Session Nine—Presentation Tools

Online Presentation
Online presentations in Second Life, courtesy of CC Chapman (Creative Commons License) from his flickr account

Chapter 7 of Educating the Net Generation discusses the results of a 2004 student technology use survey at 13 selected institutions. In light of the perhaps not so surprising results, the authors make an interesting comparison to the impact of the centuries-long printing press ‘revolution’ on academic institutions and formal learning. I’m certain you’ll find much that resonates with your own experiences when reading this chapter.

Chapter 9 of Educating the Net Generation takes a look at some of the issues that prevent a larger scale adaptation of technology in ways that go beyond course management to deepen student learning and calls for an articulated, coherent and cohesive approach that engages multiple players on multiple levels. I’ll be interested to hear what you have to say about this reading, especially with regard to faculty concerns about the impact of ubiquitous technology on students’ critical thinking skills.

Educause also discusses a rather intriguing high-tech twist on the class note-taker approach in its article on Google Jockeying.

The Infinite Thinking Machine’s Mark Wagner recently blogged about a new application within Google Docs that now allows for web-based, collaborative presentations. He discusses the benefits and limits of this new addition and shares links to various applied examples.

In class we will explore examples of web-based presentation tools such as Spresent, slideshare and Screencast-O-Matic.

We will also spend time together working on our class wiki and classroom projects.


The results of the student survey in Robert B. Kvavik’s article “Convenience, Communications, and Control: How Student’s Use Technology” confirm my experiences at the University of Connecticut. Students expect me as a teacher to have technical knowledge and to use classroom management tools. During my first semester at the University of Connecticut I was hesitant to use classroom management since I had a very small group of students in my class and we seemed to get along without online support. The next semester students (in a larger class) asked me if I would use Vista/WebCT for class and I started to experiment with it. Now I cannot imagine teaching a class without it. I am able to put the syllabus, presentations, handouts, and grades online. There is even the tool that automatically calculates participation, the Midterm and the final grade for me. Also since I put up homework and class-assignments online, many students replied that they found it easier and more convenient to make up for a class. And, from a teacher’s perspective, I save time preparing classes and answering individual questions concerning assignments, handouts, and copies. In this perspective other tasks that are based on technology such as google jockeying or google online presentations as explained by Mark Wagner might be powerful tools that are worth trying and to be incorporated into classroom. How are your experiences in this matter?

As the survey demonstrated it is important to keep the knowledge and the technical skills and expectations in mind. However, as Alma R. Clayton-Pedersen’s and Nancy O’Neill’s “Curricula Designed to Meet 21st-Century Expectations” made clear, it is not enough that faculty has to “increase the understanding of teaching and learning power of technology” (9.2.) it is also important that the instruction has to be “blended” (9.11). In my opinion, it would be easy to provide a magnificent technically based classroom, including multi-media experiences and so on. If your are not dealing with conceptions of a Gesamtkunstwerk à la Richard Wagner than this might be a waste of time, effort, and energy, similar to a wonderfully sparkling technical firework that explodes and — nothing is last. Therefore, one has to make sure how technical tools fit into the classroom and how this helps the student’s actual critical (!) learning process and the understanding of a more and more global world.

Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.
Mark Twain’s Notebook, 1898


I always try to employ teaching methods which enhance student participation. Therefore, especially in content-based classes – where lecturing remains one of the key ways of conveying information – I strive to work on technique. For instance, I employ a variety of audio-visual aids such as slides, PowerPoint presentations, props and video clips. In my opinion, learning to teach is a lifelong endeavor, and I consider my teaching philosophy a work in progress, which I try to improve with new approaches, methods and applications. Ultimately, my goal is to foster a student-centered learning environment that nourishes critical thinking, a resource I believe to be valuable in any capacity or field. For this reason, I am very glad that, thanks to this class, I will be able to incorporate new applications and to make my teaching even more effective and, possibly, student-centered. In this context, a great source of help for us (instructors) is represented by the development of new Web presentation tools. According to Robin Good,“web presentation tools and technologies provide the means to deliver any PowerPoint-based or similar type of visual presentation to an Internet-connected audience, no matter where participants are connecting from.” The importance of these tools is given by the fact that, in Robin Good’s opinion, “until recently, sharing a PowerPoint presentation with other people, let alone doing this in real-time, was a major challenge.” Therefore, since the current generation of student entering colleges and universities is characterized by unprecedented skills in terms of technology (according to Marc Prensky, these students are actually “digital natives”) the usage of new and more effective web presentation tools is very important to incorporate more technology into our classes and to help us become more successful as instructors.


One Response to “Session Nine—Presentation Tools”

  1. orsitto Says:

    I just want to comment vey briefly on my usage of voicethread in my ILCS 237 “Italy Today”, an advanced class (all conducted in Italian) on Italian culture (examined through contemporary Italian literature, cinema and music). I have decided to make voicethread as an integral part of the course only in mid October, and I have to say that all the students were pretty excited about it. In fact, this new application opened a whole lot of unexplored possibilities to them and also allowed them to “avoid” the classic presentations in class, which are usually very stressful to some who are not used to speak in public (especially in a foreign language!). The results very marvelous. Some students worked in couple, some others independently. All of them though, displayed an incredible and unexpected amount of creativity (certainly also because of VT). Some students preferred to give a more traditional presentation, commenting the pictures they did upload previously, while others create fake TV news to present their topic. The montage of their work was extremely accurate, integrating clips from youtube, pictures they took from google, real clips from the Italian Tv news and several short clips of the student (pretending to be anchormen) to connect all together. I have to say that all the presentation have exceeded my expectations and that I look forward to make voicethread a stable part of my future courses.

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