Power Point Revolution

Teachnology (2012) describes Power Point as “one of the most powerful tools for disseminating information ever known.” From a teaching standpoint it has certainly revolutionized the modern classroom. Information can be presented to class after class in an identical manner. Notes can be printed or e-mailed due to absence. Power Point provides these invaluable advantages when used in the classroom. But like many tools that are overused, they become dull or broken – so too has Power Point been misused and abused in many classrooms across America. It is this overuse that “can bore learners and diminish PowerPoint’s effectiveness” (Teachnology, 2012).

Too often today, the presentations given to instruct the youth of America’s classrooms would be described as “Death by Power Point” (Kapterev, 2007). A never-ending bulleted list of information read verbatim and accompanied by juvenile clipart. There isn’t anything much more inclined to glaze the eyes of America’s youth than that.

Power Points don’t have to be dull and monotonous. In fact, there are many resources and tutorials available to help the modern teacher brush off their dusty power points and update them into interactive 21st century teaching tools. The first step to changing a teacher’s power point paradigm is getting them to accept that most of what they have produced has been crap. Yes, crap. Two must see Slideshares that will both help teachers accept how dreadful their current presentations are and model quality presentation are Jesse Desjardins’s (2012) “You Suck at Power Point!” and Alexei Kapterev’s (2007) “Death by Power Point.” Both presentations outline the common egregious errors that cause students to stare: too much insignificant information in long bulleted lists, lack of relevant or eye catching visuals (or too many low quality or childish images or clipart), and complicated diagrams or charts.

Next, teachers must learn the guidelines to follow as they recreate their new and improved teaching tools. Garr Reynolds (2005) outlines ten guidelines to help teachers, and all presenters, create more captivating and meaningful presentations:

1) Keep it simple
2) Limit bullet points and text
3) Limit animated transitions
4) Use high quality graphics
5) Avoid PPT templates, but have a consistent theme
6) Use appropriate charts
7) Use color well
8) Use fonts well
9) Use video and/or adudio
10) Organize slides considerately

These guidelines can be used to update an old presentation or at the beginning of a new presentation. An example has been posted below.

The presentations below contain similar content. The original purpose of the presentation is to train regular education teachers on servicing English Language Learners (ELLs) in their classrooms. Much of the bulleted content from the original has been moved to the Notes section of the new power point. That way, if someone missed the presentation they could still get a general understanding of the information spoken when the presentation was given. The stark contrast between the two presentations should be evident.
Old Presentation:
What to Expect – ESL Training
New Presentation:
Shickley – interactive presentation

References:
Desjardins, J. (2012, September 19). You Suck At PowerPoint! [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/jessedee/you-suck-at-powerpoint-2

Kapterev, A. (2007, July 31). Death by PowerPoint [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/thecroaker/death-by-powerpoint

Reynolds, G. (2005). Garr Reynolds/Presentations. GarrReynolds.com. Retrieved February 25, 2013, from http://www.garrreynolds.com/Presentation/slides.html

Teachnology (2012). PowerPoint In the Classroom. Worksheets, Lesson Plans, Teacher Resources, and Rubrics from TeAch-nology.com. Retrieved from http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/powerpoint/

Instructional Software for ELLs

As a high school English as a second language (ESL) teacher, I have seen firsthand the positive results from the use of instructional software with secondary level English language learners (ELLs).  Instructional software is an exceptional supplemental resource in the ESL classroom as well as at home, where ELLs often have little to no English interaction. On top of extending the time ELLs might be actively engaged in direct language instruction, instructional software offers a safe avenue for students to practice and learn the English language.  As pointed out in Roblyer and Doering (2013), “computers don’t get impatient or give disgusted looks when a student gives a wrong answer.”  Personally, I have found a very high relative advantage with the use of drill and practice, tutorials, and gaming software.

Drill and practice software is an excellent resources for ELLs.  Quizlet, for example, is an excellent resource that provides drill and practice activities for vocabulary including virtual flashcards, spelling, and definition matching.  These drill and practice activities highlight one of the key benefits of this type of instructional software: automaticity, or the ability to recall lower order skills automatically.  Roblyer and Doering (2013) explain that “drill activities can allow the effective rehearsal students need to transfer newly learned information into long-term memory.”  Specifically, the availability to immediate correction and feedback guarantees that the ELLs will not be repeating a practice incorrectly and thus “memorizing the wrong skills” (Roblyer and Doering).

