Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Alternative to Live Student Presentations


Have you ever had a great idea for a student project only to get to the presentation day and realize that you have done something terribly wrong. Without proper planning sending students to the board to give presentations can be a nightmare. The time wasted in just getting their presentation, often a PowerPoint with way to many words on it, on the board can be horrifying. Once the presentation is on the board, no matter how many times you advised against it, there is always the group that insist on reading every word on their slides. Not to mention the time wasted while the students stand in front of the room arguing about who is going to speak.

OK, well hopefully this isn’t the norm, but I am sure we have all been their at one time or another. I picked up a great tip a couple weeks ago from the TIEnet Collaboration Day Training held for Classroom For the Future teachers in York County, Pennsylvania. Hopefully someone will read this and be willing to give the presenter the proper credit in the comment section. Basically the idea is to have students record their presentation using a screencasting program.

The Lesson:

Taking on my role as a CFF coach, I worked on this lesson with my student teacher. The lesson took place in her/my ninth grade general biology classes and was used to review the characteristics of vertebrates. We assigned each group a different class (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish) and had them work collaboratively to create a slide show about the characteristics for their topic. The students used Google Docs to collaboratively create the slideshow and were not allow to incorporate anything but pictures. The only text in the show was to be on the title page. The students then prepared what they would say over each slide, making sure that everyone in the group would have the opportunity to speak. After that they used Cam Studio (very simple to use) to record a screencast of their presentation and uploaded their final product into a Moodle forum.

You can see the instruction sheet here: Vertebrate Characteristics Presentation

The Results:


I thought I would include a list of the reasons I really like this project.
  1. Once students share their presentation to the Moodle forum I had quick and easy access to them. It is very easy to scroll through the forum, click on a presentation file, and play it for the class. No time wasted changing groups and finding presentations. That time can be replaced with meaningful conversation about the presentation itself. Due to the nature of this project the presentations themselves are very short. Making things go quickly.
  2. The presenter (wish I could remember her name), from which I got this idea, said that she set up stations and had the students rotate through with a set of headphones. She also placed questions at each station that the students had to answer. This is also a great idea, but I did not use it this time around.
  3. When students give a live presentation it ends when they finish. This method allows their complete presentation to be stored in Moodle. Students can access each others presentations on their own time and easily use them as a study tool. I even suggested that they watch them with the volume off and see if they can guess which characteristic each slide is trying to portray. They can then go back, turn the sound on, and see if they were correct.
  4. All members of the group had a role to play. During the creation of the slides students were working collaboratively using Google Docs. Once the slide show was created students had to prepare what they each were going to say during the recording. Since we can look at the revision history in Google Docs and hear there voices on the recording, it is pretty easy to confirm all the students level of participation.