Death to PowerPoint (or PowerPointed to Death)

PowerPoint has been one of the greatest educational presentation tools since the lightbulb overhead machine.  I want to start by saying that:  PowerPoint is great.  It’s a slick, beautiful way to deliver instruction to classrooms.  It beats a laundry list of notes or outlines any day.  And it’s a great assessment tool as well.  Having students use PowerPoints to demonstrate their understanding of a concept can be much more concise that reading a standard paragraph report.  Plus there are themes, designs, transitions and bells and whistles to keep even the apathetic viewer interested.

PowerPoint is great.

But it can be overdone.

Just as with any classroom instructional practice, students and teachers can fall into a rut and fall victim to overexposure and overuse.  I’ve heard one of the downfalls of 1:1 classroom environments is that students end up attending PowerPoint University–constantly exposed to PowerPoint instruction and PowerPoint assessments.

So for a recent classroom project, I banned PowerPoint.  The students have to create a visual informational presentation of some kind, but they are not allowed to use PowerPoint.  I created the project standards for them and it is up to them to figure out how they are going to execute it and with which tool.

To help the process, I started investigating some alternatives to PowerPoint and gave them the following page of bookmarks.  These tools range from fancy animated presentation tools to simple Google Presentations (to which the students said is the same thing as a PowerPoint.  To which I said, but it isn’t A POWERPOINT).

Alternatives to PowerPoint

I’m interested to see what they come up with.  And even better, I’m interested to not see a PowerPoint.


Recently a tech colleague passed along a great free online resource to use for formative assessment and classroom activities.  I’ve done little quiz games or review games in the past using online resources like Socrative, but this one has a new twist.  The website is called Kahoot.

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Kahoot reminded my students a lot of the quiz games played in restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings.  A question is displayed on the front board and each student selects an answer to that question from their personal device.  (I’ve had students use computers, IPads, Kindles or phones for this activity).  If you get the question correct, you get points.  If you answer faster, you get more points.  After each question, the student sees their ranking on a leaderboard.  It’s a lot of fun and provides great motivation for the students.

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Teachers can create “Kahoots” from  It gives you the option of creating quizzes, discussions or surveys.  Right now I’m only using the quizzes.  The teacher creates multiple choice quizzes and has the option of adding in pictures and video in the questions too.  After a Kahoot is made, you are ready to share it with the students.

The students just go to  From there they will type in a pin code that is assigned to the Kahoot the teacher is running.  The quiz is teacher paced, meaning that the questions only appear when the teacher is ready.  Once ready, the teacher shows the students the question on the board.  After 5 seconds, answer choices also appear on the board.  Each answer choice is color coded.  On the student’s individual device, they see the color coded choices but no words—they have to look up at the board for the question and the answer choices.  They select the color associated with the choice they think is correct.  Once all students have answered, they find out how many points they earned (if any) and what their ranking is in the leaderboard.  At the end of playing a Kahoot, the teacher can download the results, which gives you question by question analysis of how students did and you can easily see questions that were the most problematic.

We loved using Kahoot and now I’m just under pressure to create more Kahoots for us to do in class!

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Choose Your Own Adventure in Google Forms

Google Forms: Branching Multiple Choice Questions
Google Forms: Branching Multiple Choice Questions

Remember Choose Your Own Adventure Books or Games?  A new feature in Google Forms now lets users branch multiple choice responses so that each response leads you to a different page.  There are many potential applications for this in the classroom, but branching allows someone to craft a Choose Your Own Adventure story.

When drafting a Google Form, the creator can write part of a story in the “Page Description” box.  Underneath that text block, the reader can be given selection of choices.  Each of these selections give the reader the option to choose what will happen next in the story.  By checking the option “Go to page based on answer”, the creator can decide where each possible answer leads.

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Because the Google Form makes the creation of a Choose Your Own Adventure Story very methodical, its necessary to plan out all of your options and where they might lead.  I attempted to try this by creating a CYOA activity associated with a movie that we watch in class called ‘El Norte’.  I thought that this activity might be a good thing to do before we watch the film.  Anyway, as I started to mind-map my story and all the possible options, it easily got out of hand and complicated.  These webs can get quite complex if you want them to.  I would suggest that beginners limit themselves to only a few layers of options.  My CYOA story required 25 pages in a Google Form and I tried to be conservative in the last few layers.

There are a lot of concluding activities that could accompany this type of activity: a discussion, written essays, going through it until you get a desirable outcome, etc.  I think the educational impact of this could be great:  making the student think about choices and consequences and what actions lead to different situations.  I saw a lot of this application in Social Studies but think that it could be stretched to any discipline.

One thing that excites me about the ease of the Google Doc format is the fact that students could be writers of their own CYOA story.  What a great activity!  Make students draft out a series of choices and possible outcomes and put together an activity they can share with classmates.  They could examine the choices made by Romeo & Juliet, or John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or a scientist working through a hypothesis.  Just as in a Choose Your Own Adventure story – – the possibilities are endless!

My Choose Your Own Adventure Activity: El Norte


Recently came across TripWow.  This is a site sponsored by TripAdvisor that lets users make visually stunning slideshows with pictures including a map of the locations.  As a user, the only thing you have to do in the presentation is choose your title, find pictures, select the order you want the pictures displayed, give each photo a location and a caption.  TripWow will do the rest of the work.  What you are left with is a very professional looking product that can be helpful in Geography, History or any subject where locations across the globe are of interest.

Famous Hispanics Slideshow: Emily’s trip to 9 cities including Spain and Canary Islands (near Spain, Spain) was created with TripAdvisor TripWow!

Check out the Hispanics one I made earlier tonight (total prep time to create: 10 minutes).

Random Name Generator

Over the weekend I came across this website that I thought I would pass along.  It’s called a Random Name Generator, ( but it actually does a lot more. Teachers can create an account, put in their class lists, and use the website to:

Screen Shot 2012-09-03 at 8.12.12 PM 1) Randomly call on a student:  This is like having popsicle sticks or some other random method of calling on students, only techy.  And it works great with a SmartBoard.

2) Create random groups:  The site takes your class lists and randomly groups them together.  You tell it the number you would like to have per group.

3) Seating Chart: Let’s face it, JMC (our current SMS) is pretty ugly.  I have seats in pods now, and JMC just doesn’t work for me like that.  It isn’t the greatest, but it does let me move the desks around the way I want.  You can print them – – and even add photos so that you could print a photo seating chart for a sub.  Simple and not flashy, but do-able.