For the classroom, these are my rules for you as a teacher to follow in order to make for a harmonious presentation creating experience. Follow along my friends!

1. Go to the Cloud

Consider using SlideRocket, Prezi, or GoogleDocs (check out my posts for more info).  These enable student collaboration by allowing students to work on them together at the same time (except for SlideRocket) and, they instantly save everything so that you never have to deal with students “losing” their work! Additionally, if you want to post their presentations on your own website, it is much easier than trying to use PowerPoint.  There are a few quirks to using each of these programs, so be sure to look at those posts later.

2. The rule of halfs (ish)

It will take students a loooong time to create their first presentation using a new program, but the good news is that it will take them about half the time for the second presentation they create.  One suggestion, the first time have them create a three slide/transition presentation on whatever they want.  And then don’t have them actually present them.  The secret is for you to go back through and do a showcase of 3-4 presentations asking students what worked well and what did not work well, and then have them write down what they want to make sure they do next time.  Make them have a little meta-cognition of their work.  Then when the students are creating the next larger presentation it will take much less time.  This is true of almost every technology and can save you a lot of planning heartache.

3. Use great examples

Jesse Dee is my hero.  He has  a whole set of slide shows he has created as examples.  My favorite is this one.

View more presentations from @JESSEDEE

He has a whole heap of other presentations, some on creating great presentations, some on other issues.  You also might want to check out these for design tips: You Suck at PowerPointHow to Make Awesome Diagrams.  I really like this presentation to show the power of presentations: Hoshyar Foundation.  You can also show some TED Talks.  I like Hans Rosling and Ken Robinson.  The best examples though are going to come from your own students!  Here are two from my  students that I like: Subject/Verb AgreementActive/Passive Voice.

4. Collaboration is key

If you don’t use PowerPoint, online collaboration becomes a breeze.  They can work together at school, and they can work on the presentation at home at the same time.  Something mystical also happens when students find out they can share with their classmates; they want everybody to see what they are doing.  You will hear comments like, “That’s cool, how did you do that?”

Show them how to share their presentation with their group members and other groups, but make sure they know the difference between sharing something so somebody can view it only and sharing it with somebody as an editor. I think that the more hands off you are as a teacher with this creation process the more the students can grow and learn.  If you try and walk them through step by step it will only bore them and take all of the fun out of the project.  It sounds mean, but when students have questions, I will often just tell them  “I don’t know, figure it out.”

5. Teach picture citation

They will need pictures in their presentations, this is a great time to teach proper citation and also how to find royalty free images online.  One resource is to use the advanced options on flickr.com to search only creative commons images or using compfight.com.  Do not allow them to use google images or stock photos they do not have the rights for.  It seems mean and difficult, but students need to learn this now so they don’t get sued for copyright infringement when they start their blog in college. Check out my post on citation for more info.

6. Use Good Design

This topic has been covered best by Garr Reynolds on his website Presentation Zen.  He boils down proper design to these 10 rules.

  1. Keep it Simple
  2. Limit bullet points and text
  3. Limit transitions
  4. Use high-quality graphics
  5. Have a visual theme (but not a PowerPoint template)
  6. Use appropriate charts
  7. Use color well
  8. Choose your fonts well
  9. Use audio and video
  10. Spend time in the slide sorter


Check out the list with great examples here. Do the world a big favor by making sure your students follow these rules!  You can also watch him give a presentation at Google, or at a TEDx event.

7. Outlaw bullet points

I mean it. No bullet points ever. Tell them that they will get an F if there is a bullet point in their presentation. It was the only way to get my students to start to practice the above design practices. They will cry and weep and rend their hair, but stay firm!  If they don’t understand why, show them this.

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colourlovers.com – color palette creator

pixlr.com – online photo/picture editor

compfight.com – creative commons search tool

ted.com – because ted talks are awesome


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