Archive for the ‘Slides’ Category

Incidental Learning

I spent the better part of my day today observing lessons in a variety of fourth and sixth grade classrooms.  While I always enjoy getting into the classrooms (and participating, when I’m allowed!), it’s always a welcome bonus when I learn something new while doing it, either about one of my students, about the subject matter, or about teaching techniques or tools.

Today I learned about two teaching techniques that were new to me.  You may have been using these for years, and if so, I’d like to hear about your experiences with them.  If not, feel free to take and use these as you see fit.


In one class, I initially thought I misheard when students were instructed to take out their “whisperphones” and start reading independently after they finished a task.  I Googled “whisperphone” on my non-whispering phone right there and found that it is indeed an actual product line.  The version I saw was a little plastic “handset” into which students read quietly; my understanding is that the handset (or headset) acts as a voice-feedback device that allows speakers to hear phonemes more clearly.  I can’t say for sure, never having seen this before this morning, but take a look at the company’s research page and come to your own conclusions.

Foursquare Plus 3

In my English teacher days, I used to have students use graphic organizers or plan sheets to organize their thoughts.   Today I learned about a slightly different take on graphic organizers: Foursquare Plus 3.

I’ve written and deleted several attempts at an explanation, but wasn’t satisfied with any of them.  Check this slideshow for an explanation instead (it’s the only result for “foursquare” on Google that doesn’t return something related to the location check-in site).

Do you have any experience with Foursquare Plus 3 or the WhisperPhone, good, bad, or otherwise?  See anything new here you might be giving a try?  Leave a comment!

A Quick One While He’s Away

Here’s a quickie post to hold you over until I can find time to give a follow-up to And You Don’t Stop (Part I) the attention it deserves. Til then, check out the before and after versions of a slideshow I’ve used for a few years now, but just updated this evening.

I give my Honors British Lit classes a slideshow and lecture on medieval anti-Semitism to accompany our study of Chaucer’s “The Prioress’s Tale”. Influenced by the design evangelism of Dan Meyer and Scott McLeod Elias (Thanks for the correction, Dan!), I re-vamped my slideshow to significantly reduce the text and focus more on visual impact.

Communicating visually is by no means my strong suit, so take these for what they’re worth. Although I do think I’ve improved upon the initial show, I’m always up for constructive criticism (especially as I have at least a week before I show this to my students this year!).


[kml_flashembed movie=""" width="425" height="355" wmode="transparent" /]


[kml_flashembed movie=""" width="425" height="355" wmode="transparent" /]

Hi-Tech Lo-Fi

 I posted last week about my attempts to mashup a slide show with sound at I took an Impress show on the life of Thomas a’ Becket I created about a year and a half ago and recorded some narration, simply to see how the service works. The results were very positive: it was both a Featured Slideshow (without sound) and, once I added the audio, the Slidecast of the Day. To date, it’s had over 400 views, and I’ve had some nice comments and private e-mail sent my way.

While I think bulletpoints have their places, I remember distinctly wanting to move in a more visual direction when I first put this together. Unfortunately, as any of my students can tell you, my lack of ability in the visual arts is legendary. Stick figures are about as detailed as I can get.

Mulling that over in my head, I asked myself, “Why not just go with stick figures, then?” Several hours later, the first of my Stick Figure Theatre presentations was born, and it was a hit with my Honors Brit Lit class. I share it with you folks not to garner e-pats on the back, but rather to give hope to the artistically disinclined that with a little creativity, even an utter lack of talent can’t stop you!

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="348" wmode="transparent" /]

For the teachers asking themselves, “So what does this mean for me?”, the biggest takeaway lesson I got was, “Less is more.” I could have made a 50-slide presentation with a million bulletpointed facts and gorgeous backgrounds (well, I couldn’t have, but someone else could have), but for some reason, I think the DIY ethic of this show struck a chord with my students. It certainly has none of the elegance of some of Dan’s stuff, and I’d never call it great art, but I think it has a bit of rough-around-the-edges appeal that you can’t get from a PowerPoint template.

It’s a timely lesson, as the New York Times recently ran a piece on the constant re-branding of merchandise in an effort to be more in our faces (and our students, as a major target demographic, bear the brunt of this). There’s something to be said today for simplicity in design – just because we have a million design tools at our disposal doesn’t mean we have to use them all (especially not all at once!). Just something to keep in mind as we prepare those first month of school and Back-to-School Night presentations.

Update, 8/14: If you’re reading this in a feedreader, there’s an embedded video that may not show up in your reader (it didn’t in mine, anyway) – come to the site to check it out.  Also, I realized after I uploaded that in the third from last slide, I mistakenly referred to Beckett as “Henry”.

A little recognition goes a long way…

My first official slidecast is not only up and running, it was selected as’s Slidecast of the Day. You can check out my take on the life of Thomas a’ Becket right from the front page of (I’ll post it here after it leaves the front page).

Word to the wise: if you plan on doing a slidecast, you can upload your Powerpoint, OpenOffice Impress, or Keynote (as PDF) files to Slideshare, but you must find your own separate hosting site for the accompanying mp3. I’ve used MediaFire and MyDatabus for hosting and streaming in the past (and I highly recommend both those services), but for some reason, their servers didn’t play nicely with Slideshare. I had to post the narration mp3 to – it worked flawlessly from there, and best of all, it’s free (as are Mediafire and parts of MyDatabus)!

If you’d like to download this slideshow, you can do so directly from If you’d like a copy of my lecture notes or the “script” (and I do use that term loosely), leave a comment or Twitter me.

Addendum: Dave Sherman recommended in a comment that I check out I did, and I was impressed by how much more dynamic it is in function than Slideshare. Every service suits a purpose, but in my mind, I see more possibilities for collaborative student work at Voicethread. Check out Dave’s thoughts on his blog, then go to Voicethread and run the demo.

Due to Technical Difficulties…

Looks like my slidecast debut will have to wait. I recorded narration for a slideshow I did a while ago on Thomas a Becket, but for some reason Slideshare can’t retrieve the MP3 from my hosting service. I’ve got an email in to Slideshare support; I’m hoping for a quick response, as I’d really like to get this up and posted.

I can offer the following reflection – the slide show I’ll be putting up usually takes me anywhere between 3o-40 minutes to go through in class. I know that sounds like a long time, but that includes taking questions, asking questions, elaborating, etc. Still probably on the long side, though, as I never script these things, and just run from either my head or a list of bulletpointed notes.

After the first 1500 or so takes of my narration, I got tired of stumbling, bumbling, saying “ummm”, and all those other wonderful aspects of public speaking (I’m fine in front of an audience, just don’t get me in front of a mic), and wrote a quick script. Nothing fancy, just basically what I wanted to get across, in an informal, conversational tone. The total running time of the MP3 (pre-Slideshare syncing)?


Again, this is without stopping for questions, repeating myself for those who didn’t hear, or anything like that, but holy cow – the demands and restrictions put on me by the audio recording forced me to trim this down to at least a quarter of its normal presentation time. I was planning on turning some of my lectures this year into podcasts, but was still a bit hung up on recording a 25-40 minute lecture. I wonder how short I can get THOSE with a little tightening of the script?

In class, I try to deliver material as seemingly “off the cuff” as possible – I know my stuff, and I don’t need or want to read from a script. I think that engages my kids; however, what comes off as stiff in person actually sounds much smoother in recording, and if I do make the leap to podcasts this year, I’ll do so without the trepidation of overly lengthy downloads – with the right script, I’ll probably be able to cover an entire movement in 10-15 minutes. Think about how much class time that’ll free up.

Before I rack out for the night (it’s been a long weekend), I want to give a heartfelt thank you to the folks who’ve visited and left comments so far. As I said before, I really am excited about the communal, collaborative element of blogging, and I’m heartened to know that what I’m putting out there is being seen. Looking forward to continuing the dialogue with all of you, both here and at your places! I have some thoughts on Twitter I’ll be fleshing out here later this week, as well as getting my slidecast up (hopefully).