Why Not PowerPoint?

This is the first question we should ask, and on the right is a nice brief preso on effective presentations.

It's not to say that good things cannot come out of using PowerPoint (or Keynote for the Apple fans). The importance lies not in the program that you use, but rather the delivery, the enthusiasm, and the creativity of one's presentation.  For these reasons, I'm a big fan of TEDTalks as well as Pecha Kucha.  

TEDTalks limit speakers to 18 minutes, and they emphasize strong visuals and engaging storytelling. Check out the "10 Commandments" for TED speakers.

Pecha Kucha is simply a presentation format that allows speakers to use 20 images for 20 seconds each. This makes for a short, yet to the point presentation. Teachers can adjust the times as needed, though 20 seconds per image goes by quickly. 

Again, it doesn't matter what tool you use. Even with something as simple as Google Apps, you can create a stunning presentation as demonstrated on the right:

OK, so you're still interested in deviating from the traditional slideshow. Here are some alternatives many of which will feature examples on the right side.

Make a Podcast/Audio Documentary

Garageband - available on Macs and iOS, you can use this popular software application from Apple to create your podcast.

Audacity - don't have a Mac?  No problem. Do almost everything for free on a PC using this popular program. 

Podbean.com - what do you do once you create your podcast? Publish, share, and start a series on this free hosting site.

Prezi is known as the "zooming presentation editor", and you'll quickly find out why. I love this application and use it frequently when presenting at conferences. It's also great for "kiosk" viewing or poster sessions as well.  

Why it's a great alternative:
  • The blank canvas and non-linear format allow for users to just get their ideas out for their presentation. Connect the dots later.
  • Real time collaboration features are strong - several (up to 10) users can work on the same Prezi at the same time.
  • It's easy to add images, video, and other media to your presentation.

Things to consider:
  • Don't overdo it on the rotations. Your audience will get dizzy and your information will get lost in the process.
  • There is a reasonable learning curve, though short and helpful tutorials are included.
  • Each browser may react differently, though I haven't had many issues with the updated versions of IE, Firefox and Google Chrome.

NEW!: Zooburst (http://www.zooburst.com/)
Zooburst allows you to create a 3D popup book that can be viewable in a simple web browser, or using a web cam, in 3D using a feature known as augmented reality. Try it out! Sample coming soon...

Although not web based, Photo Story is likely to be found already installed on many computers at school, and the free program is available for download. Photo Story is a great tool for creating simple stories based on images and featuring your voice. 

Animoto has quickly gained a lot of momentum from teachers at my school. The ability to make short movies that have that professional look is very appealing for those that don't have the time to dedicate to full video editing media projects.

Why it's a great alternative:
  • Add images, some text, a soundtrack, and you'll have a movie in a few minutes.
  • Animoto is a great supporter of education. Teachers can apply for a free Animoto Plus account, and they will also get a code for 50 student account access to unlimited videos.
  • Whether you upgrade to the Plus account for unlimited videos, or stick with the basic account for 30-second clips, Animoto is great for movie trailer, film commercial, or other media projects accessible to all students.

Things to consider:
  • There's a strict character limit for each slide, and this prevents students from overloading a presentation with text. This is probably a good thing, but it comes up as students are often used to putting a lot of information on a slide (complete with bullet points).  
  • If you upgrade, don't forget to give your students the referral code so they can unlock the Plus account. If you have more than 50 students, try multiple email addresses or the Gmail address trick

VoiceThread may initially look like a PowerPoint slideshow, but the true power of a VoiceThread comes with the commenting features. Users can share and invite comments (typed, audio, or video) from other users, thus opening a conversation on a presentation and making it more than a one-way delivery.

Why it's a great alternative:
  • VoiceThread can handle slideshow uploads, so you still get those slides up there.
  • It's very easy to comment on a VoiceThread, and you can comment on each slide individually or perform a running commentary on a stream of slides (M/5 commenting).
  • VoiceThread can be promoted as a way for students who have little experience presenting or may be shy in front of a live audience to practice, prepare, and deliver a presentation with their voice being played through the recording.

Things to consider:
  • You'll need a working webcam and/or microphone to record video and/or audio (there is a phone option, but this requires credits). Laptop microphones work well, though ambient noise gets picked up easily.

Voki is a trendy tool to show off at ed-tech conferences and rightfully so. The easy to use "Create your own talking avatar" allows for teacher and student creativity without a steep learning curve. 

Why it's a great alternative:
  • Voki is free, easy to use and comes with a fair amount of customization.
  • You can have the computer select a voice, or you can add your own via microphone or even by telephone.
  • Create multiple Vokis and/or embed on a website to facilitate a simulated conversation or debate. 

Things to consider:
  • You probably wouldn't want a Voki for a 3-5 minute presentation. Think about why you would use a Voki and/or where it would be beneficial to use one for your project.

Those who grew up reading comics or who make it to the Sunday comics regularly will be interested in potentially creating their own strip with this very easy to use, yet very full featured free comic strip editor.

Why it's a great alternative:
  • Pixton gives you a lot to start with, yet you can customize most of it to your heart's content. 
  • Great sharing/embed options make it easy to get your comic strips out to the world.
  • If your project is better captured in stills rather than motion (live animation or video), this is a great way to still get a colorful and creative twist on your presentation.

Things to consider:
  • Consider how much information is going to be presented and whether a comic strip will be the best vehicle for your project.

Go Animate is one of many online animation editors (xtranormal is another one) currently available for free. Go Animate allows users to type a script, and direct characters to execute movements and motions just as if they were directing a movie.

Why it's a great alternative:
  • Go Animate is currently free, plus users can unlock some extra features without paying.
  • Simply type and you can create a quality animated movie in minutes.

Things to consider:
  • The site can be sluggish at times, and may perform differently on various browsers.

Blabberize is a fast way to create an avatar based around a real image as opposed to an animated one (ex. Voki). Users can make their photos come alive with their own voices. 

Why it's a great alternative:
  • Blabberize is very easy to use, and does not require an account (unless you want to save your work). 
  • This can be a low-tech option for those teachers or students not interested or potentially intimidated by the learning curves of some of the other tools.

Things to consider:
  • Getting the mouth to move exactly the way you want it can take some practice.
  • Can be a bit sluggish depending on browser.
  • You'll need a microphone to record audio.  The phone-in option is no longer available. 

Screencast-O-Matic (www.screencastomatic.com)

SOM is a fast way to create screen casts or recordings of anything that you do on your computer screen.  Use it to record a presentation, screen clicks, or any other tutorials shown on your computer's screen.  You can upload directly to YouTube and edit either with YouTube's editor or something a bit more sophisticated like WeVideo

Present.me (www.present.me)

Looking for a way to share a slideshow but also add video of yourself? Present.me offers a simple, effective, and well designed dual screen view that allows for teachers to present on a topic both via slides and live video. Great option for hands-on exercises, manipulatives, science demos, and more.

Looking for a visual way to display a lot of different pieces of digital art and projects? Think of Glogster as a digital version of the science fair trifold displays. You can a variety of different media projects, all withing a colorful and vibrant display.

Why it's a great alternative:
  • Glogster has grown to be popular in the primary grades, so you may have already used the tool.
  • A Glog may assist in helping students better organize their media for presentations.

Things to consider:
  • A Glog is can be visually distracting with too many different bells and whistles. If there's no theme or consistency within the presentation, it could get really messy fast.

more reading:

digital storytelling: