Powerpoint Top 10

Top 10 Best Practices for PowerPoint

During our training today, we created a top ten best practices for using PowerPoint.  The faculty and staff who attended the training would like to share this crowd-sourced list with you. 

Powerpoint Top 10

Start with instructions and objectives.  The first few slides of a presentation should include the learning outcomes you are going to address.  These outcomes provide students with a “map” to the following presentation.  You should also give instructions on what you want students to do with the information (note-taking reminders, critical thinking questions, and the like) to give students guidance on how they will use the information.

Think like a designer. Presentations are a visual medium, which means you need to take full advantage of this delivery method.  Create slides that forefront visual learning with icons, infographics, and other visual elements.  Visuals provide another point of entry into the material and give students another opportunity to understand, remember, and apply the information.

Build in pauses.  When building a presentation, you should strategically incorporate places that prompt discussion, reflection, and critical thinking.  These “pauses” will allow students an opportunity to work with the materials you just presented, ask follow-up questions, and actively engage with their peers.  Pauses can take the form of 1-minute papers, a series of reflective questions, or a quick poll.

Grab their attention.  Professional presenters know how to grab your attention at the beginning of a talk by giving you a startling statistic, asking a provocative question, or providing an anecdote.  Beginning your own presentation with an attention grabber engages students and readies them for the material.

7 x 7 Rule. No more than seven lines per slide and seven words per line.  This rule helps to reduce the amount of text per slide, so that students can focus on your instruction rather than trying to read from the slide.  It will also prevent you from using the slide as crutch (rather than as a tool!).

Remember the white board.  Slides can be like whiteboards in the sense that they offer you a space for publicly displaying ideas.  Like whiteboards, you don’t need to / want to write down everything you say—and you especially don’t do it in long form.  Instead, keep your slides clutter free and use bulleted lists to provide talking points.

Think before you animate.  Animation has many useful applications, but it can also be a distraction if it is overused or used incorrectly.  Students might be watching text flying in from all sides while trying to learn a new theory or concept.  Before animating a slide or an element, think about your purpose in doing so: do you need to control the flow of information? do you want to emphasize a point?  draw attention to a particular visual?  These questions will help you make good choices when choosing to animate.

Make use speaker’s notes.  The speaker’s notes (located at the bottom of each slide) will help you in a variety of ways, including providing yourself with important presentation reminders and using later as a transcript for the presentation.  Students may also avail themselves of your notes (if you provide them) while studying or trying to learn (or re-learn) a concept.

Get to know “presenter mode.”  Presenter mode (located under Slideshow>Set Up Slide Show) provides faculty with an opportunity to see their notes during presentation.  This mode will help you to stay on track with your presentation and focused on achieving your stated outcomes.

Say no to karaoke.  While you may be encouraged to read from the screen at your local karaoke bar, you don’t want to bring that same habit into the classroom.   Reading from a slide can undermine your ethos in the classroom by suggesting to students that you need to read from the slide in order to be certain of what you are discussing.  It also suggests to the students that you don’t see them as capable of reading the information for themselves.  And, finally, it’s just plain boring.

Stay tuned for upcoming training sessions on this and other tech topics!

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A special thank you to those in attendance, including Dr. Matthew Ademola, Kim Bateman, Dr. Brant Ellsworth, Ben Lipschutz, Dr. Marcie Rovan, and Dr. Melissa Wehler.

First Day Activity: What Do Employers Look for in College Grads?

In the weeks preceding the start of a new term, I am often asked by colleagues about my teaching strategies for the first day of class. With the recent spate of articles from pedagogy-themed websites like this one or this one, if they weren’t before, faculty today are acutely aware of the significance of the first day impression. While contending with their own first-day jitters, instructors are advised to tackle a myriad of logistical issues (e.g., the syllabus, enrollment, classroom policies, learning management procedures); establish a safe, welcoming, and stimulating classroom environment; and, as if instructors were not already short on time, deliver an inspiring lesson that establishes instructor credibility while kindling student interest.

Ellsworth Blog

In my situation, as a professor who exclusively teaches general education courses, I also face a classroom with some students who have elected to take my course, not because it represents a field they are genuinely interested in or are pursuing professionally, but because it is require for graduation. Some students, questioning the very relevance of general education, may utter the all-too-familiar question, “When will I ever need to know this?” For these students, I have adapted the following activity for my first-day classes to help them think critically about the course’s role in their educational goals and answer this question for themselves.

