Delivering Presentations as Learning Opportunities

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

We all know what a presentation is, right? The teacher presents information, typically thought of as a lecture, to a classroom full of students. A financial officer presents a budget to the board of a corporation. Students, having completed research on a topic present it to their peers. Often visual aids, such as a poster or PowerPoint enhance what the presenter has to say. Multimedia software, along with media hosting sites (e.g., YouTube) gives teachers and their students so many more options than a person with a laser pointer at the front of a room with a captive student audience. Equally important, those same multimedia tools offer the possibility of improving the learning they are intended to promote.

Presentations involve multiple steps; we can think of them as compositions. They require selection of a topic, identification of appropriate sources of information, characterizing that information for the audience, organizing it, choosing the presentation tools, designing the components of the presentation, rehearsing, and finally delivering it to the audience. Delivery is our focus for this blog post. Students are very familiar with traditional presentations using presentation software (e.g., PowerPoint, Keynote). In this format, the student (or a small group of students) prepare a presentation then deliver it to the class as a kind of lecture. Students do need to learn effective presentation skills in a face-to-face environment.

An effective alternative is to ask students to put their presentations online. Some presentation tools live online naturally. Prezi is one such tool, and Glogs make excellent e-posters. Newer versions of PowerPoint easily support audio files and can be converted to videos that may be uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, and similar services. The big advantage is that students need not sit through all the presentations of their classmates. If the teacher embeds the presentation on a class blog or provides a link in a threaded discussion group, students may then select three or four presentations from their classmates to view. Other social media may also be used–Facebook, Edmodo, Twitter, etc. Using the comment feature of the blog or the threaded discussion forum, they comment on the presentations, adding to the information, questioning it, or suggesting strengths or possible alternatives to the ideas presented.


This format also works well for “dress rehearsal.” A student-created presentation might be shared via a private link to a small group for comment with an eye toward improvement of the product. Andrea Shea (Lapp, Wolsey, & Shea, 2012) taught her second graders to offer “praises” and “pushes” on student writing, and the idea can be used to help students improve their presentations, as well. A push is just gentle feedback designed to offer suggestions, alternatives, and the perspective of a member of the audience. As with written work, students often think of their presentation tools in a once and done way. They may not rehearse what they will say (either recorded or for live presentation) and design elements often benefit from feedback from an audience. Consider PowerPoint presentations with so much text crowded on the slide that the small text is almost impossible to read, or the slide with fonts so fancy they require much work of the audience just to get past all the curlicues and serifs (cf., Reynolds, 2010). Such presentation aids could benefit from some peer response during drafting.
High school teacher Jason Kintner promotes peer feedback on presentations through an Oscar or People’s Choice award format. He writes,

“Something I like to do in my classes to allow students to recognize and reward outstanding performance of the peers in delivering presentation is to designate specific awards. Students pick the top three presentations in the following categories (They are not allowed to pick the same student for each category):
• Einstein Award—Outstanding originality and depth of understanding.
• Rembrandt Award—Outstanding creativity and artistic ability.
• Gestalt Award—Presentation creates an “aha” moment, sudden burst of understanding, enlightenment, or enrichment.

References

Lapp, D., Wolsey, T. D., & Shea, A. (2012). “Blogging helps your ideas come out”—Remixing writing instruction + digital literacy=audience awareness. The California Reader, 46(1), 14-20.

Reynolds, G. (2010). Presentation zen design. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

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Webinars: Professional Development Across a Global Community of Learners

A post from Bernadette

Webinars and online interactive podcasts provide opportunities for professional development that is convenient and participatory. A key feature of webinars is the ability to cross time and space and to interact synchronously with key researchers and scholars in literacy in real time seminars. Participants can ask questions, make comments, and interact with colleagues in a global community of learners. In this blog post I want to draw attention to some of my favourite webinars and online podcasts.

I have been following the interpretation and implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in the U.S. with great interest. Text Project, under the expert guidance of Elfrieda (Freddy) Hiebert, has been running a series of really useful and informative webinars on the core goals of the CCSS featuring speakers who served in an advisory capacity for drawing up the CCSS. For example, Professor P. David Pearson provided a very enlightening webinar entitled Research and the Common Core: Can the Romance Survive? where he discussed the research underpinning the CCSS with particular reference to comprehension. He provided a very illuminating critique of the interpretation and implementation of the CCSS. You can also view the archived webinars asynchronously on the Text Project You Tube channel . Other archived webinars include Dr. Timothy Shanahan on CCSS and Education. Upcoming events on the webinar series include eminent scholars and researchers such as, Dr. Karen Wixson, University of Michigan on Key Shifts in Assessment and Instruction Related to CCSS-ELA (24th of April, 2013); and Dr. Nell Duke on Informational Text and the CCSS: Pitfalls and Potential (30th of May, 2013). You can register for these webinars on the Text Project website.

The International Reading Association (IRA) has also conducted a series of webinars on Staying Ahead of the CCSS. Members can access the archive of these seminars for a modest rate on the IRA website.

Another series of webinars which I follow are the Global Conversations in Literacy Research (GCLR). Past webinars have included eminent scholars, from across the globe, on a diverse range of issues pertaining to literacy and have included Dr. James Paul Gee, Dr. Allen Luke, and Dr. Julia Davies. An upcoming webinar features Dr. Patrick Shannon (April 14th, 2013) on A Closer Reading of the Common Core: Reading Wide Awake looks particularly interesting. The GCLR team hope to begin archiving these webinars in the coming months.

Finally, I really enjoy the biweekly podcasts on the Voice of Literacy where Dr. Betsy Baker interviews researchers about recently published research in Tier 1 journals such as, Reading Research Quarterly (RRQ) or Journal of Literacy Research (JLR). These podcasts provide an opportunity to listen to a researcher flesh out their research findings in discussion with Betsy. The Voice of Literacy site provides a comments section where listeners/ readers can pose questions or provide commentary on the podcast. Our very own Literacy Beat Blogger Bridget Dalton has been featured discussing her research related to utilising digital technologies to support the development of reading comprehension and vocabulary with 5th grade monolingual and bilingual students. I have embedded the link below.

Designing technology to support comprehension among monolingual and bilingual students with Dr. Bridget Dalton

Generative Technology for Teacher Candidates: The Assignment

Generative Technology for Teacher Candidates:  The Assignment

Dana L. Grisham

My friend and colleague, Linda Smetana, and I have been working together since about 2004. She’s a full professor at CSU East Bay (Hayward, CA), from which I retired in 2010. Linda is one of those extraordinary scholars and teacher educators who stays close to her field—she teaches one day per week in a Resource classroom in the West Contra Costa Unified School District—and also works full time at the university, where she specializes in literacy teacher education in both special and general education. Recently, Linda and I have been investigating the intersections of literacy and technology in teacher preparation together and I’d like to share with you a project we just completed and the results of which are going to be published in a book edited by Rich Ferdig and Kristine Pytash, due out later in 2013.

Our belief is that “generative” technology needs to be infused into teacher preparation. Technology in teacher preparation tends to be “silo-ed” in the programs where we teach. Currently, candidates at our university have one technology course, based on the ISTE standards, but bearing relatively little on pedagogy for teaching. By generative technology, we mean that the technology is embedded in the content of the course in teaching methods, rather than something “added on.”

The basic framework that we used for the assignment was the TPACK model (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) that has appeared in this blog before:

TPACK

The TPACK model asks the teacher to look at the content of the lesson, or what we want students to learn, as well as the pedagogy (how best to teach this content), and then at the technological knowledge that might be advanced in the lesson. Where the three elements intersect is known as TPACK or the theoretical foundation and link between technology and praxis. In our courses, we have presented TPACK as the goal for integrating meaningful technology into lesson planning and teaching.

