Welcome to the Teacher's Secrets Series. The purpose of this series is to demystify what teachers are looking for in an assignment when various technologies are involved. While some teachers are very clear on what they are looking for, others are not for a variety of reasons. Of course, all of this is further complicated when some students think just because they use technology they should be rewarded with a high grade. How an assignment is turned in may be changing, but what a teacher is looking for is not really a secret. It may only seem that way and using our Teacher's Secrets Series checklists can help you figure it out.
Does it sometimes seem that when you go to do an assignment, especially one involving technology, you are not sure exactly what your teacher is looking for on the technology side of things? Sure you know how to turn in all the basics of a paper-based assignment, but when it comes to technology, do you wonder a bit? Some teachers are very clear about what they are looking for and others are not. That is the way it has always been at school - all teachers are different and none of them create assignments in the same way.
Here is a checklist that can help you produce a quality PowerPoint (or Keynote or other slide presentation) the next time one is assigned. All of the items on the list may not be part of your assignment, but look at them anyway. You might be able to put them to use to improve your assignment.
1. Research Sources (if you need to turn these in) - Make sure they clearly show that you accurately researched and/or acquired:
- a variety of information sources
- recorded and interpreted significant facts
- meaningful and appropriate graphics, pictures or video
- accurate sounds
- evaluated and included alternative points of view
2. Introduction - This is the first slide (or set of slides) the teacher is going to see, so be careful to:
- present the overall topic
- draw the audience in by using a compelling question or a stunning or startling graphic
- relate the topic to the audience's interests or goals
3. Content - The content needs to be:
- a set of talking points - don't read your presentation from your slides. Instead make the content a list of talking points that you need to remember to include in your presentation.
- concise ( unless directed otherwise - no full sentences)
- use plenty of supporting information
- reinforce the topic
- give the audience a clear sense of the main idea
- current or timely
- come mainly from primary sources (these can include original letters and diaries, personal observations, interviews, first-hand accounts, newspaper articles, magazine articles, journal articles, Web pages, audio recordings, video productions and photography)
4. Text - Which font you use can be as important as the content you are trying to get across. Watch out that:
- the font you choose is easy to read even from the back of the room
- headings and text are in different but appropriate point sizes
- using italics, boldface, and indentations enhances the readability
- your text is appropriate in length for the target audience and to the point
- the background and colors enhance the readability of text (This is very important because what you see on a computer screen at home and what it looks like projected on a big screen can be different. If in doubt, ask if you can try it out before the day of your presentation.)
5. Layout - Presentations are more than text and graphics. Your layout needs to:
- be visually pleasing
- contribute to the overall message
- appropriately use headings and subheadings
- be conscious of white space -watch out for crowding or slides with too many gaps
6. Citation - Make sure you find out if you need to cite your sources in your slide presentation - sometimes if you are handing in a written paper as well it is not necessary. But if you need to cite your sources watch out to:
- properly site your sources
- use the appropriate citation format (check with your teacher as to the style they want you to use - MLA or APA or other)
7. Graphics, Sound, Animation and Video - One of the great things about PowerPoint, and the other slide show creation programs, is how easy it is to add graphics of all kinds and sound. Like everything, though, it is important that you don't go overboard. Remember these elements need to:
- assist in presenting an overall theme and enhance the understanding of the concepts, ideas and relationships you want to emphasize
- be clear and vivid. Watch out for graphics that are too big, too small, or not the proper resolution
8. Writing Mechanics - Errors in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, usage and grammar repeatedly distract the viewer. Be sure to:
- and otherwise scrutinize what appears on the screen - more than one great presentation has lost credit for mechanical errors (more than 3 usually spells disaster)
9. The Little Things - Make sure to look over the project directions to remember little things like the need to put the title on every screen or to include slide numbers. Make sure you can read the text on the background color you picked. It is a little thing but some many slide presentations have fizzled because of it. If you have any doubts how your show is going to look on a big screen, be sure to ask to try out a piece of it in advance.
10. Know the Secrets - Want to find out more about how to use a slide creation program like PowerPoint or Keynote? Take time before you start to look at a tutorial on the Microsoft or Apple site. You might find some cool effects you can use - but be careful not to get carried away.