Feb 112011

[UPDATE: See this more recent post on Join.Me’s newest features.]

Let’s say that you’re working with a few colleagues on a project. They’re scattered across campus (or the country). It may be easier if everyone is looking at the same screen as you review or edit a document, or take notes on the meeting, or debate the value of some webpage. Join.me is a free and easy way to do that. You connect to Join.me. Then give your colleagues the URL you’re given. When they follow it, they see your desktop. Live. It’s as simple as that.

When I connect to Join.me, here is the toolbar I get. At the very top is a URL. That’s the URL that will connect to my computer, but only as long as I’m connected for that session. If you went to that URL now, you’d get an “invalid code” error on the Join.me website. Every time you start a new session, you get a new code.

For communication, you have a few options.

Phone: You can call each other. You can use your own conference call setup. Or you can use Join.me’s built-in conference call system. Clicking the phone icon (same for those connected to your desktop), you get a phone number to call (long distance charges apply, but that’s between you and your carrier; Skype works just fine). The access code to join the call is the same code assigned to your URL. [If you decide to use your own conference call number, you can change the information in Join.me so that your conference call information is given when participants click the phone icon. Check the Join.me conference call page in their FAQ for more information.]

Chat: There’s a built in chat window. If you have it closed, you’ll get a popup when a new chat entry is made. I wouldn’t want to have an entire meeting using chat, but it’s a helpful addition to a phone call.

The pause button freezes your screen for everyone else while you do stuff you don’t want them to see. Hit it again to go live.

The person icon shows you who all is viewing your desktop. Each person comes in as “Viewer #,” except for you. You’re “Presenter.” Participants and presenter can click the person icon, then click on the top viewer (that’s them) to change their name to something more descriptive, like “Bob.” You can have up to 250 participants. I think that’s more than sufficient. That’s a lot of Bobs.

The mouse icon, when other participants are present, lets you give control of your desktop to a participant in the room. For example, if you’re editing a document, and someone has a clear idea of how to word something, give them control of your desktop and just let them do it.

If someone is ticking you off, kick them out. Click the person icon and click the x next to their name.

Limitations: Any sounds you play on your computer cannot be heard by anyone else. If sounds were essential, you could play it over the phone, I suppose.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of features, but it’s enough to get you started! Happy sharing!

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Oct 092010

I use a student response system in my classroom (iClicker) for low-stakes quizzes and for ungraded questions that give me a sense of what my students are getting and what’s still a little fuzzy. If your institution doesn’t have funds to support this technology, or if you’re not sure you’d use it enough to make it worth the expense, consider trying Poll Everywhere.

Poll Everywhere uses your students’ cell phones as ‘clickers.’ All you need is a live internet connection in your classroom.

Cost: If you choose ‘higher education’ you can collect up to 32 responses per question for free. If you would like more students than that to respond, you’ll need to invest in the $700/year upgrade. The upgrade also comes with some additional functionality, like being to link each student’s response to their name. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to stick to the features of the free version.

When you visit Poll Everywhere, you’ll create a login. After you register, click “Create New Poll.”

For this post, I’ll walk you through creating a multiple choice poll. In the free text poll, students can text whatever they’d like. Depending on your class, this might be a bit risky. In the paid version, you get to see what students are texting and have the option to approve it before it’s displayed.

Type in the question you’d like to ask, and then type in your possible answers. Poll Everywhere defaults to 3 responses. If you want more, click the ‘add an option’ button. If you want one less, just leave one blank.

Here’s a question I created.

Right under the question, it reads “Text a KEYWORD to 22333.” Students pull out their cell phones, and send a text to the number 22333. In the body of the text, they punch in the number that corresponds to the name. In the free version, Poll Everywhere assigns a number to each response. In the paid version, you can decide what the keyword will be. If I were using the paid version, I would choose each person’s last name as the keyword, so instead of 15662, students would text gage.

Students can respond in other ways, say by computer or smartphone. On the right side of the screen, select ‘Ways People Can Respond,’ and check off the relevant boxes.

After sending in my text, the screen updates in less than 5 seconds. At the very bottom of the graph, you can see that 1 person has voted, and all 1 of us agrees that Gage would be the person to have coffee with.

