Open Thinkering


Tag: iwb

Beyond boring Powerpoint presentations.

It’s easy to create a bad Powerpoint presentation. That’s because it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that because your audience is looking at something, they’re engaged with and by it. What is gained in clarity can be lost in repetition and boredom. Below are some ways to use Powerpoint more effectively and alternatives to spice up your content delivery.

First, though, here’s Don McMillan explaining some of the REALLY bad ways people use Powerpoint:

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5 quick tips if you MUST use Powerpoint…

  1. Never use a font size smaller than 24pt. If you have a large classroom, you may need to go even bigger than this. Stand at the back and check!
  2. Limit the number of words you have per slide. Don’t use them as an aid to remind you what to say. They should enhance what you are talking about, not repeat it! A great way is to limit yourself to 5 words and 5 bullet points. Alternatively, just use an image to represent your idea/concept/instruction.
  3. Find graphics that represent things you do frequently in lessons (perhaps from clipart) and always use these when doing a similar activity. For example, a pen writing for when it’s time to start work or two people talking for discussion/group work. These help reinforce good habits and aid classroom management.
  4. Use contrasting colours. The easiest way to do this is to choose an option from the ‘Slide Design’ menu. Otherwise, remind yourself of the colour wheel.
  5. Limit the number of different slide transitions in a presentation. One or two is classy, lots of different ones looks unprofessional.

Beyond Powerpoint…

There are lots of different tools that do a similar job to Powerpoint. For example, Keynote on the Mac and Impress (all platforms). But you don’t want to simply replicate Powerpoint’s functionality, you want to move beyond it.

Method 1 – Online presentations

Creating presentations on, or uploading presentations to, the Internet can be extremely useful. Not only does it give you access to better visual effects than Powerpoint can offer, but it makes them readily available to your students outside the lesson. The following three slides are taken from part of the very first lesson I had with Year 7 this academic year:

This is the same presentation when I uploaded it to Google Docs and tinkered slightly:

And here it is in the wonderful SlideRocket after using some of its functionality:

Zoho Show is another option. All of these are completely free or have a free basic option. I’d recommend Google Docs if you’d like to collaborate (or students to collaborate) on presentations and SlideRocket for fancy effects. The latter has a desktop version, although you have to upgrade your account to a paid-for version to be able to download it. Of course, if you just want to make your presentations available online, you could use SlideShare

Method 2 – Add interactive elements

  • Need to show some statistics and figures? Try!
  • Add a short video clip to your presentation. Find it on YouTube, or another video-sharing site. Download and convert it (in this case to MOV or WMV format) via There’s an elearnr guide on how to do this here. 🙂
  • The PicLens plugin for Powerpoint 2007 means you’re not restricted to a linear presentation – and it looks cool! (see below)

Method 3 – Use a completely different approach

Ask yourself, “do I really need to use a Powerpoint-style format?”. If the answer is “perhaps not!” then check out some of these suggestions:

  • Glogster – we’ve already been through glogs on elearnr. They are a great, visual way to present as you can embed videos, audio and images quickly and easily.
  • Mindmap – why not demonstrate good practice and create a mindmap to present ideas? Students can learn organizational skills from this, and there are a number of collaborative mindmapping sites, including MindMeister,, Mindomo and Mind42.
  • Wiki – a wiki is a collaborative website. It’s also a great place to embed content from other websites and therefore a useful presentational tool. Your audience (i.e. students or other teachers) can also add their ideas and thoughts to it at a later date – if you want them to! I like Wikispaces, but it doesn’t seem to play nicely with our school network. I’d recommend, therefore, Google Sites, Wetpaint and PBwiki. I use Google Sites to run 🙂


Keep up-to-date with new ways and ideas for presenting ideas, concepts and content. The following are websites that can help:

Have YOU got any tips to share about good/bad practice when using Powerpoint?

10 ways to use your interactive whiteboard more effectively

Following on from this previous blog post detailing over 30, here are what I think are 10 really effective ways you can start to use your interactive whiteboard (IWB) like a pro. I shall be demonstrating these during the Tuesday and Thursday luncthime sessions in H14. 🙂

1. Shade your screen!

Using the Screen Shade tool you can hide part of the screen on your IWB. You can use this for starter activities where students have to guess what is in the rest of the screen or to prevent students ‘jumping ahead’ with a lesson’s learning sequence.

2. Erase lots of stuff without ‘scrubbing’

If you’ve quite a bit of writing to erase from your IWB, simply use the eraser to draw around it, then use it to press in the middle of the writing. It should then disappear! (see video)

3. Tap and drag for a more accurate IWB

It’s sometimes difficult to click exactly in the middle of the crosshairs when orienting your IWB. Instead, take one of the IWB pens, press it on the IWB near the crosshair, drag it into the middle of the crosshair, and then release. This makes the tracking on your IWB spot-on!

4. Use the SMART Lesson Activity Toolkit

In addition to the SMARTboard software, the Lesson Activity Toolkit gives you more options and flexibility with your IWB. See it in action with this four-part video: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

5. Use keyboard shortcuts

Learning these keyboard shortcuts could make using your IWB more productive and less frustrating:

  • Ctrl+G – Group objects
  • Ctrl+R – Ungroup objects
  • Ctrl+K – Lock an object
  • Ctrl+J – Unlock an object
  • Ctrl+D – Clone an object
  • Ctrl+M – Insert blank page
  • Ctrl+PgDn – Send object backward
  • Ctrl+PgUp – Bring object forward
  • Ctrl+Shift+PgDn – Send object to back
  • Ctrl+Shift+PgUp – Bring object to front

6. Record a sequence of events on your IWB

If you’re doing something procedural, it’s a good idea to record the steps you go through. Use the SMART Recorder to record what appears on your IWB. This is useful to then play on repeat whilst students are completing a task, to put on your website, or on your school’s virtual learning environment.

7. Create puzzle-image starter activities

Befuddlr takes any picture from Flickr (an image-sharing website) and makes it into a puzzle. This is great for IWB’s as students can come up and re-arrange the puzzle to make meaning. Creating your own Flickr account is easy and free, so there’s unlimited potential for all different types of puzzle. Check out Tom Barrett’s suggestions for how to use Befuddlr in various ways here.

8. Rub and Reveal

Using a pen the same colour as the background covers-up words, images – anything you choose on your IWB. If you then use the eraser it will ‘reveal’ what you have covered up!

9. Google Earth

If there’s one application that comes into its own on an IWB, it’s Google Earth! You can zoom, pan and scroll as well as discover ‘layers’ to add value to your lessons. Google themselves have put together a useful guide, and there’s a Google Earth Education Community that breaks down resources by subject. You definitely need this installed and be using it in whatever lesson you teach!

10. Get involved in the Whiteboard Challenge!

The best way to learn is with other people, either face-to-face or in an online group. That’s why the Whiteboard Challenge is such a great idea. It’s a 14-week course that began on 15 August 2008. Have a look at what’s available and get involved here:

*BONUS* 11. Do the double-tap!

Don’t click-and-drag, instead put the finger of one hand on the object, then the finger of your other hand where you want to move it. The object will move half-way inbetween. Remove the first finger you put on the IWB and the object will ‘fly’ across! (see video)

I couldn’t get this one to work, which is why I didn’t include it in the original 10… 😮

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How to use your interactive whiteboard more effectively

Tom Barrett, inspirational primary teacher and Assistant Head in Nottinghamshire, England, had a great idea recently. Using the collaborative features of Google Presentations, he invited educators from around the world to contribute their tips and ideas for using your interactive whiteboard more effectively. Here’s what they’ve come up with (so far!)

View a larger version here. Do get in touch with Tom if you’ve got another tip you can share! 🙂

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