Tutorial software is also a wonderful resource for ELLs, if the ELL has the prerequisite reading skills to maneuver through the activities.  Due to the nature of tutorial software “it is difficult to explain or give appropriate guidance on-screen to a non-reader” (Roblyer and Doering).  However,  Scholastic offers an impressive reading tutorial program called System 44, used “to help students master the foundational reading skills required for success with the Common Core through explicit instruction in phonics, comprehension, and writing” (Scholastic, 2011) that works wonders for ELLs who lack basic phonemic awareness.

Online games are also a fun way to engage ELLs in language instruction, which can sometimes be a tedious and tiresome act for the student.  Educational games provide a unique motivation to students: they “make kids want to strive to do better — to earn better scores and to level-up to new challenges, always trying to improve” (Sutter, n.d.).  Brain Pop ESL offers a variety of games at three different ability levels for ELLs.  This is great because in a mixed-ability classroom, all the children can be actively participating in the activity on a level that is most appropriate for them.  This level of differentiation would be time consuming for the teacher to prepare for only one class period or less.

As with any use of technology, it is for the teacher to assess if the technology will benefit the students.  Not all instructional software is created the same, and teachers must prudently review the resources they plan to use with their students to verify that it is appropriate and an efficient use of curricular time. The Discovery Channel offers a website to help parents and teachers evaluate instructional software. It is definitely worth a glance.

Resources:

www.quizlet.com

www.brainpopesl.com

Discovery Channel

Sources:

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Scholastic, Inc. (2011). System 44 Next Generation. Scholastic. Retrieved February 15, 2013, from http://system44.scholastic.com/

Sutter, J. D. (n.d.). Gaming Reality. CNN.com – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. Retrieved February 15, 2013, from http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2012/08/tech/gaming.series/teachers.html

Acceptable Use Policies Version 2.0

   Like the ever changing technology that is quickly permeating classrooms across the nation, so too are the policies governing the use of that technology changing.  Past practices in developing an acceptable use policy (AUP) for a district’s information and communications technologies (ICT) have been more top-down in approach: “a school official such as the chief technological office, a cabinet member, or legal counsel working alone, or with one or two others” (Consortium of Schools Networking Initiative, 2011).  However, a shift away from this practice towards a more inclusive development that includes relevant parties such as teachers, students, parents, and upper-level district personnel working collaboratively to development an AUP that has more potential for acceptance “from those who are affected by the policy” most, is gaining in momentum (Consortium of Schools Networking Initiative). 

   The purpose of a good AUP is to both protect students from unnecessary harm as well as to provide them with “access to the extensive resources on the Internet for learning and teaching” (Consortium of Schools Networking Initiative).  Even if such policies were not dictated by the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) of 2000, many schools and school districts, particularly at the elementary level, would probably still be blocking upsetting and inappropriate sites like those that contain pornography or excessive violence.  Education World (n.d.) suggests that a well-organized and clear AUP will contain six parts: preamble, definitions, policy statement, acceptable uses, unacceptable uses, and violations/sanctions. Furthermore,   Lepion (2012), and the multitude of collaborators on the crowdsourced example of a social media policy, suggests including a “Personal Safety” section that encourages students to step forward if they have any concerns for the safety of them self or others that have arisen from interactions with ICT.  Of course, every district should document through signature or other means that the AUP has been given to students and parents.

   More important than having a clear and responsible AUP is having a specific clause in the AUP that states it will be reviewed and revised as issues arise or technologies change.  Also allowing for different entities within the district like elementary, middle, and secondary schools to develop and implement their own procedural guidelines on the implementation of the policy is also a good idea.  No two schools are alike or the students within them.  It is important to maintain procedural control at a building level so “modifications can be made in a timely manner – often without board action” to ensure smooth use of technology in the building (Consortium of Schools Networking Initiative, 2011). For example, the new frontier of technology integration in education is, of course, the student owned portable or hand-held device.  AUPs should be inclusive to this new use of technology without giving students free reign to abuse it.  This is where procedural control at the building level is key.  All out bans of portable devices will soon be policies of past generations, simply because “many parents have protested such rules, as they feel safer when their kids have mobile phones” (Masnick, 2009).

