Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thinking Outside of The Box

Happy New Year! And welcome back to school.

For some of you reading this, you may have come to this epiphany already, but as I was meeting with a teacher this morning, we began to discuss the use of PowerPoint (PPT). Many teachers I know use PPT religiously - for presentations, to distribute content to students, etc. But I find that PPT has many limitations that do not enable it to work nicely in today's education environment. For example, if a teacher using an LMS posts a PPT presentation for students to access, the teacher is assuming that all of their students have PPT installed on their machines and are thus able to view the file. I believe as we move along the education technology trajectory we can no longer feel safe in this assumption. PPT is expensive and PPT is immobile. Both of these factors render the use of this application, well, limiting.

This particular teacher I was meeting with this morning wants to post a series of PPT presentations on the school's Moodle site. When posting to an LMS, I always counsel teachers to think about posting files that are platform-independent, OS-independent, and software-independent: posting files that fit this description enable students to be mobile in their learning, and able to learn on any device they choose. PPT does not fit this description. So, we moved on to thinking of other ways to provide this content for students, outside the confines of a PPT presentation. It then dawned on me: Moodle provides the perfect structure to present (or provide) content for students while remaining true to the concept of platform, OS, and software -independence.

My out-of-the-box epiphany is that a PPT presentation can be broken apart and presented to students in bundles of material. Imagine, if you will, that a PPT presentation is a closed, opaque box filled with information you would like to give to a student. In order for the student to be able to see the information, he or she must open the box and he or she must have the exact tool required to open it. If the student does not have access to the tool, he or she will not have access to the information. Furthermore, if the student would like to quickly access a piece of the information, he or she would have to sift through all of the contents of the box to pull out only what is needed. In a world where we break open the box and make the content accessible regardless of tools available and reveal the topics of the content openly, students have a much better experience with the content and accessing the information. To achieve this, a video can be pulled out of an original PPT presentation, to be followed by a set of reflective questions one of the presentation slides may have contained, but now in the form of a quiz, complete with instant feedback from the teacher! This really opens the concept of "presentation" and gives us the opportunity to present anything, not just the elements that a rigid software application like PPT restricts us to.

So, the teacher and I have decided to conduct this experiment. We will take a more complex, mutli-media rich presentations and blow it apart to create an LMS experience that will provide more flexibility for both the teacher and the student. I am looking forward to this and anticipate that it will open me up for future epiphanies to come!

Thanks for reading!