Archive for the ‘Presentation Tools’ Category

EOL: Hate Powerpoint? Here are 5 REAL Alternatives

New post on Edge of Learning.  Hate PowerPoint? Here are 5 REAL Alternatives.

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The Calculus Tweetwars

I wanted to wait until I was SURE that this was going to happen before I mentioned it here.  My Honors Calculus II students have decided to “tweet” The Calculus Wars for modern times.

Their assignment was to read “The Calculus Wars” by Jason Socrates Bardi, and then come up with a project (individually or collectively) that requires them to further explore something from the book.  A few years ago, I had one student in this course and he build the Leibniz Calculating Machine the animation software Blender (you can see it here).

Anyways, this year, there are three students.  During our discussion of the book, we observed that the scientists involved were like the bloggers and tweeters of their time, sending and publishing an incredible amount of correspondence (some anonymous) via really old-fashioned mail (i.e. SLOW).  Then we wandered into what it would look like if the Calculus Wars happened today and all the characters were in Facebook (friending, unfriending, fan pages, wall posting, etc.).  Ultimately, the students decided to work together to create a modern-day recreation of The Calculus Wars.  Facebook turned out to be too difficult (each follower would have to “friend” each character in order to see the storyline play out).

The students have written a rather lengthy script that includes a rather large cast of characters.  In order to get the twitter accounts, they had to first get email addresses for each character.  Let’s just say we now know how many email or twitter accounts you can set up on one IP address before you get blocked for the day.

We originally tried to use Google Wave to build the script (since it allows for simultaneous collaboration), but it proved to be too glitchy and clunky to get the job done.  About two weeks ago we began transferring the entire script to a Google Doc instead (which, surprise! Also allows simultaneous multi-user collaboration now).  The script is now built as a table so that we could map out the years (1661-1726) against the dates of tweeting, tweets, and who is responsible for putting up the tweets.  There are just a few tweets per year in these early years, but when the Calculus Wars heat up, it will be a lot of work to get all the tweets up properly.

The Calculus Tweetwars started yesterday, and you don’t need a twitter account to follow it.  Just visit the CalcWars Twitter List several times a day to see what’s happened in the lives of Newton, Leibniz, and others.  If you DO have a twitter list, you can just follow the list, and you’ll see all the characters show up in your tweetstream.  Please feel free to interact with the characters as if they were members of your own PLN (personal learning network).

This might seem like a strange academic project to you, but the purpose was to increase awareness of what the Calculus Wars were, and help students see math as something that has not always been so static.  Given that they already have 67 followers after 24 hours, I’d say that the students will be successful with their mission to educate others.

Again, you can follow the project (for the next two weeks) here:


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Record with a Document Camera and a Flip


In my Math for Elementary Teachers (MathET) course, we do a lot of work with math manipulatives, puzzles, and games of various sorts.  Some of this work can be done with virtual manipulatives, but only if all the students have a computer too.  As a result, we do a lot of classroom work with old-fashioned hands-on math manipulatives, and I demonstrate using a document camera.

Since the beginning of Fall semester, I’ve been trying to figure out how to record these hands-on demonstrations to put in the online course shell, but the best I could figure out was to hold my little Flip video camcorder with my left hand while I write and rearrange the board with my right hand. (Note that there is not room on the document camera station for a tripod.)  Unfortunately, this results in a shaky video, it is tiring, and it’s hard to do everything with one hand.

After doing this for about six months, on Monday I had this flash of insight (one of those ideas where you wonder why it took that long to have the idea).  I was considering the idea of using masking tape to affix the Flip to the Doc Camera during class (which wouldn’t work because of the need to press the on/off button) … and I realized that I had a very simple solution in my pocket.


Here’s a closeup:


This works surprisingly well.  The top and the bottom of the viewing area are a bit cut off, but with a little experimenting, and knowledge of where the working area is, this is a surprisingly slick and cheap way to record.  I also recommend having a mini-whiteboard so that you can circle items, write notes, and generally “mark up” the viewing area without doing any damage to your document camera.  The glare off the whiteboard does create a slight glare spot on the image, but it’s much easier than using sheet after sheet of paper (picking up the manipulatives between each sheet of paper).