Activity Instructions

I welcome students to the class, introduce myself, and then ask, “Why are you here? Why are you in this class?” After the nervous giggles dissipate and my continued silence affirms my interest in a response, students volunteer the same types of answers: to get a degree, to fulfill the graduation requirements, or to be better qualified for a job. Occasionally, I may even get a student who expresses interest in the course topic or theme. I follow-up by asking: “If you are here in order to qualify for a future job, I imagine you know what employers in your field are looking for in college graduates, right?” Some students may offer up an idea or two but, in my experience, most students have never considered this question. What do employers want in their new college graduate hires?

At this point, I invite the class to divide into groups of four or five students. I hand each group some markers and a sheet of large paper from a flipchart. I explain how I would like each group to introduce themselves and then use the internet to find a credible source (legitimate website, news report, scholarly journal article, etc.) that describes the qualifications employers are seeking in college graduates. Students can look at this question broadly as applicable to all college graduates or look specifically at their major field of study. After reading the source material, students are invited to share their findings with their group and compile a list of their top seven qualifications on their flipchart. Once completed, each groups hangs their chart up on the wall. After each group has finished, I invite the students to roam the room and read each of the charts while looking for common themes.

When the students have returned to their seats, I ask students to share their findings: What were some common themes among the groups? What surprised you? Depending on the sources, the qualifications will differ. However, if students seek out credible sources on Google, the top two listings include this report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers and this report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Both of these reports stress the importance of skills and attributes such as the ability to write and speak clearly, solve problems, be creative, think critically, and cooperate on a team. Students, especially first-year students, are often surprised that these reports rarely mention grades or G.P.A. After making this realization, I ask my students to share why this information matters. How should it impact their approach to the course?

I explain my belief that the course theme is of secondary importance to the skills and attributes the assignments, readings, and activities will help them develop. I invite students to pull out their course syllabus. I ask them to read through it looking for ways the course will help them develop the attributes they identified as being important to employers. Through this lens, students may look at a writing assignment as a way to develop critical thinking and writing skills and not as “mere busy work.” Reading assignments are recast as opportunities to hone analytical skills; a group project is an opportunity to work as team and to develop oral communication skills. Through this activity, students are able to think critically about their general education courses and understand its’ value in preparing them for the workforce. While this activity is especially useful for faculty teaching general education courses, it could easily be adapted for use in introductory major courses as well.

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Brant Ellsworth is an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities and the faculty liaison to the Center for Teaching Excellence at Central Penn College. He is the editor of the Children’s Folklore Review, which publishes articles on all aspects of children’s traditions, and past winner of the W. W. Newell Award from the American Folklore Society.

 

Building an Inclusive Classroom: Knowing Your Students

This is the third installment of the six-part series on inclusivity in the classroom.  The other installments include: Building an Inclusive Classroom: A Starting Place and Building an Inclusive Classroom: Reflecting on Privileges. You can also read more about the ways our faculty use inclusivity practices in their own classrooms in Inclusivity in Practice.

Let’s talk about Maria.  If you talk to Maria’s professor, he will tell you that she is an excellent student: she comes to class early, turns in her homework, and participates in class discussion.  He’ll talk about her essay where she compared different models of masculinity in Gilgamesh and her oral presentation on “bad boys” in Greek mythology.  He might also say that he encouraged Maria to take his class on reading poetry in the spring.   Hi!  My name in Melissa, and I once spent a semester during my undergraduate career as Maria.  I’m not sure why this professor called me Maria (despite initial attempts to correct him): did he misread my name on the roster, did I not pronounce it clearly on the first day, or did I just “look” like a Maria?  I’ll never know.

Inclusivity Blog

I bring up this minor (and now humorous) interlude of my undergraduate career because it illustrates a few important point about “knowing” your students.  First, the professor was not really interested in knowing me as a student or a person, since the first way you demonstrate that interest is by knowing and using someone’s correct name.  Second, the professor did not listen to me when I tried to correct him further demonstrating that our relationship was merely about my course output.  And finally, this moment clarified for me that he didn’t really know any of his students.  At all.  We were all “Maria” in that course.   If “Maria” had been a student who needed additional support and relationship-building in the classroom, she probably wouldn’t have succeed in this course.  If “Maria” was an easily embarrassed student, an introverted student, or an at-risk student, she probably would have dropped the course or stopped coming entirely after a few weeks of being called the wrong name.

