Archive for category Tools

Web-Based Alternatives to PowerPoint

“Oh great, another PowerPoint!” We have all been there, as students, as attendees at a conference, or participants in a professional development workshop. The presenter goes to the workstation, inserts the thumb drive and opens yet another PowerPoint. As if somehow related, you get a little sleepy and begin to sink down into your chair. For the past 20 years or so, PowerPoint has been so pervasive that it has become almost synonymous with the word presentation – like Kleenex and tissue or Google and the Internet. PowerPoint is an extremely useful and powerful tool (most people only know how to use PowerPoint at the surface level), but wouldn’t you like to view and create presentations differently?

Yes, and with that in mind here are a few of my favorite alternatives to PowerPoint: Glogster, Google Slides, Powtoon, Prezi, and VoiceThread. There are dozens of web-based presentation tools, but each of these is easy-to-use and available for free. Please keep in mind that they do not simply duplicate the functions of PowerPoint; using a different presentation tool inherently changes the nature of the presentation and what it means to present.

  • The first, Glogster, is used to generate “multimedia interactive posters” or glogs. These glogs allow presenters, often students, to express their ideas by combining a variety of multimedia in one digital space. Users are able to include images, graphics, audio, video, and text. When finished, glogs are easily shared online.
  • Google Slides approximates the overall function of PowerPoint; however, this web-based alternative has more robust features for collaborating and interacting with a live audience. For example, multiple users can simultaneously access and edit the same presentation. Perhaps most notably, Slides offers the presenter the ability to accept and present audience questions during the presentation.
  • Powtoon is quite different from the other presentation tools described here. It is a video – animation presentation software. These video-based presentations allow you to grab the attention of the audience by animating what would normally be a static and linear presentation. Powtoon is especially useful for presenting projects.
  • Prezi has quickly become a significant rival of PowerPoint. Prezi enables the creation of presentations; however, these presentations may be crafted in a manner that displays a visual journey, such as the flight of a bird or plane. Prezi is excellent for documenting movement, progress, or the organization of a structure or process.
  • VoiceThread allows you to create multimedia conversations using text, annotations, images, videos, documents, and presentations. It is a collaborative tool that allows multiple users to view, create, modify, and annotate presentations. VoiceThread is easily one of my favorite presentation tools and is extremely robust in supporting language learning.

*Not all alternatives to PowerPoint are created equally. It is always important to note the intended purpose of the presentation and the unique functions offered by each tool. Leverage these defining characteristics to maximize your presentation value.

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Learning to Voki

I was fortunate to attend this year’s conference for the New England Regional Association for Language Learning Technology at Mount Holyoke College. Now that’s a mouthful. As a first-time attendee of the conference, I have to admit that I was quite impressed, especially by the intimate nature of the conference. Most people appeared to know each other and were familiar with each other’s work. There were members (faculty, language resource center directors, and instructional technology staff) from a wide variety of institutions, including from Ivy League schools, large state schools, and community colleges. And, as a result, the conference sessions included a range of topics, from instructional spaces to the design of virtual tours.

As they relate to the use of technology, academic conferences are a tremendous resource for gathering information, especially from people who have already experimented with particular tools. One NERALLT member described her use of to enable students to create short oral presentations. Voki is a web-based tool that allows students and instructors to create avatars, customize their appearances, add voice, and share with others. It’s an easy-to-use tool that is particularly beneficial for working on pronunciation and speaking skills. It features text-to-audio and audio recording, which offer students means to rehearse language skills in a less intimidating environment. Consider this example, which took less than one minute to create.


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