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Mindmaps for Learning

I’ve been using a web-app called Mindomo for about two years now. With it I am able to map out ideas and create interactive sets of resources in a non-linear fashion. You may have seen some of my resources or been in a presentation where I used one of these maps:


I think that using these interactive maps gives three main advantages:

  1. If you present with a map, you are no longer forced into a linear presentation and can easily respond and adapt to audience questions.
  2. The audience can play along during the presentation, wandering off to explore the areas of the map that interest them most.  This is the same idea behind Edward Tufte’s “supergraphic” – a data-rich resource that the audience becomes engaged with, each person in their own context.
  3. The process of creating a mindmap helps to organize resources and ideas, think of applications to ideas, fosters thinking about comparisons and contrasts, and helps you to see the holes where information or resources are missing, all in a very visual manner.

It is this third item that has me particularly intrigued.  When I begin building a new presentation, I now find it helpful to organize a mindmap as one of the first activities I do.  The process of building the map teaches me more than I would ever learn on my own.

This year I’m planning to put this idea to the student test and have each student in my MET class (Math for Elementary Teachers) create a Mindomo mindmap for one of the units as one of their four Learning Projects.  The Mindomo accounts are free (for up to 6 maps) as long as you are willing to live with a 1-inch wide strip of advertising on the right-hand side.

I had been stressing over the need to create a tutorial video, but one of our workshop participants (Rose Jenkins of Teching Up) has created a fabulous video on getting started with Mindomo (click here for her tutorial).  I’m planning on just sending my students right to Rose’s video for their introductory tutorial on using Mindomo.mindomo2

Rose has also got an interesting idea for pushing out a partially-created mindmap to her statistics students, and then asking them to add the appropriate resources and annotations to the map (Read her post, Mapping Out Math).  It was a little tricky to figure out HOW to create a map and then share it to students in a way that makes each copy their own, but Rose made a tutorial about THAT too! (click here for the tutorial about sharing maps)

Kudos to Rose for taking charge of a set of tutorials that really needed to be made!

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Funky function notation

At the UMD faculty workshop, one of the participants had an idea for using an Animoto video.  She suggested it might be a good way to break up a long lecture time.  This got me thinking about short lessons (like the CommonCraft videos).  Just because the video is short, it doesn’t mean it’s not effective.

I thought I would try out a short video of my own using Animoto.  This one is called “What is function notation?”  If the video doesn’t load for you, go directly to the site here or see the YouTube rendition here.  Either video can be embedded if you’d like to use them in a course shell.


You might be interested in the process I used to build this.  For Animoto, you need a file folder with image files.  First, I created a deck of 75 PowerPoint slides (those being relatively easy to edit).  Then I printed from PowerPoint to SnagIt (because of a special SnagIt save option). Then I saved the SnagIt file as jpg files, where each slide is saved as an individual image file. This gave me a folder of all the slides, but with each slide saved as an image.

I then uploaded the 75 images into Animoto and made sure they were in the proper order (for some reason the last slide fell first and had to be moved back to the last position). You choose the slides you want to “focus” on – places where the reader may need an extra second to think or read. Choose some music (preferably without words), and finally, choose the speed. I tried it at regular speed first (no way), but settled on 1/2 speed as a good speed to show the slides.

I don’t have any student guinea pigs at the moment, so someone play it for your students and let me know what they think! I was toying with the idea of explaining a theorem next.

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Using Promethean to make ACTION Presentations

Today’s guest blogger is Rose Jenkins, from Midlands Technical College.

Like most people, I started using an active classroom board for two things, to write on it and to present PowerPoint presentations. But active boards like the SMART Board and the Promethean Board are so popular in K-12 education that I wanted to know what their drawing power was. In my investigation, I saw a lot of cute activities intended for a much younger audience. But I was still intrigued by the power and the interactivity of these presentations. So I began my quest for incorporating these tools into my college mathematics classroom. Here is what I found.

