For the last few years iPads have been present in my classroom as a tool no more or less noticeable than a board marker or any item found in a pupil's backpack. The technology allows endless possibilities for rejuvenating old teaching staples - who knew a book report could include video and green screen effects. And the Apps are endless too, as is the index of usernames and passwords pupils must now recall. However, like most busy teachers I value simplicity and hassle free computing with a low teacher effort to pupil success ratio. One such method being the humble email, ideal for one to many broadcasts of useful resources and have-another-look presentations.
Flipping the PowerPoint
Sending pupils the teacher's PowerPoint is hardly a revolution in teaching and learning on its own. Perhaps this action is - and brace yourself for a curse word in the ed-tech world - little more than a 'substitution' as pupils look at their screen instead of yours. Over time though, pupils gain an archive of resources they can refer to or ignore however they are so compelled.
When you are 10 with an iPad in front of you, compulsions are ever present, starting with the satisfying open, close, repeat action of the magnetic catch on the protective case, so a relatively distraction free 'Open my email and follow along' process, especially when a habit, encourages independence by seemingly putting the resource in their hands. It's like they've discovered it.
There are heaps of 'classroom solutions' offering enhancements for this type of situation. Showbie for example allows the teacher or pupil or both to scribble over the top of documents and even to overlay audio clips for giving or responding to feedback. Nearpod is another service to offer enhancement, here through the ability of the teacher to keep everyone in step, with pupils unable to advance through a presentation until the next slide is pushed to their screen. As entertaining as it is to hear 30 video clips playing simultaneously, it is more distracting than useful. With these methods there is also the inevitable chorus of complaints: 'Mine won't load', 'The code doesn't work', 'My app needs updating', 'I need the toilet'. The latter being the audible calling card of restlessness.
With email there is less to go wrong. A gentle notification alerts pupils to the presence of a message and resources are then just one click away. It is just a case of ensuring the sent file is compatible.
Alternatives to PowerPoint; four HTML presentation tools worth exploring
Since leaving my first teaching post, I've learnt not to get too wedded to any given file format. My early teaching resources were often made using ActivPrimary which were not then compatible with my next school's Smartboards. Now in my third teaching post I look for file types with the broadest compatibility and this is where HTML presentations come into their own as every device has a browser.
With Reveal presentations users can swipe left, right, up and down to explore resources, gestures which are very intuitive for students. They can be made and shared onslides.com much in the same way as Prezi, but it is also possible to code your own examples and host them on your own webpage as I've done with my Finding percentages of amounts example. The code and instructions are found on GitHub. I like Reveal so much I've created slideandtell.com an educational site where I intend to keep a bank of learning resources.
Video example of the 'Subordinate and relative clauses and fronted adverbials' resource found on slideandtell.com, made with reveal.js.
Similar to Reveal but purely with vertical scrolling. I think this tool is potentially very useful for presenting text and stories for reluctant readers in class. Pictures, animated gifs etc can be made to gracefully fade in and out as the reader scrolls through the content. The original examples by author Patrik Göthehe seem to no longer work, but his code is still available on GitHub.
Video example of the 'When I heard the learn'd astronomer by Walt Whitman' resource found on slideandtell.com, made with space.js.
This presentation is ideal if there is a geographical element to the content. Maps are incorporated into the content which automatically update as the narrative moves about. Presentations can be made using the 'Odyssey.js sandbox' or can be written in HTML and hosted your own webpage. Files and instructions are here on GitHub. Here is a good example of it in action charting The Voyage of HMS Beagle.
Introduction to Oddysey.
Timeline is ideal if chronology is an important part of the information being presented. I have not yet explored this tool yet but hope to in the near future as I think there could be a large number applications in school. I'm also particularly impressed that data for the information is stored on a Google Sheet; I take this approach with my use of Reveal.JS. The website has a demo of 'Women in Computing' which shows off the tool's versatility.