The Best Use of PowerPoint

I’ve sat through them, and I’ve created them; my love/hate relationship with Powerpoint can be traced by simply accessing my copious PowerPoint files from the last 15 years.

When I first started teaching, PowerPoint was all the rage to present information and teach concepts; but today, both students and teachers dread them, and myself and my students are no exception. However, last semester, when I took the class, Youtube for Educators, I was truly enlightened by the article Five Ways to Reduce PowerPoint Overload, (Atkinson and Mayer, 2004) as to why most PowerPoints are ineffective, and it changed my approach to creating and using PowerPoint in the classroom.

To begin with, research shows that learners have limitations when it comes to perception.  According to Atkinson and Mayer (2004), the mind processes information in two channels: visually and verbally. This concept means that learners have separate processing for visual material and verbal material. In the article, Five Ways to Reduce PowerPoint Overload, Atkinson and Mayer (2004) assert, “The constraints on our processing capacity force us to make decisions about which pieces of information to pay attention to.”  Therefore, presenters have to evaluate their PowerPoints and make sure that their slides have both words and graphics that compliment rather than bog down or distract the learner.

In addition to having separate channels, learners can only pay attention to a few pieces of information at a time.  As a result, when the learner is presented with information, his or her  mind organizes and integrates the material that is important.  Thus, Atkinson and Mayer (2012) explain that “the presentation has to promote active cognitive processing by guiding the processes of selecting, organizing, and integrating information.”  In other words, presenters must know their audience and anticipate their cognitive process and then design the presentation accordingly.

Any tool can be rendered ineffective and useless if it is used incorrectly.  Instead of  getting rid of this tool, educators need to change their approach and understand how their students learn. PowerPoint has a place in the classroom, but its usage must be properly planned, designed  and implemented.   The following are five guidelines to consider when creating a PowerPoint:

1.  Write a clear headline that explains the main idea of the slide.

2. Break up the content in digestible bites.

3.  Reduce visual load by limiting text and narrating content.

4.  Use visuals with words instead of words or visuals alone.

5.  Remove every element that does not support the main idea.

References

Atkinson and Mayer, C. A. R. E. (2004). Five ways to reduce PowerPoint overload, . 1(1).

Check out the article:

Instructional Software in the English Classroom

Instructional software can enrich any classroom environment if it is used in a manner conducive to engaging and enhancing the learning experience.  According to Roblyer and Doering (2013), instructional software is designed specifically to “assist with the delivery of instruction on a topic.  To break this definition down further, the term, instructional software, can be divided into five specific categories: Drill and Practice, Tutorial, Simulation, Instructional Game, and  Problem Solving.

To begin with, drill and practice instructional software, according to Roblyer and Doering (2013), “provide exercises in which students work example items, usually one at a time, and receive feedback for their correctness.” Examples of drill and practice include: flashcards, charts, branching drills, and extensive feedback activities.  Drill and practice has a place in the English classroom; for example, students can use flashcard software like anki, or studytag to study information about an author, learn and memorize vocabulary words and definitions, or learn and memorize punctuation rules.  In addition, sites that offer interactive drills like OWL, are also examples of how drill and practice activities engage the learner.  In my classroom, I use drill and practice software all the time as bell ringers and activities to further concepts. In particular, I have found the online writing lab or OWL to be extremely effective for grammar lessons because although students work individually, I allow them to sit in groups, which in turn produces a level of collaboration that I probably could not achieve without the software.  In other words, my students actually discuss their answers and the reasons for choosing their answers.  This type of collaboration tells me that my students are achieving my objectives in an authentic way.

Roblyer and Doering (2013), assert that good software tutorials encompass an entire topic, for example, a complete lesson on using a comma, and it should include formative assessments throughout.  In other words, a good tutorial does not try to encompass too much information, like an entire unit on punctuation, but it does teach a concept within that unit.  One of the sites that I use is Virtual Lit.  Because tutorials need to have sequenced instruction that builds on concepts and gives corrective feedback, and tutorials need to be interactive, this site is amazing for teaching poetry. It does so much more than just ask the student to read a poem; it assists the learner through the learning process.

Simulations and Instructional games are also interactive software categories that can further assist the teacher in engaging the learner.  According to Roblyer and Doering (2013), “a simulation is a computerized model of a real or imagined system.” Simulations either teach how to do something, or they teach about something. One way that I use simulation is through Google Earth.  Simulations get students involved, and Google earth allows students to make impossible field-trips possible.  Similarly, instructional games add several different dimensions to learning, but games actually add an emotional expectation as well because of the competition involved.  Roblyer and Doering (2013), assert “Instructional games add game-like rules and/or competition to learning activities.” In addition, both simulations and instructional games engage the learner and enhance the learning experience, often resulting in more time on task.

Finally, problem solving software requires the learner to use his or her cognitive skills to pursue a solution. According to Roblyer and Doering (2013) the learner recognizes a goal, and solves the problem through a process that involves a sequence of physical activities or operations.  Personally, I have found it difficult to find free applications for this category; however, using tools like iMovie and Voicethread in conjunction with a structured lesson plan that focuses on problem solving is certainly achievable, and these programs allow  the teacher to integrate technologies that students love to use.

References

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching

    (6th ed.).  Allyn & Bacon.

Acceptable Use Policy Research and Reflection

Today, AUP’s are much more complex, and obviously, they should be because technology has advanced so rapidly and continues to do so at an alarming pace.  Therefore, school districts need to constantly revise their AUP’s.  For instance, when simple terms take on new meanings, changes have to be made to compensate.

