CATL Teaching Guides

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Brief Description

Presentations afford students an excellent opportunity to synthesize course concepts or apply target skills. Rather than parroting facts, students demonstrate their understanding while creatively applying subject knowledge with organizational skills to make recommendations, pitch a proposal, argue for or defend a point of view, or teach others about a given topic. Presentations allow students to demonstrate critical thinking and communication skills, which are far more valuable life skills than the ability to take tests. They also entice students to bring their A game "to avoid losing face with their peers" (Sander and Sanders, 2005, p. 27).

If used to increase understanding, presentations can "flip" a classroom by asking students to assume the role of teacher. Ceding responsibility of course content to students challenges faculty "...to move away from education as a process in which declarative and procedural knowledge is 'given away' through lectures, books and journals, to an educational programme which seeks to ensure that students have useful knowledge and understanding which they can apply and use and will continue to do so beyond the end of the course." (Sander and Sanders, 2005, p. 27)

As a partial list of benefits of presentations, especially when combined with peer critique, students can develop skill and confidence in:

  1. Applying course concepts to their own perspective or meaningful situation
  2. Organization of ideas and findings
  3. Use of various technologies (unless presentation is "old school")
  4. Presenting and communicating complex ideas or positions
  5. Research methods
  6. Critical analysis or evaluation

In courses that prepare students for careers or expert roles, presentations serve as authentic exercises that simulate professional duties. In the words of one science educator, "much of our class work is project-based and students are required to act like professional scientists by making observations, forming and testing hypotheses, collecting data, accounting for possible sources of error, and formulating explanations based on evidence. In addition, students communicate their findings just as professional scientists do—through poster sessions" (Baumgartner, 2004, p. 39).

Presentations can either highlight findings and experiences from class projects or research, or address a variety of real-world scenarios. For example, students can:

  • Role play an authentic scenario (e.g. deliver a policy briefing, make a formal proposal or marketing pitch, offer expert testimony, etc.)
  • Offer background and solutions for a case study or real-world problem
  • Teach the class specific skills or procedures

Students can create presentations, to include posters and mind maps, using dozens of web-based or standalone software application. In face-to-face classrooms, old-fashioned "show and tell" resources are also fair game, to include pen and paper, whiteboards, or plain speech (i.e. no visuals at all). Presentation tools usually take one of three forms:

  1. Presentation software
    (such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote)

  2. Web-only alternatives to presentation software
    (such as Google Slides, PowToon, Prezi, or Zoho Show)

  3. Screencast tools
    (such as MyMediasiteScreencast-o-Matic, or OfficeMix)

Recording one's computer screen, known as screencasting, allows one to visually demonstrate computer applications, software features or computer actions with voice narration. Available tools either require users to first upload an existing PowerPoint (e.g. Knovio, SlideShare or SlideRocket) or record any application on their computer. Though there are many powerful free and proprietary tools, UWL supports Mediasite, a commercial screen capture tool for the desktop. In addition to the recorder, MyMediasite offers both students and faculty automatic cloud storage and editing via thew Web. For details view UWL's Video Sharing page or their many Training Videos.

Other popular tools include the expensive but very powerful Camtasia for both PC and Mac, Screenflow for the Mac, and several free alternatives (including CamStudio and Screencast-O-Matic).  Proprietary screencast programs include a powerful editor. Free and inexpensive programs are popular mostly due to their price, but require users to either accept the recording "as is" or create a new one. 

For longer recordings up to 15 minutes, the free Screencast-O-Matic for Mac or PC is a great choice, although it displays a watermark with the company's name. Optionally, users can purchase a subscription to the Pro version for only $15 a year. As yet one last tool for consideration, Microsoft recently created a plugin for PowerPoint. Though available for Windows only, Office Mix is free and offers several sophisticated capabilities for recording PPT presentations.

Note that one can record narrations directly in PowerPoint, though this option is NOT recommended for two reasons: (1) file sizes can become extremely large (with little compression), and (2) there is little ability to edit individual slides once recorded.

For creating movie-style videos, students can use Microsoft's Story Remix (a soon-to-be-released Windows 10 successor to the now unavailable Windows Movie Maker) or Apple's iMovie. Both programs allow students to create slideshows, with special effects and narration, from video clips or photos. Alternative applications are available via download, and newer tools allow editing and creating online, with no download necessary (though most of these applications, like WeVideo, require a current version of Java).

Examples

Using technology, students can create various types of visual presentations:

    1. Slide shows using dedicated presentation software
      (PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides, Prezi, Zoho Show)

    2. Comic strips, animations and posters
      (Animoto, Glogster, PowToon)

    3. Graphic organizers and Concept Maps
      (Bubbl.us, Cmap, Glogster, Mindmeister, Popplet, Vue, XMind)

    4. Digital slide shows
      (ComSlider, KizoaSlidely, SmileBox, VoiceThread)

    5. Digital movies
      (iMovieStory RemixVoiceThread, WeVideo)

Screencasts

Tips to Implement Effectively

  • Model performance criteria with a detailed rubric or checklist; if possible, provide a variety of examples and non-examples.

  • Encourage students to focus on the content and message, not just the "wow factor" afforded by the technology. In other words, urge them to limit seductive but unnecessary animations, video effects, transitions, etc.

  • Instruct students on the golden rule of design, "less is more," to limit distractions and cognitive overload; emphasize that one image or brief caption with a snappy phrase says far more than a slide full of text.

  • Students can use a mobile screen capture app like Doceri (view Examples via YouTube), Explain Everything (view Vimeo tour), or ShowMe to show their work, which is especially useful for courses, like Math, that emphasize process.

  • Simulate an authentic situation if possible (e.g. recommendations to planning board or local government, environmental impact of proposed construction project, grant proposal, proposal for a marketing campaign, curriculum improvements, etc.)

  • To enhance the assessment with a metacognitive element, encourage students to write a reflection on their experiences. Especially if students use technology and/or multimedia, ask them to describe the process of planning, organizing, researching and designing their presentation. If created in a group, prompt students to describe their experience with the collaboration process.

  • To develop the higher-order cognitive skill of evaluation, invite peers to critically assess one another. Ideally, students should follow a rubric or checklist to ensure constructive, thoughtful feedback.

Resources

  • Baumbach, D., and Lee, J. (n.d.). Presentation tools. Retrieved from Webtools4U2Use, http://webtools4u2use.wikispaces.com/Presentation+Tools.
  • Baumgartner, E. (2004). Student Poster Sessions. Science Teacher, 71(3), 39-41.
  • Girard, T., Pinar, M., & Trapp, P. (2011). An exploratory study of class presentations and peer evaluations: Do students perceive the benefits? Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 15(1), 77.
  • Ruffini, M.F. (2012). Screencasting to engage learning. Educause Review, November 1, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/screencasting-engage-learning.
  • Sander, P., & Sanders, L. (2005). Students' presentations: Does the experience change their views? Psychology Teaching Review, 11(1), 25-41.

Schankman, L. (2015). Presentations. In Teaching Improvement Guide. University of Wisconsin at La Crosse Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.uwlax.edu/catl/teaching-guides/teaching-improvement-guide/how-can-i-improve/presentations/.