The Not-So-Dreaded PowerPoint Presentation

I'm not really a PowerPoint person. The only time that I've used that style of presentation regularly was when I was traveling from one school to the next while in Norway. I knew that I needed visual effects to help students stay engaged with my presentation--and that I didn't want to be carting notes, DVDs, handouts, etc. around everywhere. PowerPoint (PP), or Keynote, the software I used, really helped. But, aside from that, I haven't really used PowerPoint (PP) presentations in my teaching.

But this summer I became really engaged in the idea of using technology in the classroom. My students told me that the PP presentation was one of the only uses of technology they had experienced in the classroom. But they also told me that they thought PP was pretty boring because it was so teacher-centered.

So I challenged myself one day last week to make a Keynote presentation that would actually encourage participation instead of stifle it. My students had read a particularly important but conceptually dense article by Brian Street on the New Literacy Studies. I knew that it was essential for my students to have a solid understanding of the article and that isolating important ideas or passages that I selected could actually increase their comprehension. I designed a presentation in which I gave an overview of important ideas, but integrated discussion points throughout. I identified specific passages that I thought were key to Street's article, and I stopped talking frequently (after asking questions) to allow my students to interact with the article. I listened closely to my students who were increasingly confident in their understanding of Street's article. It totally worked.

Thursday, I did something similar with another key article by James Gee. In this case, I worked hard to suggest applications of Gee's ideas to make them more tangible for my students--who fleshed out my suggestions in ways that demonstrated understanding. I also divided the students into groups at one point in the PP to allow them to become experts on key terms that Gee uses. This presentation was even more interactive than the first--and, again, I felt that my students left class with a much better grasp of key ideas in literacy studies.

I'm glad that I was open to a different way of using PP in the classroom. In November, my friend and Writing Project colleague Jeromy and I will be making a presentation at the NWP's annual conference in Orlando. We'll be doing an Ignite style presentation--20 slides, 15 seconds a slide. I think I want to try this technique in class at some point this semester. Here's an example of how it works:

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