If you’d rather not leave your (PowerPoint, KeyNote or Mac PowerPoint) presentation to ask your question in class, select “Download as Slide.” In the downloaded file, the first few slides offer instructions and tips. The last slide contains your question, although it doesn’t look like it. This is what it looks like.

To paste it into your existing presentation, on the far left side where all of the slides are, right click on the last slide, the one with your question that you can’t see. Select ‘copy.’ Open the presentation that you want to put the slide in. Of the left, right click between the two slides that will bracket your new slide. Click ‘paste.’

You can treat this slide just would any other slide. The box with the big X in the middle is where Poll Everywhere will import information from their website.

When I run my presentation, this is what my slide looks like.

This slide will be updated in real time as students vote.

If you don’t want your students to see how everyone else is voting, mouse over the left side of the question stem. See the 6 little transparent boxes? That’s the ‘instructions’ icon. Click it.

That will hide the results and only show students their voting choices.










To show the results, mouse over the left side of the question again. This time a transparent ‘results’ icon appears. Click it to show the graph.

Mousing over the right side of the question pulls up the settings icon.

Clicking it provides a menu with 3 options at the top. Try out the various settings to change how the slide is displayed. All 3 sections will allow you to stop the poll. You can also choose to ‘clear the results.’ That’s desirable when you have 32 students in your current class with another 32 coming in right after them.

All of your questions are stored in your Poll Everywhere account. Just log in to add new questions or edit your existing question. If you edit a question, any presentation file that already contains that question will automatically be updated.

Standard text messaging rates apply. In other words, if your students don’t have unlimited texting, the text to Poll Everywhere counts against their monthly allotment. Smartphone users and laptop users can go to poll4.com and just enter the 5-digit keyword next to the answer they’d like to choose. No text messaging cost that way. The poll is open. Try it!   See the live poll here.  (Remember that 32 is the maximum number of responses.  When it hits 32, leave a comment, and I’ll reset the question back to zero.)

Create your own sms poll at Poll Everywhere
<script language=”javascript” src=”http://www.polleverywhere.com/polls/LTIwODMyNzgxMTY/chart_widget.js?height=250&results_count_format=percent&width=300″ type=”text/javascript”></script><div style=”font-size: 0.75em”>Create your own <a href=”http://www.polleverywhere.com/”>sms poll</a> at <a href=”http://www.polleverywhere.com/”>Poll Everywhere</a>
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Jun 022010

On one of the teaching listservs I’m subscribed to, participants were having their periodic row over using PowerPoint versus not using PowerPoint. But this time, rather than simply defending themselves, the PowerPoint users went on the attack noting that using the whiteboard was not exactly the idyllic world the non-PowerPoint users were making it out to be. Whiteboard markers, they argued, were often dried up, and colors other than black weren’t bright enough to see. Throwing away all that plastic is bad for the environment. And they stink! Literally.

While I enjoy my pixels, I’m not opposed to writing on a whiteboard. In fact, sometimes it’s exactly what the situation calls for.

I knew that there were low-odor whiteboard markers, but I wondered if anyone had gotten around to making refillable ones. A quick internet search turned up AusPen, an Australian company that makes no-odor, refillable whiteboard markers.

I promptly ordered a set. AusPen will ship anywhere except Canada or the U.S. For those of us who occupy all but the most southern section of North America, we can order from EcosmartWorld.

I chose the “Starter Kit.” Six markers, six refill bottles, and a little orange wrench come in this handy carrying case. If you’d like to forego the kit, you can order markers in packs of 6 or 12. Ink, or course, can also be ordered separately.

(Images courtesy of EcosmartWorld)

The markers are aluminum, so you feel like you’re holding something that’s going to last. The refill process is easy. Unscrew the marker and unscrew the ink bottle cap; if either is a little too tight for you, use the enclosed wrench. Squeeze 10 to 12 drops of ink into the marker. Screw the marker back together and replace the cap on the ink bottle. You’re back in business.