The participants in our recent study consisted of 21 teacher candidates in the fifth quarter of a seven-quarter post-baccalaureate teacher preparation program; 17 of these candidates were simultaneously completing their masters degree in education while 18 of the 21 participants were earning their education specialist and multiple subject (elementary) credentials.

In creating the assignment, we carefully considered the context for teaching of the candidates in the course, structuring the assignment so that all candidates could successfully complete it. Candidates had different levels of access to student populations. Accessibility ranged from 30 minutes a day three days a week, to the full instructional day five days a week.  Teacher candidates also taught different subjects among them: English, History, Writing, Reading, Language Arts, Study Skills, and Social Skills. To insure that teacher candidates considered all aspects of their assignment in their write-ups of the project, Linda provided guidelines for the reflection. Students were responsible for learning to use the tools they chose. Linda collected and we jointly analyzed the data. Findings from the research were uniformly positive. In fact, right now Linda is doing post-research interviews with a couple of the candidates who have really taken to the integration of technology into their teaching.

For the purposes of this post, I would like to share the assignment with you. In my next post I plan to share a couple of the projects. Teacher candidates were provided with guidelines for the technology assignment and provided with a list of potential tools that they might use for the assignment. They learned the TPACK model for planning. Below is the technology assignment from Linda’s syllabus and the list of technology tools (free or very inexpensive) provided for students to investigate. We offer this with complete permission for other teacher educators to use or modify for use in their courses.

The Generative Technology Assignment

The Common Core Standards mandate the use of technology for instruction, student work, and student response.  Students with special needs, especially those with mild moderate disabilities may not have access to technology or their access may be limited to hardware and software that may not be useful to support the learning process.

During the second month of the class, we will have three independent learning sessions.  These sessions are intended to enable you to complete the technology assignment.  This assignment focuses on integrating technology with academic skill development, core content with teacher and student creativity. The focus should be on an aspect of literacy or multiple literacies.

In this assignment you will use technology to develop a set of learning sequences for use with your students.  You may complete this assignment in groups of no more than two individuals one of the technology tools in the syllabus or one that you locate on your own.  If completed in pairs, the finished product must demonstrate increased complexity and include the work of students in both individuals’ classrooms.

Your technology assignment should enhance the learning of your students.  Prepare an introduction to the presentation to educate your viewer.  Think about the content of the presentation, reason for the your selection this medium and/or process.  Share how your presentation meets the needs of your students and reflects their knowledge. The assignment must incorporate student work.  Identify how the students participated in the development and creation of the assignment. 

Prepare a thoughtful reflection of your thoughts on the process and the final product including the preparation, implementation and evaluation of the product and the management of students and content. This reflection should be descriptive and include specific examples. It may be submitted as a word document.

Place your project on a flash drive that may be placed into the classroom computer for projection.  Use your student work of materials from the web, interviews, u-tube and anything else that will capture students’ attention. 

Technology Web Resources Provided to Teacher Candidates

VoiceThread http://www.voicethread.com.

Animoto http://www.animoto.com/education

ComicCreator http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/comic/index.html

Edmodo http://www.edmodo.com

Glogster http://www.glogster.com

Prezi http://www.prezi.com

Popplet http://popplet.com

Slidepoint http://www.slidepoint.net

Storybird http://storybird.com

Strip Designer http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/strip-designer/id314780738?mt=8

(iPad app)

Stripcreator http://stripcreator.com

Screencast http://screencast.com

Screencast-o-matic  http://screencast-o-matic.com

Cool Tools for Schools http://wwwcooltoolsforschools.wikispaces.com/Presentations+Tools

Toontastic http://launchpadtoys.com/toontastic/

In addition to the assignment, teacher candidates were provided with guidelines for reflection, seen below.

Questions to Guide Reflection

What and how did students learn? Include both intentional and unintentional lessons.
What did you learn?
What would you do differently if you were to do this project again?
What were the greatest successes of this project?
How would you improve this project?
What advice would you give a teacher contemplating a similar project?
What kinds of questions did students ask?
Where were students most often confused?
How did you address the needs of different learners in this project?
What resources were most helpful as you planned and implemented this project?

