available through the library catalog. At the end of our class, while students, working in collaborative teams, looked for materials, I asked Ms. Richmond how the kids would be presenting the results of their research. Powerpoint. They would present their results with Powerpoint presentations.

It just so happens that a growing number of very smart people have been talking a lot about Powerpoint presentations lately, and thanks to my trusty RSS feed, they have been making me think.

“After 10 years, it was time. We could not sit through another bullet-ridden, brain-numbing student presentation. We interviewed the kids. For them it was just as bad. They dreaded each other’s Powerpoints.” Joyce Valenza http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334/post/130020413.html?nid=3714

Kate Richmond is one of those great, brave teachers who welcome new experiences, ideas and concepts, and works hard at incorporating them into her teaching. As an example, she went to Ghana last summer with a group of teachers and used the experience to enrich her teaching of novels with African themes. Her classroom is draped with Kente cloth and various handcrafts from Ghana. Anyway, after a brief conversation about possible alternatives to Powerpoint and strategies to improve traditional (and typically pretty poor) presentation skills, Kate decided to offer her students a challenge. They were to try something new, and think about an audience outside of the classroom. In creating their presentations, they should challenge themselves to speak to a global audience. Let their research on Afghanistan tell a story of that country and have meaning beyond bullet points.

To support students, I created a wiki with various resources ranging from presentation skills, alternatives to bullet points, examples of great presentational speakers, the importance of story-telling, making an emotional connection with the audience, and new free tools available on the web.

Beyond Powerpoint, is available on the CCHS Library website. The links are rich repositories of resources, illustrate the power of image and music, and provide a commentary on the importance of giving our students the opportunity to craft their own voice, connect meaningfully with content, and build those crucial 21st century skills.

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