Ideas for bringing your classroom and Moodle content to life

Recently, I was asked to provide an overview of the latest presentation technology to help library staff plan their student inductions. It occurred to me that teaching and support staff might also benefit from my research, so I have shared my findings below.

There are a number of strategies for engaging students in learning content including making it visually appealing through consistent use of style and colour, adding meaningful interactions, encouraging a personalised approach by allowing students to explore what they are interested in, creating realistic scenarios and adding fun gaming elements.

Of course, a well-designed lesson and a strong classroom presence are more important than the format of your learning content. Bells and whistles are not going to distract students from a poorly planned lesson! However, with a wealth of tools available, why not capture your students’ attention in a fun and refreshing way?

The alternatives

deathbypowerpoint

Some of the more adventurous College staff have already dabbled in Prezi, digital video or podcasts to present content to students, but most still rely on PowerPoint. Prezi offers some visually engaging templates, can integrate other media and can be easily embedded  in Moodle labels or pages. You can set up a free account, but be warned: all your prezis will be publicly viewable, searchable and reusable. Also, whilst the zooming options in Prezis might make them appear more interactive than a PowerPoint, they can actually leave your students feeling a little sea-sick!

Office Mix

Office Mix is a free add-in for PowerPoint. You need Microsoft PowerPoint 2013 or later (which we don’t currently have at the College but IT will be upgrading systems soon). With Office Mix you can use your existing slides or create new ones and add in audio and video narration, screenrecordings, quizzes and polls, simulations, videos and live web pages. So, PowerPoint could be about to get interesting again!

Haiku Deck

Haiku Deck is a free web-based or iPad app, which provides access to over a million free fantastic creative common images. This presentation tool is more picture-focused and it is good when you have a simple message you wish to communicate. Haiku Deck keeps formatting clean and consistent and provides a choice of fonts and themes to choose from. There are also templates which are easy to adapt. Presentations can be saved on the web for easy-sharing on any device or they can be exported to PowerPoint or PDF. A number of education case studies have been shared on Pinterest.

Glisser

Glisser is great for creating interactive presentations which can be accessed inside and outside the classroom. You can upload existing PowerPoint presentations, add live polls, student questions, video and twitter feeds. You can create a unique URL for students to access on their smartphones before and after the session, and add their own personal notes. Glisser is free if you have a maximum of 4 presentations and 50 audience members, otherwise, there are a variety of pricing models.

Nearpod

Nearpod is a “classroom tool for teachers to engage students with interactive lessons and assessments that students can access on any device”. You can create new Nearpod presentations or turn your PowerPoints or PDFs into an interactive NearPod presentation. Students can be given a pin to join a session. You can also instantly assess student understanding, download report data and integrate into Moodle. The University of Roehampton use Nearpod for library tutorials. Students use their own devices to take a tour of the library using Nearpod and have to complete activities to learn where to find publications and resources and how to use the library more generally. They can even leave feedback for the librarians at the end. This is an excellent example of mobile learning in the real world! Teachers can sign up for a free account initially and there are different pricing models for schools and colleges  and easy to follow self-paced webinars.

Voki

Voki allows you to create speaking avatars for education which can be embedded in your presentations and Moodle courses. There are limited options for changing avatars in the free version. You can record your own voice or use to text to speech and choose an accent, although some accents are a little dodgy

Animaker (BETA)

Animaker (BETA) allows you to create an unlimited number of free videos up to 2 minutes long. You are allowed 5 exports per month to YouTube or Facebook. You have access to a library of characters, backgrounds, effects, sound effects and transitions. The characters have multiple actions and expressions, and you can upload your own images and logos too. There are tutorials and the tools are easy to use but may be time-consuming to learn properly.

Goanimate

Goanimate allows you to produce high quality videos. It is expensive but there are packages for schools and you can import your own audio, images and video files, access premium tracks and directly export to YouTube.

Moovly

With Moovly, you can also create videos or presentations using library objects and free templates. It is also possible to add your own images, sounds and video clips. Moovly gives you 10 minutes of unlimited free video which you can publish to YouTube or Facebook or download for offline use.

Powtoon

Powtoon allows users to create animated stories for presentations using a library of characters, props and backgrounds. You can export your powtoons to YouTube and then embed in your presentations or Moodle courses.  You can customise ready-made powtoons too, although the music can be as annoying as that found in eGreeting cards. Powtoons are not private though, and if you want to use the free version, you have a maximum of 5 minutes. An example format would be to write a script beginning with a hook or stating a problem then showing the solution or benefits succinctly, adding visuals and recording a voiceover in time to the animated slides.

Wideo

Wideo allows you to make animated video up to 30 seconds long. As with the other tools, there are templates and a library of assets but you can also use your own images and sound. Wideos up to 30 seconds are free, whereas wideos up to 90 seconds cost $9 per month. There are lots of useful tutorials available too.

Next Steps

Look at the content you are currently presenting to students in the classroom and/or on Moodle and ask yourself:

  • What is working well
  • What you could improve
  • What assets you have (photos, digital video, other content)
  • How much time you have
  • How much money you have
  • What skills you need

By taking a little time to explore some of the tools available, you may be surprised how easy they are to learn, how much fun you can have and how well your students respond.

Go on, give it a go!

If you would like further advice or support, please contact the eLearning Team.