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A Quick Technique for Making Your Lectures More Active

While reading a recent interview with Christine Harrington, executive director of the New Jersey Center for Student Success, I was reminded of how some practitioner-scholars in the more technical academic fields experience discomfort with the pedagogy of active learning, although they needn’t. In these instances, faculty feel obliged to present very specific information to students, usually in response to precise disciplinary/workplace expectations or to satisfy accreditation standards that mandate specialized knowledge objectives.

Practitioner scholars

This obligation, whether philosophical or prescribed, can exacerbate the friendly tension that may exist in faculties between “those liberal arts types” and “we practitioner-scholars.” In my experience, practitioner-scholars feel obligated to define instruction as delivering information to students, even while accepting the premise that active learning almost always facilitates stronger outcomes.

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Creating Syllabus Policies

By Melissa Wehler, PhD, Dean of Humanities and Sciences

The syllabus functions as a contract between the students and the faculty member regarding the academic experience in the classroom and the standards for that experience.  Often, when writing our syllabi, we get lost in the legalities of our policies, trying to out-maneuver that loop-hole driven student just waiting on our rosters. (The old adage that faculty “can write a student’s name next to every syllabus policy” comes to mind.)   While it’s important that we are clear and concrete in our policies, it is equally as important that we use this document as a space to demarcate the learning environment: what are your standards for student work and engagement? how do you see your role in the classroom? what standards do you have for participation? how should students conduct themselves in discussion?  Focusing on these questions help us to build an engaging learning experience not simply avoid a disastrous one.

When creating policies for your syllabus, keep in mind some best practices:

Keep the audience in mind. Since students are the audience, you will want to use clear and specific language and avoid being overly long, complicated, or detailed. Try to keep them to a short paragraph and consider using bullet lists.

Read for tone.  The syllabus establishes the classroom guidelines, and as such, the rules for behavior and performance.  Syllabus policies should have a positive tone even as they create these parameters. 

Consider the course.  Each course will have its own unique set of policies that are tailored to the way you teach it.  For instance, if you teach discussion-based courses, you might want to create a discussion policy.  Or if you teach a presentation-based course, you might want to have a policy on professional dress or appearance.

Remember the level. The level of the course will also help you to establish behavior, performance, and participation expectations.  For example, if you teach an introductory course, you want to have a stricter attendance policy, so that these new students acclimate to this reality of campus life.

Avoid distractions.  It may be tempting to change fonts or colors, but these attempts to draw students’ attention to the seriousness of your policy can instead negatively communicate something about you.  Instead, use bold on certain parts of a policy to help students locate the information quickly.

By keeping these best practices in mind, you will help students to not just to understand your standards for academic work, dialogue, and engagement, but to see themselves reflected in the learning experience you are building.

 

About the Author

13240559_10101056173646389_348591978591550789_nDr. Melissa Wehler serves as the Dean of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of English at Central Penn College.  Her academic writing has been published in several essay collections where she discusses topics including the gothic, feminism, performance, and culture.  She enjoys teaching classes about writing, literature, culture, and film and has won two teaching awards for her student-centered approach.

You DO Have Time For This! Incorporating Video into Your Classes

By Maria Thiaw, M.F.A., Professor, English and Communication

Every new technology has its benefits and its pitfalls, and throughout history, as new inventions have emerged, traditional industries have shown reluctance before coming to acceptance. Teaching, an ancient art, is no different. All of the new bells and whistles coming our way from CPC’s CTE can be overwhelming and under a challenging course load, learning new technologies can seem impossible. That being said, today’s students have been raised on multimedia and in order to lasso them long enough to get our points across, we need a 21st-century approach. This is why I was an early adopter of all that the CTE has to offer.  In the process of using the CTE to create videos through Screencast-O-Matic and the One Button Studio, I have learned a few things that have made using technology in the classroom easier.

