The Cure for the Common Slideshow

I love slide shows. I do. They’re, like, the biggest mystery tool going. No tool has such a wide range of quality of use.  I’ve actually seen some folks do some wonderful things with it. And I’ve seen some simply terrible slide show presentations.

It’s remarkable how little thought people put into the experience of their learners when they design their slides. So, that’s the key question with any presentation: What should the learners be doing while you are presenting? What should they be learning? Feeling? Experiencing?

Boredom is almost ALWAYS not a goal, I would expect. The key is giving the listeners / learners / audience something to DO while you present. Google had added a built-in “audience needs to do something” module to their slides application. Check out the video above.

I mean, it could be argued that there are times when a slideshow is appropriate. (Although there should be other options explored.) But they don’t have to be passive and boring. Check out the video above to see what Google has done to support better slideshows.


Forget your teaching for a minute – What are the STUDENTS doing?

For a moment, I want to reframe the conversation about instruction. Suppose you’ve got a bit of content the students need to learn. Often, teachers think, “How do I need to teach this?” This a fine question, but I’d like to suggest, perhaps, a better one.

What should the students be doing to learn this bit of content? (You see the difference?)

Episode #7 of “Instructional Tech in Under 3 Minutes” shares Nearpod, which is a tool that gives teachers options and puts them in a position to ask the question “What should my students be doing to learn this?” (Nearpod isn’t the only such tool. It’s just a nice choice that is free, device-agnostic and pretty easy to use.)

A while back, the National Institute of Health published a paper discussing some of the pros and cons of “Wired” Children –That is, children who have a lot of screen and device time.

This matters to education. Our classrooms are becoming increasingly wired. And while the conclusions in the article are definitely not conclusive, a few trends bubble to the top and one of them is simple:

With tech, thought energy is best spent focusing on what the young people are DOING with the tech rather than the form of the tech itself. Chromebooks vs. iPad, Google vs. Microsoft, Kahoot vs. Quizizz… these are the wrong questions. Rather, ask: What should the students be DOING with the tech to maximize learning?

It reminds me of some advice a dietician gave me once. She rhetorically asked me, “What’s the best diet?” And then, after a pause, she answered “The one you’ll stick with.”

This is a similar thought process to the explicit instruction vs. inquiry debate that I’ve discussed several times before. It’s the wrong approach to consider which of those teaching methods is “better.” What are the students doing?

If you’re inquiry exploration has the students spinning their wheels, you may need to explicitly instruct them. If your explicit instruction turns your students into a passive audience, then they need to explore some stuff. Some content is tough and they won’t be able to explore it very well without some instruction. But lectures are boring, so the students need to be active participants in the explicit instruction. (And no… taking notes doesn’t count.)

Nearpod is one tool that gives you options. It can add explicit instruction to inquiry explorations. OR, if you’d prefer, it adds explorations into direct instruction.

Either way, it is a tool that gives you a chance to answer the question: In order to maximize the learning in during this time, what should the students be doing?

New Podcast: Why I love this picture

So, I get the pleasure of supporting a different school community than I have been these past couple of years. As a part of that work, I have decided to start a short video podcast. (The Geogebra post was the first episode.)
Occasionally, that means I’ll be borrowing “thegeometryteacher” content and podcasting new life into it. This is one of those examples. I originally posted this last fall…


Here’s the picture…


I took this picture this morning in Lansing, MI during some wonderful small group math talk. There is one device, an iPad, with an Osmo setup attached to it.

So, here’s why I love this picture.

There’s tech and…

… manipulatives and whiteboard markers and collaboration. Tech fits among the variety of tools available. It’s not the best tool unless it best supports the learning. And sometimes other tools work better. And in this case, the students were being led into learning with all the different tools.

The activity is built around the social nature of learning. 

The kids are clearly sharing their answers with each other and the teacher… there is a constant back-and-forth, sharing ideas and discussing them. They were seeing each other ideas, but…

Their strategies aren’t all the same. 

One girl is using an array. One girl is using groups of three. One girl wasn’t quite sure what to do (so it was a good thing she could see the other two girls’ work.)

The teacher’s hands are off. 

The students are doing the reaching, arranging, manipulating. Remember, the one that does the work will be the one that does the learning.

That’s why I love this picture. it captures so many wonderful things about the right kind of teaching and learning.