   A review of AUPs of educational institutions in Pennsylvania yielded interesting results. I reviewed to local high schools with vastly different sizes in population: Central Dauphin School District and a neighboring school district, Steelton-HIghspire School District.  I also research the AUPs of 2 Pennsylvanian Universities: Shippensburg University, a medium-size public university and Penn State University, a large state-affiliated university with multiple campuses across the state. 

   Central Dauphin is an impressively large school district in the state of Pennsylvania operating two high schools, four middle schools, and thirteen separate elementary schools.  Its Technology policies are vast and complicated.  Their technology links provide students and parents with over 30 different policies and procedures for everything imaginable from changing a password to properly saving or disposing of files.  An additional and separate link is provided for a copy of the official AUP. Included in Central Dauphin’s technology links is a bring your own device (BYOD) page with a list of what appears to be troubleshooting or frequently asked questions list.  However, despite having the BYOD page online, the school district is not currently allowing teachers or students to participate in the program yet. 

   Steelton-Highspire School District could not contrast more with Central Dauphin.  It is a small district boasting only one elementary and one secondary school for students grades 7-12.  Both schools reside on the same campus.  Steelton-Highspire has no official AUP posted on their website, but does have a cyberbullying policy in line with the state regulations of Pennsylvania.  I find this lack of AUP fascinating as Steelton-Highspire provides a link on their website explaining that they were part of the Classrooms for the Future grant, which was used in Pennsylvania to provide schools with large quantities of technology for the classroom including Smart Boards and laptops.

    Shippensburg University has a short AUP that was more of a disclaimer than a policy dictating acceptable practices.  It appeared to warn the students they were responsible for all damage or inconvenience that could arise from use of a university computer or access to the university network.  It continued to warn the students that the University would not be held responsible for a lack of service or a problem arising from a device or network failure.  Uniquely, the university did have a special section devoted to the use of online gaming by the students.  The AUP merely stated that the university did not reserve server space or allocate additional resources to this activity.

            Penn State’s AUP was more difficult to identify.  Due to the vast size and nature of an organization like Penn State University it appears they operate under one guiding document, a manual of general policies and rules.  Then each individual campus as well as individual colleges (College of Education or College of Chemistry, for example) can create their own more stringent AUPs.  Penn State’s general guideline for computer use took up a little less than the whole of page fourteen. It dealt mainly with respect of shared property as well as intellectual property.  It set a general tone that students would be respectful at all times while maintaining an academic use of the computers. 

Example AUPs

Central Dauphin School District (n.d.). Policies & Procedures. Central Dauphin School District. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://www.cdschools.org/domain/61

Central Dauphin School District (n.d.). Safe Connect (BYOD). Central Dauphin School District. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://www.cdschools.org/domain/1464

Steelton-Highspire School District (2008, October 6). Classrooms For the Future. Steelton-Highspire School District. Retrieved February 8 , 2013, from http://www.shsd.k12.pa.us/domain/341

Steelton-Highspire School District (2012, June 11). Policy # 249 Bullying Cyberbullying.Steelton-Highspire School District. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://www.shsd.k12.pa.us/Page/3307

Penn State University (n.d.). Student Guide to General University Policies and Rules. Penn State University. Retrieved February 8, 2012, from http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/conduct/pdf/PoliciesRules.PDF.

Shippensburg Universtity (n.d.). Shippensburg University Network Acceptable Use Policy.Shippensburg University. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://www.ship.edu/ITS/Helpdesk/Student/Shippensburg_University_Network_Acceptable_Use_Policy

 

Resources

Consortium of Schools Networking Initiative (2011, September 13). Web 2.0/Mobile AUP Guide. Participatory Learning, Leadership & Policy: A CoSN Leadership Initiative. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://www.cosn.org/Default.aspx?tabid=8139

Education World (n.d.). Getting Started on the Internet: Developing an Acceptable Use Policies. Education World. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

Lepion, K. (2012, June 11). Crowdsourced School Social Media Policy Now Available. Edudemic. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://edudemic.com/2012/06/school-social-media-policy/

Masnick, B. (2009, February 16). Bill Introduced In Pennsylvania To Ban All Portable Gadgets In School | Techdirt. Techdirt. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090213/1835443768.shtml