Unit Four: Creating & Delivering Engaging Presentations
I rarely use presentations in my teaching because I believe in more of a Constructivist approach in which students are interacting with material and learning collaboratively. Sometimes, students need information quickly before completing a more hands on activity, and thus, I will incorporate a presentation. Oftentimes, I use slides for class notes and guide students through the process to find their preferred note taking method.
When creating presentations, there are a few guidelines I follow. I use very little text, a limited color scheme (usually with a white background and bold color for text), and titles so that learners know where they are in the presentation. I often provide links to videos or images that relate to the material I am teaching, which students enjoy. I find that using humor keeps their interest, and anytime you can use music, the better for engagement. By far, my favorite resource for creating presentations is Google Slides. Multiple people can be in the presentation at once and changes are made in real time as well as saved automatically. Google Slides saves users a ton of time, money, and energy.
This unit’s learning challenge was to create a presentation-based learning activity using engaging technology. I used Powtoon to create a video presentation about the rules for using semicolons. I was able to make it catchy with sounds, images, special effects, and bright colors. This is a website I will use a lot in the future. It is user friendly and I am happy with my final products.
One question I had during this unit was: How often do you use presentations in your teaching (per week)? I found that my peers at every level use them quite often, in just about every class. One of my peers in higher education talked about how his organization is doing away with traditional PowerPoint presentations, a change I think many other organizations will follow suit on.
Unit Five: Games & Learning
I have attempted to incorporate games into my curriculum as much as possible, as they are quite engaging for my learners. I have created my own Jeopardy boards using free software, but found that students become too competitive and it starts to be more about points than about mastering the material. I have also used already-created games on Kahoot with my students, and they love playing them. Even though Kahoot is fun, it can get dry after a couple games because it is a simple multiple choice style game. The best part about it is that students can access the website and play for free from any device. No one is left out. Plus, users can create their own usernames and add emojis.
I have also incorporated offline games in my classroom. For example, before the ninth graders read The Lord of the Flies, I gave them a desert survival challenge in which I put them into a plane crash situation and they had to choose the ten items from a list that would best help their team survive the Sahara Desert. I then came up with a point system for the items and descriptions of the point ranges. Students got really into it. I am sure this would be more engaging using digital tools, so I would like to use what I learn in this unit to transfer it to an online game.
I am in favor of the use of game in the learning environment because it allows kids to make mistakes and learn from them in a practice situation. Game can help learners expand upon important skill sets, such as taking control, solving problems, experimenting with their identities, and communicating within a global community (Sorensen, Meyer, & Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2011). However, I do not think the field of education is doing a good enough job of designing games that are as engaging to learners as the video games they play outside of school. I am hopeful that within the next five years, though, that improvements will be made and time will be spent dedicated to producing games that students want to play, and more than that, games that help students learn more effectively. Oftentimes, students will get in trouble for playing a computer game when they are supposed to be focused on something in class. If we as instructional designers did a better job of creating academic games, we would not have this problem.
This unit’s learning challenge was to use technological resources to create a simple game to teach a key concept. This challenge just about brought me to tears. Most of the resources were not compatible with Mac, and inklewriter was extremely difficult to learn. Therefore, I ended up using Scratch Project Editor to create a game that teaches basic interview etiquette. Unlike the other options, this one allowed me to exercise creativity and it was easy to use. However, I still find game creation incredibly frustrating because I know the potential for educational games that I am not reaching compared to the video games kids are playing at home.
One question I had during this unit was: Are online games better than offline games? Most of my peers, when talking about games that are effective, were giving examples of games with no technology component. In my classroom, I tend to rely more heavily on offline games. Until game design and education are brought together, most teachers will probably default to offline games.
How do you make presentations and games engaging for your students?
Sorensen, B. H., Meyer, B., & Egenfeldt-Nielsen, S. (2011). Serious games in education: A global perspective. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.
Forbes’ list of five ways to increase interactivity in presentations:
Keith Stuart’s article will tell you how video game designers seduce their audiences: