PowerPoint tips & tricks

I.  Word Outline -> PowerPoint presentation

Students always seem to get excited when a teacher explains that they are going to use PowerPoint for a project. There is something about PowerPoint that is creative, entertaining and appealing to students.

My concern has always been that all of the focus on the “fluff” of PowerPoint will lead to PowerPointlessness. PowerPoint is a presentation tool so why is the content and message seem to be lost in the production?

I have come up with a solution that counteracts the focus on formatting and not on content. I teach students how to write out all of the content for their PowerPoint slides in a Word outline and focus on the information before I allow them to open up the PowerPoint program.

Change Word from Print View to Outline View and place all slide titles on Level 1 of the outline and all body content on Level 2 of an outline. Students can research their topics and write out the information on the outline. Resources can be cited right on the outline.  The focus is clearly on what information is to be conveyed in the presentation.

When the students completed the outline, they opened PowerPoint and then opened the Word outline IN PowerPoint (you need to change the file type to ALL FILES to see the Word outline) – and presto – all the text was placed on the appropriate slides. The students reaction is the best part – they loved it. They were amazed that these two software pieces work together seamlessly.

II.  Slide Master

Many students come to my class feeling “comfortable” with PowerPoint so my goal is to teach them some news skills to keep the focus on content or make formatting and animating quicker, easier and consistent.

One of the ways that I do this is to teach my students how to create their own original design template by using the slide master. The preformatted design templates are overused and not very interesting – plus they usually don’t match the topic. I teach students how to go to View / Master / Slide Master and design a template from scratch. I encourage students to choose background colors, designs or images that match their topic.

The slide master shown was created for a slide presentation for “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”. The images on the left are hyperlinked to a slide to explain more about that wonder. The column and text banner appear on every page. This student put a lot of thought into the design of their PowerPoint and had it coordinate with their topic. It was much better than choosing an overused Design Template.

The student is now more than half done since all the text and slide formatting is completed. The next steps include changing the slide layouts, transitions and adding images/sounds/movies.

ppt-slide-master2jpg.jpgAnimations for titles and body paragraphs can be added to the slide master as well as “actions” to link the navigation bar to individual slides.

By the way, the PPT presentation (right) is not shown in front of the whole class. We save our presentations in a shared folder and then each student opens the presentations and interacts with them (by clicking on links/action buttons) more like a webpage. Students don’t need to sit through all 30 presentations but most of them eventually view everyone’s projects – cuz they’re kids and they are curious.

Note:  This type of PowerPoint cannot be uploaded to Google Presentations because action buttons and animations do not work in Google Presentations.

III.  Focus on speech & use PowerPoint for a visual only

A very effective way to get students to create interesting PowerPoint presentations – where they DO NOT read the slides to the class – and they get away from “Slide Title — Bulleted List” layout is to have students write speeches and use PowerPoint only as a visual.  The speeches are first written in the speaker notes area before any images or animations are selected.  This keeps the focus on the content of the speech.  This type of PowerPoint uses creative photography and design skills to interest the viewer but does not take away from what the speaker is saying. It helps to start with a blank slide design to encourage creativity.  Limited animations are used for emphasis only.  Animations should run automatically so not to interrupt the speech.  Another option would be to record the speech as a narration on each slide.  All images must be cited appropriately.

Sources for copyright friendly images:

FlickrStorm – http://www.zoo-m.com/flickr-storm (use advanced search and change to Creative Commons)

Pics 4 Learning – http://www.pics4learning.com

WikiMedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

LIbrary of Congress / American Memory – http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/browse

Information about Creative Commons licensees – http://creativecommons.org/about/what-is-cc

IV.  Use PowerPoint as an image creator

Who needs Photoshop when you can resize  the PowerPoint screen to 3×5, 4×6, or 5×7 and create images or postcards in PowerPoint then save them as *.jpg instead of *.ppt.  I have my students create Postcards as part of a geography unit.  They must find a copyright-friendly image (or two), add a title with WordArt, add shapes, text, etc..  We always save the original PowerPoint just in case but then go to SAVE AS and change the file format to jpg and now you have a photo.

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