We have a locked cabinet in our classroom, so we just keep the set in there. With the carrying case, there are no worries about individual markers going missing. When you put them back in the case, you can see that a marker has been left out. That means you probably won’t have any uncapped markers lying around. If you do manage to leave a marker uncapped, AusPen assures us that it won’t dry out for another 72 hours.

The markers truly have no odor; they’re xylene-free. EcosmartWorld says the markers are “low, low odor” but my nose can’t pick up anything at all.

You have a nib choice: Bullet or chisel. The nibs are also replaceable so don’t feel like you’re making a permanent decision.

How do the markers work in the classroom?

I was really pleased with the brightness of the colors. With other markers, I found non-black colors tough to see. That’s not the case with these markers. Here’s a photo I took in my classroom. I don’t think the photo quite does these markers justice, but you get the idea. (The AusPen kit is bottom center; it gives you a sense of the size of the box.)

Cost-benefit analysis.

Office Depot sells a box of 12 low-odor Expo markers for $14.99. That’s $1.23/marker.

AusPen says each refill bottle holds ink equivalent to 40 regular whiteboard markers. With the starter kit, you get 6 filled markers plus 240 refills (6 bottles, 40 refills each), for a total of 246 markers. The kit is $69.95, so that’s $.29/marker – including the carrying case. Ink refills, when purchased separately, are $7.95, making each marker refill $.20.

Any way you do the math, refillable markers are less expensive.

Try them out.

I haven’t found an administrator yet who wasn’t interested in saving money. If you try them out, I’d love to hear what you thought of them!

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Apr 282010

Prezi is (free for educational use) web-based presentation software that allows you to create a map of your presentation instead of using slides.

You can make your presentations public or private; you can download them for offline use if you’d like.  Prezis can be embedded in a webpage.  Give the link to your laptop wielding students, and they can step through your presentation with you during class.  I haven’t tried it, but you should be able to embed Prezis on a page inside your course management system (e.g., Angel, Blackboard).   If you don’t want your students to have everything you’re showing in class, create a Prezi for class, copy it, then delete content for a student version.  This is more flexible than uploading a file, say PowerPoint.  When you change the file at Prezi.com, anywhere you have it linked, your viewers will get the new file.

If you’d like to see it in action, here’s a bare-bones presentation I created for a technology workshop I did recently: http://prezi.com/abyc0ezmdrfd/. (Link will open in new window.)

Navigating the sample presentation

Moving your mouse to the right will call up the zooming tools. The arrows at the bottom will step you through the presentation as I created it. But you can click on any of the gray areas to zoom to them; click on any of the words under those main headings to zoom to them. Some of those have active hyperlinks. If you skip to an area, the arrow keys will pick up the ‘path’ from there. Click the circle at the bottom to zoom all the way out. Click it again to zoom to where you came from. Click and hold anywhere on the screen to drag the image. In Prezi, you can make the font very tiny. If you look hard, you can find a very tiny gray box in the top right corner of the presentation. Clicking on it will zoom you to it.

This may make it an interesting supplement to lectures. I can see dropping my lecture outlines into this for posting on my website or, better yet, having my students map a chapter, and then post the best maps. Prezi makes it easy for groups to work on a single presentation.

You can now print Prezis, a feature that was added in early 2010. It prints one pdf page per ‘step’ on the path. I think this solution works fine as long as you have a pdf editor for deleting the pages you don’t need. (For the sample presentation, it gave me 17 pages. Really, just page 1 was all I needed.)

Editing overview

This is the editing ‘toolbar’. What is in the center is what the program is ready to do now. Clicking the “path” circle will take you into the path commands.

With “Write” selected, double-clicking anywhere on the screen will give you a textbox:

When you’re done typing, click anywhere on the screen, and your words will appear. Double-clicking on the words will give you the text editing box. A single click on the words, gives you this:

To move your text, click and drag the center of the circle. To make the font bigger or smaller, click and drag the concentric circles. For more options, click the plus sign:

If this looks like something you’d like to try, visit the “Prezi Academy” and work through their tutorials.

If you’re using or have used Prezi, what do you think of it?  Share your comments below!

