Saturday, March 28, 2009

Success or Failure

An interesting thing happened this week. Our social studies teacher gave the eighth grade students the opportunity to share what they learned about World War I through a slide presentation. They used Open Office Impress on the tablets for the first time.

We've been learning to use PowerPoint since the students were in the fourth grade. I did not tell the students how to get to Impress on the tablets. They found the program, learned how to use it, and created their presentation.

I debriefed one of the two classes of students yesterday. They shared their thoughts on the program. They felt it was harder to use than PowerPoint. They had to do a lot of digging through the menus to find what they were looking for. They found the design templates and were disappointed in finding only three.

This is a success. They knew enough about what they wanted to do to make Impress work for them.

I spoke with the teacher and asked her to informally keep a tally of how many students flooded the screen with text versus presentations heavy on images. I haven't found out what she saw, but got informal feedback from my son. He was surprised that she didn't "say" that the slides should be light on text/ heavy on images and talking. He was surprised that she told them afterwards that the slides had too much text overall.

I need to have a look at the presentations and then start being more emphatic when I explain why we create slides as we do in computer class. I want them to be aware that they need to make this the format for all slide presentations.

I was going to show them Death by PowerPoint by Don McMillan, but then I found a new version by the same comedian. It is called Doctor Don - PowerPoint Therapist. MySpace is one of the few things blocked at school and I am happy to see that Zamzar was able to convert the file.

Doctor Don - Powerpoint Therapist

Student Response
I think I am going to have the eighth grade make a student response project. The idea is just forming in my brain right now, but I will give them the option to create a video or audio podcast, a PowerPoint, graphic image, or mini poster in Word. I'll come back later to document how it all turns out.

An Aside
I have to look at Impress on the tablets at school on Monday. There are more than three layouts on my Mac. I wonder if I need to update Open Office on the XP machines. Giving it a quick test run, it seems very intuitive after having used PowerPoint for years.

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