For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District (Chandler, 2012) concretely defines its AUP as being “designed to prevent unauthorized access and other unlawful activities by users online, prevent unauthorized disclosure of or access to sensitive information, and to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (“CIPA”). ” In addition, the document goes further to identify the “user” to include “anyone using the computers, Internet, email, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications or equipment provided by the District (the “network.”) regardless of the physical location of the user. The AUP applies even when District provided equipment (laptops, tablets, etc.) is used off of District property.” (Chandler, 2012)  The fact that a “user” has to be defined and analyzed in this context not only demonstrates the complexity of today’s technology, but it also mirrors the thought process that needs to go into authoring AUP’s.  If these details are not addressed and put forth in writing, staff and students can discover loopholes, rendering the AUP’s purpose of protecting both students and staff useless.

In the district where I currently teach, the AUP is part of the student handbook.  I think this is an ineffective outlet for the document; students simply do not take the time to read through their handbook because they are not held accountable for its contents unless an issue arises.  For example, students do not realize that their online activities are monitored, and that the district can access their files at anytime.  The AUP (“High school student-parent,” 2013) states, “District will use technology protection measures to block or filter, to the extent practicable, access of visual depictions that are obscene, pornographic, and harmful to minors over the network. The District reserves the right to monitor users’ online activities and to access, review, copy, and store or delete any electronic communication or files and disclose them to others as it deems necessary. Users should have no expectation of privacy regarding their use of District property, network and/or Internet access or files, including email.”  If students were held accountable to know and understand the AUP; for example, if they were quizzed on it at the beginning of the school year, I think the document would be more effective.  Not only would students review the material, they would be more likely to retain it, and in doing so, they also might take into account their online or network activity.

According to educationworld.com, “The National Education Association suggests that an effective AUP contain the following six key elements: a preamble, a definition section, a policy statement, an acceptable uses section, and a violations/sanctions section.” (“Education world: Getting,” 2013).  An example of a school district that adheres to these elements is Clark County School District in Massachusetts. The AUP document for this district includes similar sub categories as mentioned on the educationworld.com website, including this section from its preamble: “Computer network resources, provided by the Clark County School District in partnership with the Clark County Public Education Foundation, enable communication with electronic communities around the world. These computer network resources include InterAct™, Internet, e-mail, mainframe, and all other Internet service providers such as America Online and CompuServe, when used in an educational setting. The use of these electronic resources shall be consistent with the purpose, mission, and goals of the Clark County School District and used only for educational purposes. The purpose in providing these services is to facilitate access to information and resources, promote educational excellence, and enhance communication between schools and the community” (Brookline Massachusetts 2013). Providing a solid definition and mission statement is essential is laying out the guidelines for students and teachers.

The bottom line is because computers provide valuable tools that support and enhance learning in the classroom, teachers and students are not only encouraged to access these resources, but also required to do so.  Therefore, network etiquette, citizenship, vandalism, and security, must all be incorporated into a document that all users agree to in order to provide the necessary protection.

References

Carson City School District, Board of Education. (1997). Carson city school district aup regulation 218 rules of acceptable use student signature page. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDUQFjAA&url

Chandler, R. S. Information Technology Division, (2012). Acceptable use policy (aup)  for district computer and network systems (BUL – 999.5)

Education World: Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. (n.d.).Retrieved February 10, 2013, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

The Board of Trustees and Administration of Joint School District No. 2, (2013). High school student-parent handbook. Retrieved from website: http://www.meridianschools.org

Vision Statement

Today’s learners are digital learners; therefore, using technology in the classroom is necessary to aid in the development of the Universal Design framework that engages and enhances the learning experience for all learners.

In order to meet the needs of all learners, Lopes-Murphy (2012) states that it is critical to not only consider multiple options for students to express their understanding, but to also utilize multiple means of engagement that “takes into consideration students’ interest and needs and instructional sensitivity to the diverse learning styles of students and their cultural background.”  Therefore, teachers and students need the diverse resources that technology tools provide, and because new technologies are always developing, it is imperative that teachers identify these technologies to continually prepare their students beyond the classroom environment.

In addition, technology must be integrated into the curriculum because of emerging trends in education. Roblyer and Doering (2013) list trends in tools and applications as “flexible learning environments, adaptable assessment options, emphasis on communication and collaboration, increased reliance on learning at a distance and increased educational options for students with disabilities.”  Technology allows the educator and the learner to transform resources that adapt to emerging educational trends.

Finally, according to the article, Redefining Rigor: Critical Engagement, Digital Media, and the New English/Language Arts (Dockter, Haug, & Lewis, 2010), when students utilize technology tools to create their own content, they not only build their own understanding of the concept, but they are also encouraged to collaborate, and they are challenged to critically and creatively analyze.  In addition, students are motivated to produce media, which includes an authentic audience of their peers who view and critique their projects.

As a result, students who are able to express their learning using digital resources are intellectually challenged, consequently making the learning process meaningful, engaging and fun. When learners master concepts, they become authentic learners, and their success results in a mutual respect for their peers, school, and community.

References

Dockter, J., Haug, D., & Lewis, C. (2010). Redefining Rigor: Critical Engagement, Digital Media, and the New English/Language Arts. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(5), 418–420.

Lopes-Murphy, S. (2012). Universal Design for Learning: Preparing Secondary Education Teachers in Training to Increase Academic Accessibility of High School English Learners. Clearing House: A Journal ofEducational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 85(6), 226–230.

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology into  Teaching (6th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.