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Nov 262009

One of the most common complaints I hear about PowerPoint is that it is linear; when you run your PowerPoint, you’re locked into running it in the order in which you created it. This is simply not true. “Presenter view” must be the most underused of the most useful PowerPoint features. All you need is a computer that can give you an ‘extended desktop,’ which is almost all laptops and most desktop computers made in the last few years.

This is what is displayed through the projector.

But this is what I see on my computer monitor:

PowerPoint treats the projector as an ‘extended desktop.’ In essence, the presentation is presented on the projector’s ‘monitor’ while the presenter view is presented on your computer’s monitor.

Getting an ‘extended desktop.’

Check your computer’s documentation. For most Window’s computers, in Control Panel, open Display, and go to the Settings tab. Look for something that reads “extend the desktop.” (Mac and Linux can also extended desktop, but you’re really on your own in learning how to do it. Sorry!)

I have the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator Driver, so this is how I got the extended desktop.

I right clicked on my laptop’s desktop.  I selected “Graphics Properties” and checked “Extended Desktop”.  I made the primary device my notebook and the secondary device the monitor.

(Notice the blue boxes labeled 1 and 2? This puts the notebook screen on the left and the projector screen on the right. You can grab and move those boxes if you want the notebook screen on the other side. I explain why shortly.)

I clicked “Scheme Options” and then gave it a name, like Presentation Mode, and saved it.  When I plug into my classroom’s laptop cable, I right click on the desktop, “Select Scheme,” and choose Presentation Mode. In the classroom, I know it’s working when the classroom monitor displays my desktop’s background image with nothing else on it.

In PowerPoint.

In PowerPoint, when you save your PowerPoint file, on the Slide Show tab, check “Use Presenter View” and make sure “Show Presentation On:” is set to Monitor 2.

That’s it.

The show will run as it normally does through the projector, but now you have some very nifty functionality on your computer screen. If you added notes to your slides when you built your slide presentation, you can see your notes on the right side of the screen. With the filmstrip of all your slides at the bottom of the screen, if you want to jump ahead or go back, just click on the slide you want.

If you want to write on the slides with the ‘pen’, when you build your slide presentation, make sure you turn off “advance slide on mouse click” (under the Animations tab).  If you are changing an existing presentation, click on one slide, then CTRL-A to select them all, and then turn off “advance slide on mouse click.”  If you don’t turn it off, every click on the slide with the pen will advance it.  “Advance slide on mouse click” isn’t really necessary anyway with this setup since you have the arrow controls in front of you. I use a presentation remote, and that advances the slides just fine, as well.

If you want to show something else on the classroom screen, like a webpage or video, just drag the window off your computer ‘over’ to the classroom screen.  After all, it’s just an extended desktop.  If your computer monitor is on the left (see the note above about the numbered blue boxes), then drag the program window off the screen to the right to see it appear on the projector’s ‘desktop.’ The first few times you use this setup, you may lose your mouse pointer. If you can’t see the pointer on your computer monitor, it’s probably over on the projector’s ‘desktop.’ If you’ve said that your computer monitor is on the left, then move your mouse to the left to get it back on your computer screen.

This will change your relationship with Powerpoint – for the better.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

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May 072009

UPDATED 6/24/2012 
Have a tablet?  You can go this route instead. 

There you are in class and you write on your whiteboard (or chalkboard, I hear those still exist) the most perfect explanation of whatever it is you explain. Wouldn’t you love to be able to save that to share with future students? Or perhaps you’re part way through the material you want to cover when class ends. Don’t you wish you could save what you’ve written so you could start there next class? Do you find that the linearity of PowerPoint is starting to wear you down? Wouldn’t you love to just point at a spot on the screen and zip to the slide you want? Or wouldn’t it be nice to access the internet without moving from the front of the room? Don’t you wish you had a few thousand dollars laying around for a smartboard?

This is me writing on the screen using an infrared pen. The displayed program is Classroom Presenter.

What if I told you that you can have all of the functionality above for about $40 (assuming you already have a projector and a computer)?Wii remote: $30Trip to Radio Shack: $7.50*

Dried up dry erase marker: free

Simulated smartboard: priceless

If your computer is not Bluetooth enabled, you’ll need a USB Bluetooth dongle (that’s what they’re called, I swear!): $3

If you already have a Wii remote, then that’s free. The price of this project just dropped to practically nothing!

