ICT related news and ideas

Posts tagged ‘IWB’

PowerPoint – life after death

Recently I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the art of presentation (sad, isn’t it?) and have to confess to an ongoing interest in the use of PowerPoint and, particularly, an interest in showing that this veteran program still has much to offer. Despite the competition from relative newcomers like SlideRocket and Prezi, not to mention a whole raft of other online pretenders to the presentation throne, the old stager still puts up a pretty good fight. In fact, I would go as far as to say that PowerPoint has a depth of capability and ease of use that keeps it some way ahead of the rest. Anything Microsoft may be deeply unfashionable, but that doesn’t make it bad.

For a humorous view of what we all know as death by PowerPoint, there is always the classic Don McMillan sketch.

So, you see, what makes people think PowerPoint is bad (Power corrupts, PowerPoint corrupts absolutely, and all that) is the fact that the vast majority of the PowerPoint presentations they have seen are bad. Too much text, too many bullet points, poor layout, misuse of animation, you know the score. Well used, PowerPoint can be absolutely dazzling – just see what people like Eyeful can do with it, if you don’t believe me. And for some really good practical advice about what works, I like this presentation.

I don’t make any claims to be a skilled author in PowerPoint, but – having gone through the I hate PowerPoint phase myself a couple of years ago – I think there’s a lot of fun to be had in learning to use it well. Largely as a exercise in self-motivation, I set up another blog frenchpowerpoints, spurred on by the dismal realisation that I had actually authored very few presentations that are up to much. My (probably vain) hope is that I will be motivated to spend some time creating presentations that are not entirely run of the mill. The latest entry is this one.

The original PowerPoint version is here.


Break free from the IWB

The interactive whiteboard has certainly been one of the great breakthroughs in teaching of the past decade, but, initially at least, it did nothing to liberate the teacher from the front of the classroom. You were still stuck there, either tapping frantically on the board or dashing across to your computer keyboard and doing the tapping there  to keep things rolling. A remote was of course the answer. Until recently I had a rather ancient bit of kit held together with parcel tape and boasting a very slow facility to move the mouse pointer around the screen. Not very dynamic. After seeing a presenter use a gyroscopic mouse very effectively a couple of years ago at some conference or other I realised that was the way forward. And finally I’ve got one!

Gyration Air Mouse

I went for this fairly basic gyroscopic air mouse as it seemed to offer all I might need in the classroom and first impressions suggest it does. It takes but moments to set up and not much longer to get the hang of waving it around after the manner of a Wii remote. It’s pretty speedy and accurate and one of its benefits is that you can switch in an instant from using it as a normal mouse on a desktop at the back of the classroom to using it in air mode as you stride purposefully amongst your class. You can programme it to recognise gestures and assign particular actions to the three spare buttons, eg to provide a pointer or go back a page or whatever. And it’s really portable: the USB dongle fits right inside the mouse and there is sweet little mesh pouch to slip it into. Stick it in your pocket and you’re off. So far so absolutely brilliant. Everyone should have one!


More IWB tools from Triptico

A while back I wrote a post about Word Magnets, a great IWB tool from that clever man David at Triptico. On re-visiting the site recently, I was struck by how many excellent resources are available on the site. Often just clever packaging in Flash of simple everyday things, there are tools to fit many classroom situations.

I particularly like the random student selector, which will generate lots of tension! Or the score board for team games. There is a nice simple but very clear timer which will count up or down and, for quick activities, a one minute countdown timer. For teaching the time, there is a clock that will generate random times – a simple idea brilliantly done. For those Rolf Harris ‘can you tell what it is yet?’ situations, you can use the image spotlight. If you want a calculator for the IWB, you’ve got one. And then there’s Draft It, one of those tools you think there must be a use for …..

All in all, a really useful site that will help out in lots of situations. And just to show I’m not biased, you might also be interested in what the Sandfields site has to offer, too.


Word Magnets

There are quite a lot of ways of dragging text around an IWB, but Word Magnets is one of the better ones, being simple yet flexible. And knowing how to put a sentence together is an important thing for learners of languages like German, for instance. It’s an online resource made available by the clever people at Triptico who offer a number of other IWB resources, well worth looking at. All you have to do is type in (or copy in) the text you want to play about with.

Create Text Screen

On pressing Next you will be asked if you want to change the background. This throws up lots of options for organising words on the screen, but mostly it’s best just to leave it blank (or blue, as it happens) by pressing Next again. This then brings up a screen with your text chopped up into the separate words which can then be dragged around the screen. So far so good, but fairly unremarkable.

Where I think Word Magnets shows its strengths are in the simple ways it offers to increase the size of your text items if you need to, remove or add text items, and to change the background colour of the items.

Words re-arranged & coloured

The potential of this last action is interesting. If you click on one of the fill colours along the top menu, the next text item you touch will change to that colour. So, say your words are still in their intial state, ie scrambled and with a white background, you can ask a pupil to point out the subject, the object, the verb, the past participle, a TMP element (for Germanists, that one!), whatever you like, and magically their selection becomes the colour you have chosen. You can mess about with this almost infinitely!

The downsides? Well, you are stuck with one font, Comic Sans MS (oh dear), and you can’t save your work. Is it then better than just doing it with the software already on the IWB? I think so, in view of the capabilities for changing things around I have mentioned.

PS. If you like this kind of thing, you will also like (or know) Fridge Magnets, a similar tool which is more suited to spelling than to text manipulation, from those other clever people at Sandfields. This resource needs to be downloaded as a zip file.