First, you have to approach this with an open mind and understand that it is a process. Look at your schedule for places where you can squeeze in some practice time. Come in on a Monday or use one free hour during each day to learn how to use the programs. The biggest time commitment is in the beginning when you are learning. I found that it took a couple of days of practice, but they are very user-friendly and Kim and Judith were there to help. Once I mastered them, things went much faster. Now that I know how to use the programs, I find that I need about 2 – 3 hours to prepare a PowerPoint video for a class. 1 hour to prep it, 1 hour or less to record it and 1 hour to edit it. This is why it’s best to learn and plan over break, have a script ready, and plan time throughout each week to build your inventory of lessons. Notice the word I am repeating here is PLAN.

Secondly, you must edit your expectations. Don’t expect to have an entire class, let alone 4, completed over a two-week break. This isn’t a week long project; it’s a term-long project. It might take longer than that to feel like your class is perfect. Take your time and get through each lesson. Eventually, the class will be where you want it to be and you’ll be proud of it.

Lastly, don’t worry! You don’t need 44 hours of video, even if it is an online class. It is best to use a variety of teaching methods. Attention spans are short these days so think about keeping your videos less than ten minutes. If you are lecturing for an hour, you can break it up into five or six segments, which helps to promote student focus.

Now that I can handle Screencast-O-Matic, I can create and edit short videos at home.  Even under our intense schedule, with some planning and patience we can work some of these technologies into our pedagogy.

Take-Aways from Lilly Conference on Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning

By Melissa Wehler, PhD, Dean of Humanities and Sciences

On June 5, 2017, I had the pleasure of representing Central Penn College at the Lilly Conference on Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning in Bethesda, Maryland. My presentation, co-written and co-presented with Judith Dutill, Instructional Designer at Millersville University, was entitled “Pause Procedure and Reflecting Learning in the Online Classroom” and was presented to a crowd of more than thirty educators from institutions of higher education around the country.

The session reviewed methods and techniques that online teaching faculty can use to engage their online students. First, we discussed the challenges faced by online teaching faculty in designing effective instruction for the online modality and promoted the use of microlectures and pause procedure techniques. Next, we defined the elements of a microlecture and discussed the relevant research on the considerations faculty should make before endeavoring to develop their own microlecture. Finally, we discussed methods for incorporating pause procedure into video lectures and introduced some technical tools to assist with this implementation. Specifically, we reviewed some of the software techniques being used at Central Penn, including Play Posit, Voice Thread, and Office Mix.

In addition to my own session, I attended sessions on:

  • What Lies Beneath: Rethinking Major Issues in Teaching and Learning
  • Radically Inclusive Classrooms: Promoting and Protesting a Diverse Learning Environment
  • #InteractiveLearning: Technology Tools to Engage and Support All Learners
  • Advising Online: An Orientation Module to Support Faculty Student Interactions
  • Improving Academic Integrity: Evidenced-Based Strategies

 

While there were many take-aways from the conference, here are a few that resonated with me:

Teaching-oriented versus learning-oriented. During the opening session, Todd Zakrajsek made an excellent point about this issue by asking: “does your lesson change if there are no students in the room?”  The question addresses the fundamental difference between teaching and learning.  If you can deliver the same presentation, run through the same information, and provide the same talking points to a room of thirty as you can to an empty room, you are probably teaching-oriented.  If your lesson plan so thoroughly addresses, integrates, and engages students that you could not possibly proceed, then you are probably learning oriented.

Understand and respect cognitive load.  There comes a point where students (and frankly, us as well) reach a point where we cannot take in any more information.  Rather than continue past this point-of-no-return, find ways to break up the material.  Incorporate reflective breaks to give students a chance to work with the information.  Think about the ways to manage the class so that there is some thinking and some doing.  Understand that no matter how brilliant the lesson, students can only retain so much.

Ends over means.  The role of lecture in the classroom was a hot topic this year, but overall, the sessions I attended seemed to reiterate the same point: engaged students are better than disengaged students no matter the method.  Sometimes, lecturing is necessary; sometimes, it’s not.  The key is that you know your own strengths and weaknesses as an educator, play to those strengths, and engage your students.

About the Author

13240559_10101056173646389_348591978591550789_nDr. Melissa Wehler serves as the Dean of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of English at Central Penn College.  Her academic writing has been published in several essay collections where she discusses topics including the gothic, feminism, performance, and culture.  She enjoys teaching classes about writing, literature, culture, and film and has won two teaching awards for her student-centered approach.

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