*This cost does not include the $8 soldering kit, the $7 for the spools of wire, and because some parts are sold in pairs, you’ll probably want to make two pens.

Before we play MacGyver, I’m going to send you to watch Johnny Lee show you how this works in a 5-minute TED talk video. If you like what you see, come back, and I’ll get you set up with everything you need.

[Seriously, go watch the video.]

We’re going to use a Wii remote to act as the conduit between your classroom’s screen and your computer. We’re going to use an infrared pen to tell the Wii remote what to tell the computer. In short, we’re going to do what Lee did. If you combine this Wii remote setup with Classroom Presenter (see my 4/14/2009 blog post), you will have a powerful interactive whiteboard.

What you need.

1. Wii remote. That’s easy. You can use the one that came with your Wii – you’re not going to do anything to it other than tote it to class. It will still work just the same way with your Wii system. You don’t have a Wii system? You can buy a Wii remote wherever game systems are sold.

2. Infrared pen. This is a little harder. You can order them online from $8 to $30. IRPensOnline and Penteractive are two such sites [Update: Some sellers have pressure-activated pens if you’d rather not use a thumb switch]. (Disclaimer: I haven’t used either retailer. Sites are provided only for informational purposes.) Or you can make your own (thus the trip to Radio Shack). I used the instructions from Ken Moore of Ken Moore Design. He includes a how-to video, written instructions, and a (printable) Radio Shack shopping list complete with part numbers. I opted to use a dried up EXPO dry-erase marker because we seem to have those in abundance. You know where to find them. In your classroom, it’s usually the first one you pick up. Because some of the parts you need are sold in pairs it makes sense to make two pens. You should always have a back-up anyway.

Tips for making the pen.

a. Ken’s shopping list doesn’t include wire. I used 22-gauge – definitely something on the smaller side is better. Wires have to be stuffed into the marker with the battery holder so the smaller they are, the easier everything fits.

b. When he says that force is needed to get the LED holder into the tip of the marker, he is not joking. I used a drill to bore the tip to make it a little wider, particularly around the opening. I think this made it easier for the threads of the LED holder to bite. Once they did, screwing it in wasn’t hard. Lots of force to get it started. Seriously.

c. For my pen, small, needle-nose pliers will be needed to change the battery. I’ll worry about that when the time comes.

d. One person recommended a daub of super glue to hold the LED in place in the holder – not a bad idea.

e. Since the LED is infrared, by definition, you can’t see it when it’s lit. Please remember this after you followed the instructions to the letter, push the switch, and nothing seems to happen. Dig out your digital camera or flip on your cell phone’s camera, press the pen’s switch, and look at it with your camera. If your pen is working, you’ll see the light through your camera’s viewfinder.

Here’s my pen. Notice the bulge in the plastic at the tip? That gives you a sense of the amount of force needed to get the LED holder in. (Kudos to EXPO for using high quality plastic in their products!)

3. Smoothboard software. This is what allows your Wii remote to talk to your computer. It’s not the only software out there, but it has a lot of functionality so it’s the one I recommend. It’s free for educational use, but when you run it, you’ll have to wait 10-15 seconds before the “continue unregistered version” option becomes available. If you like the software, send them $30 to register it.In this blog post, I’m going to just talk about the basic setup, but know that with Smoothboard, you can use a second Wii remote placed in a different spot for redundancy (if you’re standing in front of one, the other one can still ‘see’ the screen; this may also reduce the choppiness that sometimes happens, but I haven’t tried it) or you can use a second one as a ‘presenter’ tool. The latter seems like too much work to me, but you can read the Smoothboard manual and decide for yourself.

[Mac users: Here’s Mac-compatible software.]

4. Classroom Presenter. Okay, this isn’t necessary, but it makes a great smartboard! This free (PC) software (courtesy of the Center for Collaborative Technologies at the University of Washington) was designed for use with TabletPCs. But, when projected on the classroom screen, it gives you terrific smartboard functionality. Of course anything that’s on your computer screen will show up on your classroom screen, but imagine having this:

Load your PowerPoint into Classroom Presenter. Take your infrared pen and, in the toolbar, ‘tap’ the pencil, and write on the slide. Change colors. Switch to the highlighter. Erase individual marks or the entire screen. Quickly ‘tap’ any of the slides on the right to show a new slide. Open a blank screen. When you’re done, save your file, and open it again next class. Or you can save it as html and upload it to your website, course management system, or email to your students. If your computer is WiFi-enabled or is connected to a WiFi network, students with (PC) laptops who are running Classroom Presenter can see your slides on their computer, get your annotations in real time, make their own annotations, and save the file at the end of class. And they can send slides to you in real time, and you can display them for the class. But I digress. For more on this program, again, see my 4/14/2009 blog post.

The classroom setup.

1. Connect your Wii remote to your computer via Bluetooth. Open your computer’s Bluetooth manager, and tell it you’d like to connect a new device. Put your Wii remote in ‘discoverable’ mode. To do this, press and hold the 1 and 2 buttons at the same time. As long as the lights are blinking, it’s ready to be discovered. It will appear in your list as Nintendo RVL-CNT-01. Any time you want to connect your Wii remote, press and hold those 1 and 2 buttons again and then double-click your new Nintendo option in your Bluetooth manager. Presto. It’s connected.

2. Turn on your classroom projector. Once your computer’s screen is displayed, you’re ready to go.

3. Place your Wii remote. This will require a little trial and error to find the best location.

a. To the right or left? Consider how you usually write on the board. You don’t want your back between the pen and the Wii remote. (Better yet, use two remotes, one on each side. Or you can have one remote in closer; that should give greater precision to your writing in the area covered by that closer remote.)

b. How far away? One suggestion, based on a little research, is to take the height of your screen and double it. That’s the distance away from the screen you should place your Wii remote. For example, if your screen is 4 feet high, then your Wii remote should be placed 8 feet away. In my classroom, that worked great. (When I was farther away, the infrared light was too hard for the Wii remote to pick up, and my nice curved line started jumping around all over the place.)

c. How high? The first few times I did this, I found that I tended to point the remote too low. Aim for the middle of the screen. On a desk, I flipped a table-top podium on its side, set 2 textbooks on top of that and then propped a whiteboard eraser under the front of the remote to angle it up a bit. That worked perfectly. Of course a tripod works, too. (Penteractive sells a replacement battery cover for the Wii remote that has a tripod mount built into it.)

4. Run the Smoothboard software. The first thing you need to do is calibrate it. Just press the A button on the Wii remote. Here is the calibration screen:

Notice the circle with the crosshairs in the top left corner? Walk up to your classroom’s screen, put the tip of your infrared pen in the center of the circle, and press the switch. If it’s in your Wii remote’s line of sight, the circle will disappear and then reappear in the top right corner. Repeat this process for all 4 corners. If the circle doesn’t disappear, make sure you’re not standing between the pen and the remote. If you’re not in the way, then that spot is not covered by the Wii remote, and you’ll need to adjust the remote.

This is the Smoothboard interface that shows the battery level on your Wii remote. You can also choose whether you want to use the remote as a whiteboard (which is what we’re using it for) or as a presentation device. I haven’t tried this latter use, so I’ll leave that for someone else to write about.

The “Cursor Control Toolbar” puts a little floating toolbar on your screen. Clicking those buttons allows you to do things like mimic a mouse right-click. Very handy.

The gray box at the bottom shows the area covered by the Wii remote. The white space shows the area you’re using. The more white space within the gray box, the better. This is telling me that I won’t be able to access the very bottom left of the screen because it’s outside the gray box.

5. Run Classroom Presenter, or whatever other software you’d like. Your infrared pen, when the switch is pressed, now acts like a mouse controlling your cursor. Open programs. Open websites. Write on the screen. Anything you can do with a mouse, you can now do with your infrared pen.

Word of caution.