1. An active board is more than just an alternative or auxiliary tool for a PowerPoint presentation. The key feature of an active board is INTERACTIVITY. Unlike (most) PowerPoint presentations, an active board presentation does not have to be linear. So the order and timing in which things happens can change according to the user’s preference or need. Things can be moved around the screen with or without restrictions.

2. ACTION! Additionally to manually moving things, actions can be assigned to objects. These actions can affect the object that they are assigned to or some other actions. Some of the actions are show, hide, move along a path, make more/less transparent, flip around the x or y axis, angle incrementally and many more. With so many tools, one needs only a little imagination to make things happen.

Here’s a basic example video I recorded to show you how to add action to an object using the Promethean ActiveStudio software.

Here is another video to show you a variety of actions that can be used in the ActiveStudio software.

Thanks Rose for the post! To find Maria in India, go here.

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Gabcast: Low-tech Solution for Online Recording

Today’s Guest Blogger is Keri Bjorklund, from Sheridan College. Keri is a friend from my grad school days, and freely admits she is NOT a math instructor. However, she did help me type an entire test bank once, and knows how to use MathType (hotkeys and all) so she may be a kindred math spirit anyways. Keri recently caught the blogging bug and has a blog for English Instructors and Literature Lovers called Ms. Professor B.

The Problem

This past semester I was given the task of teaching a poetry and drama class online. This seemed simple enough: have students post discussions following the reading and write a number of small essays analyzing the reading. There was one catch, however. The class was meant to fulfill a performing arts requirement for AFA degree seekers. How was this to be accomplished in an online class? This is especially difficult in a rural area where students do not always have access to the best Internet connection, computers, or computer skills. So, not only did I need to create a class that had never been taught online before, but I also had to develop a way that students could create a performance without requiring sophisticated and complicated technology. This is where comes in.

The Solution is a website in which users create an account and phone in “episodes.”

Users use a toll-free number from several global locations and simply punch in the channel number and the channel password over the telephone. There is also a conference call option in which members enter a channel and a meeting password. The site is free up to 30 minutes for conference calls and up to 200 MB for episodes. Audio files created over the phone are automatically saved to the Gabcast channel. There’s no need for the caller to enter save or any complicated code. It’s just like leaving a voicemail.

The episodes can be published to the web, incorporated into blogs, or remain unpublished. I asked students not to publish their recordings due to copyright laws; however, some students’ readings were posted because of the nature of the material. Viewers can listen to the episodes by visiting my channel.

Usage is simple. I created a class account, provided the password, and had students call in their readings. Students had the option of recording a drama scene or reciting a poem. I uploaded each episode into Blackboard so everyone could listen and critique each recording. It was a highly successful exercise and students had positive feedback about the activity.

Although this was used for an English course, this can be used for recording lectures, directions to assignments, or participating in conference calls. A variety of material already exists that could be accessed as supplemental material. In fact, entering “math” in the search box provided at least 9 pages of results. Certainly, there is a use for across disciplines.

Thanks Keri for your post! To find Maria in India, go here.

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Enhance Presentations with Audacity and YouTube

Today’s Guest Blogger is Robert Foth, from Pima Community College.

I am very fortunate to work on a campus that allows me to explore new ideas and technology and how to use them in the classroom (online or face to face).
Last Halloween I was asked to give a quick talk on campus and I decided to make a little project out of that talk (using some of the tools involved). The talk was about using Audacity and YouTube to enhance classroom presentations and content. You can watch the talk here.

In the presentation I give a quick demo on how to use Audacity, where to go to download videos (or just the audio) of youtube clips, and how I use the Flip Video Recorder. The idea was to get the faculty (adjuncts and full-time) to think about presenting content in a more dynamic way they just the use of text.

Thanks Robert for your post! To find Maria in India, go here.

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Managing a mountain of email

Most likely, if you’re involved in higher education, you get a lot of email. During the week, I get between 50 and 100 emails a day, which seems like a lot, but I recently read that some people receive (and deal with) over 1000 a day!

My goal has always been to try to “zero” my inbox frequently, but lately I have not been so successful – lots of reading material comes in, and between newsletters in my inbox and my Google Reader, I’m buried in information.


I just came across this Google Tech Talk, called “Inbox Zero” (by Merlin Mann) that I thought was a very appropriate thing to share with my readers – especially since almost everyone is either done, or almost done, with the semester. The Google Talks run 60 minutes, but you can get by watching the first 30 minutes of this one – and in the end, watching this video will save you well over 30 minutes of time, so I would consider it good value for your attention & time budget.

One of the most valuable ideas that Mann discusses is the idea of an “email DMZ folder” (I think this came in the Q&A period after the talk). If you’ve been letting your email inbox build up forever, create a folder (or label) called DMZ. Take everything currently in your inbox (and I do mean EVERYTHING) and move it to the DMZ. There. Now you have zero messages in your inbox and can begin to use a sane system for processing your email.

Another important distinction that Mann makes in his talk is that we have to stop thinking of email as requiring a response, and start thinking of it as simply requiring processing. Using gmail certainly makes this easy, as you are already forced to abandon silly folders (he points out … how often do you actually manage to locate emails in those folders correctly? how often do you even look in those folders?). I sorted through the 200 or so emails still sitting in my inbox (while I watched the Inbox Zero talk) and whittled down my labels to the following:

MCC: email that comes to my college address – it’s automatically labeled MCC

Respond: email that does need a response, but not necessarily immediately

Reading: email that is informational … like newsletters, I also set up several filters to have newsletters automatically sent to this label and archived

Blogs-to-be: email that I send myself or I get from readers that should eventually be blogged about – if you have sent me something, but haven’t yet seen it on the blog, this is where it is located until being dealt with

Copier: email sent from the copier at school … I have to remember to delet these after I save them or they take up a lot of storage space

Respond (Starred): these are emails that I need to respond to, and I need to do it relatively quickly. I removed the stars from all my emails this morning, and then only applied them to the truly high-priority items.

The general idea:

1) Junk? Or you don’t it after reading it? Delete it.

2) If it’s simple to do respond to (and requires a response), deal with it.

3) Otherwise, archive it (to the appropriate folder or with the appropriate label).

I’ve been good about these first two, but not the third. So, now that I’m back at zero … I’m going to try to be better about maintaining my Zero Inbox.

P.S. Stay tuned for our updates from the first (annual?) MCC Math & Technology Workshop, happening on the Muskegon Community College campus from Monday-Friday next week.

I will be inviting participation from the Internet audience on Wednesday afternoon for our session on Synchronous Online Communication, so if you can’t come, but want to join in the technology fun, watch for a link to participate in that.

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NKU Day Three

I spent the morning building the presentation for online calculus that I gave this afternoon. The presentation is not built in PowerPoint, it’s in Mindomo. I don’t think I’ve blogged about Mindomo yet – but since January I’ve been using it for all my presentions.

You can visit the presentations by following the links below. At the mind map, you can view all my notes, follow all my hyperlinks, etc. The thing that makes it a significantly different presentation is that it is a) interactive, b) the audience can explore while you give the presentation, each on their own browser, c) it does not have to be linear.

Online Calculus (today’s presentation)

Using the Internet to Spice Up your Math Class (yesterday’s presentation)

Following all of those links and watching all of those videos should keep you busy all weekend.

So… on to my non-presentation progress. I spent some time developing a concept map for my “perfect” faculty development platform (including the ability to integrate mathematics in all text options). They are trying to build one for someone else, but having trouble with the design, so I got to choose everything I would ideally want. Hopefully that will be built in Flex by mid-April so that I can use it for the MCC Math & Technology workshop too.

And … drumroll please … here’s the iClone avatar for my Calculus Orientation (this is really just a demo – intending to see if it was possible to get the avatar to do what we wanted it to do – namely POINT to something). The software is a bit difficult to learn (but the good software usually is). Anyways, enjoy!

Avatar on Blackboard Class

I have made Matt promise to post a tutorial on how we did it (although we’re not really sure we understand how we did it)… so I hope to have a more advanced orientation done soon.

I know that this is really ridiculous and that I could do it much easier with a mouse pointer and a voice over, but it’s fun … so I want to learn.

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