Friday, August 1, 2008

Giving PowerPoint a "Facelift" for Interactive Activities: Part One of Two

PowerPoint Face Lifts
Part One: Using Sound and Video

We were having dinner with some friends last night and talking about up-coming dates on our calendar. I mentioned that we would be on the Oregon Coast in 2 weeks at a state-wide AT Summer Institute and I would be presenting a day workshop.
"What are you going to be teaching about?" I was asked.
"How to build interactive activities on the computer" was my response.
"You mean POWERPOINT?"
Everyone laughed.
Everyone laughed? Why? Is it that we have been conditioned to see the dreaded bulleted text zip, fade and roll on and off the screen and bore us to death?
My friend commented, "Yeah, the old dreaded PowerPoint slide show. Oh boy..."

They weren't making fun of me and they had a point. In teaching and lecturing, we have gotten used to sticking with the same old tried and true methods, when there is so much more to do. PowerPoint has become for many, a dead medium they see for dry and dull slide show presentations.
I would love to have a free or inexpensive program that allowed me to design activities where students could click and drag pictures for matching and have quick and simple text to speech. A program that had step-scanning to hear and make choices. Until that day arrives, I will have to settle for what I can do with PowerPoint. I can attach a switch interface and switches to make it easier on students with orthopedic disabilities to operate the activity but I am still bound to some limitations on choosing what I can do with it. Programs like Clicker 5, Test Me Score Me or Classroom Suite can give you more bells and whistles, but if your school has already invested in MS Office on your computer, you have a lot of power in designing interactivity with that old PowerPoint program and you can give it a new reputation and a face-lift.

How to give PowerPoint a "face-lift"
1. Use sound - a recording or a UDL Tool
In my workshops, I show folks how to take advantage of recording a narration or using a UDL tool that is free on the Internet to enhance curriculum. One such tool is "Powertalk" which takes any text that you have entered on slides in a PowerPoint and reads it automatically. This cuts out the narration recording necessity for a PowerPoint, unless you want to have a natural voice read the words. If you are creating an interactive activity, text to speech or a recorded narration gives that extra reinforcement for students with learning disabilities to be able to track with the content. With a simple microphone headset, you can record as you play a PowerPoint show for a narration track or insert a corresponding sound clip you record slide by slide.

2. Use Video
Take advantage of free videos online. Many tutorials, science experiments, etc. are there to incorporate into a PowerPoint. If you were teaching the topic of steam, you could show a science experiment video on steam, a clip of a steam engine, a steam whistle, etc. With some simple steps, a person can copy the You tube or other site video clip URL and have it downloaded to your desktop - check into Keepvid and flv Player. These tools allow you to make little flash videos of online videos for your desktop. This gets the video onto your computer as a file and then you can convert it to put in a PowerPoint afterwards.
Some examples that have videos like this:
You tube Science experiment with steam

3. Create Your own short video clips
It isn't too hard these days to create video. Now days, You tube has made it easy to shoot video on a cell phone with that capability and upload it to Youtube and post it almost immediately. Although the quality from a cell phone might be far from what you want, it shows that technology has cut out a lot of the steps from shooting to viewing video.
We have an older Kodak digital camera at home that has a video feature. I can take video, download it to my computer, send the file to a free online converter called media convert and have it sent back to me from a quicktime file .mov to an .avi that Windows Movie Maker (free if you have Windows) can accept. I can edit, clip and add titles if necessary and embed it into my PowerPoint pretty quickly.

What kind of video? Use SHORT clips. Don't try for "Gone with the Wind" or a clip from a talking head lecture that is dry. Add short video examples for a lesson to reinforce a color, things that start with a letter name, shapes, animals, etc. Make sure the videos are in a .wmv file to play. You can use Windows Movie Maker to convert any video format you have already converted into .avi from another format (using media convert) so that when you finish the movie in Windows Movie Maker it will end up in .wmv file format (That is the file type that is accepted and played in PowerPoint). Windows Movie Maker basically becomes an editor and converter if you need to clip out some of the video or want to add titles. If not, you could just use the raw footage and convert directly to .wmv to insert in your PowerPoint.

No matter what your purpose is with an activity - whether it is a lesson, a talking book, etc. using narration/text to speech and video can make it come to life and be much more powerful. If you are thinking, "I don't have time to do that", remember that once you have done a couple of these and learned the basic elements, it will come easier and when you see the response you get from students, you will be hooked.

Tomorrow I will share part 2 on face lifts for PowerPoint that will include background, fonts, graphics and ideas for branching activities for interactivity and switch access. Hmmm...maybe that is too much for one more day. There might have to be a part 3 too!

All the best to you!

No comments: