Upping your game

I’ll start off my saying that I’m not fond of templates, especially in education.

I’ve sat through many presentations where I know that I’ve seen the template that the presenter is using. Basically, they’ve downloaded a template and clicked in the placement text to add their own text, save it, and call it a presentation. At least, change the colours!

So, there’s my opening rant.

This week, my Windows computer let me know that there was an update available so I told it to go for it. That, before I read that some people were having issues with the upgrade … My upgrade went smoothly and quickly. As always, after the upgrade, I turned the computer off and then back on again. I know … old school mentality … there was a time when that was always required so superstitiously, I went for it. Things look nice, including the new Start Menu, the colours, etc. that I’d been reading about.

Maybe it was because it was cold outside, maybe it was the fact that I was just bored but this time, I actually click on and read the “See what’s new in this update” link. I did some exploration, but it was this one that really caught my attention and sent me down the wormhole.

That wormhole ultimately led me to this page:


I was intrigued and played around with some of the templates.

Now, of course, you could just click the default text and make it yours. For me, though, I wondered about the possibilities that could come from messing around and seeing just how the templates were created. I could use those skills for myself.

In these days of more time spent working with schoolwork digitally, there is an increase in online presentation as part of the coursework.

This collection, properly used, could really make things pop in the hands of a creative teacher or student.

Better Looking Presentations

This post is for all who do presentations but specifically to those working on their presentations for #ECOO13 this summer.

I hope that you’re not just firing up Keynote or Powerpoint or LibreOffice and filling in the blanks in a template to call it a presentation.  While this works, keep in mind audience engagement.  They want to hear YOU and the presentation behind you on the big screen helps guide the development of your topic.

This guide works best when it’s attractive and has the imagery to support your message.  I had the fortunate good luck to have a superintendent who delivered the very best presentations.  He was a master story teller and masterfully worked with Keynote as his presentation tool.  I actually booked some time with him one afternoon to learn how to be as effective as him.  That’s impossible but his tips did help me quite a bit.

He broke the mold about presentations long before it became popular.  He never started with a template (unless you called a blank screen a template…) and just filled his presentation with imagery, thoughts, and guiding principles to support his message.  In particular, he always included images of children doing things to support this message.  It was so effective.  You just wanted to hear his stories and follow along with the pictures.

His colours were right too.  At the time, we had just licensed Adobe Photoshop Elements for all Ontario schools and he made good use of it.  Before a picture got into his presentation, it went into Elements where he would use the eyedropper to get the colour codes from the images so that any text or drawing that he would use looked so professional.  Wow, this was one application of Elements that I hadn’t though about…and I was on the OSAPAC team that licensed it.

You can use it or find an even easier method using Pictaculous.  So, for example, this image from an infographic that I had made for myself at one time might make it to a slide in a presentation.

And, I’m bad with colours.  My philosophy has always been things go better with green.  So, this slide might well look like

and, of course, the complimentary colour with green is yellow.

Throw that up on a data projector and watch your audience gag!

Fortunately, Pictaculous comes to the rescue.  It’s very simple and even bypasses the need to use the eyedropper to get colours.  Of course, you’ll use Elements for more involved things.

All I need to do is upload my image and seconds later, I’m presented with the colour palette and suggestions for colours that will work well with the presentation.

Could getting the colours right get any easier?  There’s even an option for use with your Smartphone.

This will be really helpful for students who often confuse design with content!

Good luck with your presentations, Ontario Educators!


Unplug? I hope not


Many thanks to @sheilaspeaking for proofreading and making suggestions for today’s post.


I read this article three times yesterday morning during my reading routine before I elected to share it with my followers on Twitter and Facebook.  From TheStar.com, “Let’s unplug the digital classroom” is one professor’s thoughts about the presence of technology in higher education.

My first thought came in the format of a silly tweet that I had sent some time back asking people to refer to this resource “When someone whines about the good ol’ days in education”.  I had no idea when I shared that message just to share a smile with friends that it might actually be used in a serious blog post.

I find this statement so telling. “Almost all professors use computers, projectors, Power Point presentations and the Internet as part of their lectures”  His next sentence doesn’t deserve comment.  But the first, descriptive statement brings back memories of sitting in a lecture hall of 500 being treated as a learning vessel that could somehow be filled up just by the presence of the professor who sat at the front of the hall clicking his way through a canned lecture.

I didn’t have Facebook or a smartphone at the time but my mind managed to wander all the same and my notebooks were full of doodles at the end of the course.

In fact, I would suggest that my marks in university courses were directly related to the size of the classroom and the ability of the professor and teaching assistants to engage me in meaningful, active learning activities.

Elementary and secondary schools have fought this battle.  Students today own and understand different technologies, live in a different world, and have a different set of passions and social awarenesses.  Like it or not, you just cannot ignore it.  The author makes comments about the futurists who haven’t been in a university class for years.  I would ask if he had been in a secondary school classroom to see where his future students live and learn.  Here you will find a decidedly different approach to learning and teaching.  Students engage in smaller groups, invite technology to the journey, have and are encouraged to have different passions to pursue, and enjoy the educational benefits of education that respects personalization.  One size does not fit all here.

Thank goodness, we don’t have to dig through the “bowels of the university library” only to find that the one book is already checked out.  Today’s teacher-librarians are among the most progressive of educators.  They value the benefits of the research process and have updated it to leverage the technologies, and yes, student owned technologies, for the best results.

One of the most promising thing that technology does is provide a level and equitable playing field for students.  Not all schools are able to offer all courses to students and online learning now makes that possible.  How can we deny a student the opportunity to take a course prescribed by the Ontario curriculum just because they attend a school that doesn’t offer it?

Is it perfect?  I would question anyone who says that we’ve found all the answers.  But, I’ll throw my support behind anyone who is at least trying to meet students part way and recognize that the days that students sit facing forward, transcribing the wisdom of a single source in the room, and walk away filled with all the knowledge that they can absorb are long gone.