Writing takes some getting used to. To print words, press the button on the pen, draw your line, stop pressing the button. Repeat for each line. If you write in cursive, you’ll likely have an easier time since each word is one big line. Precision isn’t this tool’s strong point. Think of it as writing with a crayon.

In conclusion…


If you have the money, by all means go with a smartboard or a TabletPC. If you’re looking for some impressive functionality for a cost that is almost covered by the change in your couch, it’s worth trying out.

If you decide to give this a whirl, let me know how it goes!

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Apr 142009

Classroom Presenter is the coolest thing that’s happened to my teaching since I got a computer in my classroom.

If all it did was allow me to present slides in a way that’s a whole lot easier than PowerPoint, it’d be worth it.

This is what is displayed to the students in class through the projector.

Classroom Presenter: Public View

Classroom Presenter: Public View

And this is what I see on my TabletPC.

Classroom Presenter: Instructor View

Classroom Presenter: Instructor View

Classroom Presenter runs PPT slides, so I don’t have to do a lot to transition to this program.  (I do have to do a few things; see below.)

To navigate I just tap on the slide I want.  As my colleague Rich pointed out to me, the slides on the right are large enough that you can tap them with your finger; this, of course, is only an important feature if you have TabletPC.

With the pen or highlighter, you can draw on the image.  You can open a ‘whiteboard’ that gives you blank slides.

So, not only is it much easier to navigate and write on than PPT, but I’m completely mobile.  I’m unplugged.  I’m doing this through my classroom’s WiFi, so I can wander around the room, teaching from wherever I’d like.  I could even hand a student the laptop and ask them to write on it.

As if that weren’t cool enough, any student with a laptop can access my slides, live, also through WiFi.  They not only see my slides on their screens, but they see my annotations to them in real time.  They can add their own if they like for their own use.  But… they can also send a particular slide to me.  So, let’s say I had 7 students with laptops.  I could put my students in groups of 4 or 5 (one laptop per group) to work on something, such as generating examples of positive and negative reinforcement and punishment (or a math problem, or a physics problem, or editing some text, or…).  The group could generate examples, the laptop owner could type them in (or mouse draw).  Once they had completed the assignment, they could send me what they did, in real time.  I could look at the slides from each of the groups, and then tap on them to show them to the class.

There is also a polling feature where those with laptops could click in with their answer, and the poll results are displayed in graph form as they come in. You can either choose to show that graph as the results come in or wait until everyone has voted.  Again, a perfectly fine feature using small groups.

The annotated slides can then be saved as HTML if you’d like to post them to your website, course management system, or email them out.  Students with laptops can also save the slides, complete with their own annotations.

And that’s not all!  =)

You can designate objects on the slide as “instructor only.”  With a PPT add-in, within PPT, you can select an object, say a textbox, and with the click of a button designate that box as something that only you can see on your tablet when you present the slide in class.

Classroom Presenter: PPT Add-in

Classroom Presenter: PPT Add-in

Classroom Presenter: Public View

Classroom Presenter: Public View

Classroom Presenter: Instructor View

Classroom Presenter: Instructor View

At the bottom, the yellow-highlighted text is a textbox with a yellow fill.  I designated that textbox as an ‘instructor note,’ so it only shows for me; notice its absence in the “public view” image above.

There are a couple downsides, but ones I’m willing to live with given the freedom I have and the tablet-friendly presentation.  Classroom Presenter can’t handle animations.  For instance, the blue boxes you see in the graphics above, in PPT, are animations.  When I click them, they disappear, revealing the label underneath.  I thought that would be a hard feature to live without, then it occurred to me (V-8 moment!), I don’t need to move the boxes.  I can just write the label on the box!

A little harder to live without are hyperlinks to websites and video links… and clickers.  I can run the clickers on the desktop carrying the files I need on a flashdrive.  As my colleague (Rich, again), helpfully suggested, I’ve created an HTML file on my flashdrive that holds my hyperlinks, videos, etc., so I can just open that file on the desktop, and move over there when I need to show those.

Did I mention that Classroom Presenter is free?

Check out this 5-minute video on using this program in class courtesy of the University of Washington.

[A heartfelt thank you to my colleague Rich Bankhead for getting me set up with this!]

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