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Educators and students will benefit by creating and learning through the availability of vibrant presentation tools online. Stories come to life, students are more engaged through the variety of possibilities available through technology.
It does not matter what level or what subject one teaches, we all assign projects, homework and other forms of assessments to our students. It is a necessary part of what teachers do in the classroom. While the topics of these tasks vary depending on the grade level or subject taught, quite often the end product comes in a very similar format.
As teachers, we have all assigned the creation of a brochure or poster, or required students to write a report, or some other form of presentation. All of these require specific guidelines and organization skills for both students and teachers.
In years past, before the rise of technology with all of its fantastic and eye-catching tools, student work was limited to only a few formats. Their work came in the form of paper or poster board, handwritten or with drawings, using anything ranging from pencils and pens to paint, markers or even typed on an old-fashioned typewriter.
Sometimes we would have to struggle to read their writing, or battle transporting and storing a massive student project that did not exactly meet the size specifications, but was really well done. Or maybe we had to remove the remnants of the paint, markers or glitter that had become attached to us from one of these projects.
Although these projects may not have exactly met our requirements, they were based on the student’s preferences and creativity, and taught us more about the students themselves. Having completed a project in a way different than instructed allowed students to show their creativity and even have fun with the project completion.
Technology for creating presentations produces so many benefits in the classroom. Students who once shied away from the word “creativity” or considered themselves to be less than artistic, understandably would have had some hesitation in the assignment of a project, knowing they had to exhibit these skills. I was one of these students.
Others who considered themselves to be skilled artistically, or who excelled in creating projects rather than taking quizzes and tests, would also relish the possibility of doing a project rather than taking tests or completing other types of class assessments. Technology provides a positive experience and outcome for all students.
For teachers, while these types of assessments, in particular, projects and presentations, always provided a good opportunity for the individual talents and interests of the students to shine through, the one aspect that wasn't as beneficial was the amount of paper involved.
We have all been there. Transporting and storing the varying shapes and sizes of student work. Students would not follow the specifications and rather than turning in a two-page paper, would submit 10 pages or instead of an 8” by 11” paper, the project was completed on a poster board or in a family photo album. The durability of the paper projects was not very good, which limited the ability for students to later share their work or use it as evidence of learning for a portfolio.
The fragility of these projects also made it difficult for teachers to keep them as examples to display or to share with future students. When projects were completed on paper, they served a limited purpose. Paper projects are hard to maintain and transport. The appearance of them diminishes over time as the colors fade and they get shuffled away, lost or forgotten.
Throughout my career as a foreign language teacher, I have assigned and stored many student projects. I have transported menus, family albums, clothing catalogs, dream house drawings and travel brochures of varying shapes and sizes. While I loved seeing each and every project, especially with the amount of student creativity and individuality involved, displaying their work in class and transporting the projects was a bit tricky.
Now, with great tools available for students, creating a presentation and saving the work so that it can be shared later is possible. Any uncertainty of what is expected, the fear of not being able to draw or add enough creativity to a project, do not exist anymore in my mind.
In the educational setting, teachers and students have so many choices available to present information on any topic or share an idea, and there truly are no limits to what can be created.
It increases student independence and provides students a greater opportunity to express themselves and their personal interests. The learning becomes more personalized than ever before, which is the goal in education today.
It is easy to design a rubric and provide students with the information of what we, as teachers, would like for them to create. By giving them guidelines, a starting point and letting them have creative freedom, we empower their learning and enhance the possibilities for independence.
After some reflection, I have changed my practice when it comes to assigning student projects in that I want projects which represent the individuality and the diversity of my students, rather than having every project look exactly the same. So students are given choices. They can choose based on what they find interesting, engaging, funny or is within their comfort level as well.
Students can start with something that is comfortable and then build their skills as we progress throughout the year. Whether you’re creating a presentation for a business meeting or a lesson on photosynthesis, the great thing about these tools is that they are applicable to any area of society, whether it be for professional or personal use.
I am constantly looking for new and engaging tools that my students can use to create projects.I want to challenge them to try new things, take risks and learn how to present information in a different way, but I also want them to have fun and make it meaningful. I limit their use of each tool to one project so that they get experience using a variety of tools, can enhance their technology skills and learn from each other. It is important that they share their knowledge with their classmates and the rest of the school.
There are tools to create videos, comics, cartoons, animations, slideshows, brochures and infographics. In the end, it is all about giving the students choices. Students often ask me which tool they should use, and I give them some options but emphasize that the choice needs to be theirs because that's what it's all about. It is an opportunity for them to put on display their talents, abilities and knowledge.
Students have become so accustomed to being told exactly what to do that having a choice can be a little shocking at first. When we as teachers give students a choice and enable them to guide their own learning, we empower them and, at the same time we also benefit because we learn more about each student.
Some of the tools that are frequently used in my classes are: Visme, Haiku Deck, Powtoon, GoAnimate, Emaze, Piktochart, Smore and WeVideo.
Each of these tools offers so many choices that every student can find something that appeals to them. When they have a choice in how to create something, it piques their curiosity and they become more engaged in the process. As they work on the project, the learning process becomes more meaningful, and they enjoy creating a project that is completely unique.
Students can create a family project in which they use celebrities, or cartoon characters with props, or import real family photos and learn to create a movie and edit their work. There are no limits to what students can do with their presentations.
All disciplines can benefit by using technology tools for student work. In any course where a student has to create a visual representation of a topic, or make a presentation or video, technology offers a limitless variety of engaging, vibrant choices, for all learning styles, levels and interests.
If I would have assigned the same paper-and-pencil project with the exact same requirements to each of my students, I would not have learned as much about their interests and skills. Visme and other web tools not only help students create and share what they have learned, they empower students by letting them drive their learning.