To scaffold teacher candidates application of technology to lesson planning for the project, each one provided Linda with a proposal to which she gave feedback. Each proposal contained the following components: Context, Students, Standards (literacy and NETS•S standards), Technology, Process, and Product.

Every student completed the assignment successfully and their reflections are highly interesting….more to come! In my next post, I will share with you some of the amazing projects that Linda’s teacher candidates produced.

References

Grisham, D. L. & Smetana, L. (in press). Multimodal composition for teacher candidates: Models for K-12 writing instruction. In R. Ferdig & K. Pytash (Eds.). Exploring Multimodal Composition and Digital Writing. Hershey, PA: I-G-I Global.

Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technologiical Pedagogical Centent Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108, 6, 1017-1054.

Digital Concept Mapping

A new post from Jill Castek

kids at workI started a new study last week with colleagues Heather Cotanch, Rick Beach, John Scott and 6th grade math and science teacher Laura Kretschmar from Lighthouse Community Charter school in Oakland, CA – a frequent collaborator. This work explores middle school students’ and teachers’ experiences with using digital technologies for learning. While I’ve done other studies like this over the years, this one has a distinct focus on student interviews to document learning perspectives.

The school had recently purchased rolling carts of Google Chromebooks, which offered an inexpensive solution to facilitating online work. As a regular user of Google tools I was excited to see the wide-array of apps that can easily loaded on Chromebooks.

chromebooksmore chromebooks

The sixth grade students had begun a unit on climate change and were eager explore some ways digital technologies could be used to enhance their learning experiences. To dig into the project, we began with a familiar process – compare and contrast. In this case, students were examining the concepts of weather and climate to better understand long and short-term changes in the atmosphere. We agreed that after reading, discussing, and generating examples, organizing ideas into a concept map was the best way to create archive of their thinking. We used the free tools from Mind Meister (see http://www.mindmeister.com) as the platform. We made this choice because of the abundance of free templates, the ease of use in incorporating images into the maps, and the ability to showcase the completed maps in a zoom-in and out Prezi-type way.

Concept-mapping apps help students visually represent logical or causal relationships between ideas associated with a certain phenomenon. In using concept-mapping apps, students identified a variety of key words associated with climate and weather and visually organized the logical relationships between these words. Students could insert the words into circles or boxes, drawing lines between ideas with spokes into which they inserted sub-topics. These connecting lines served to define the logical relationships between ideas, for example, how a new word might serve as an illustrative example of a major topic.

Within many concept-mapping apps (such as Bubble.us or Webspiration)  students can create an outline list of words with subcategories within those words, and will then generate different types of maps using these outlines. Many concept-mapping apps also include the ability to color-code ideas as a means of visually representing different categories of information.

Use of concept-mapping apps helps students collaboratively develop and expand topics. Online collaboration to create, revise, and develop maps with others is also a key feature. By sharing the same concept maps, a group of students working on the same project can visually represent their thinking for each other so that they are literally and figuratively on the same page. Students can then pose questions of each other based on their maps, for example, questions about connections between ideas or the need for more information to solidify understanding of a topic. While concept mapping can also be accomplished using paper and pencil, revision capabilities are limited. In the digital form, substantial changes can be made effortlessly, making revision more palatable to students.

While I’m still archiving the students examples and analyzing the interview data we collected, this experience with digital concept mapping suggested that students were able to visually link concepts through logical connections or groupings.  The act of organizing their ideas fostered students’ use of causal/hierarchical thinking. They were motivated to view each other’s maps, which led to collaborative brainstorming that prompted revisions. There’s more to come once the data are analyzed, but I was excited to share my “in-process” thoughts while they were fresh in my mind.

If you’ve used other tools for digital concept mapping and have some insights to share, please leave a comment!  Thanks!