What does it all Meme? The whys and wherefores of a modern communication phenomenon.


See more on Know Your Meme

By Kay Oddone.

An internet meme is that thing that everyone is talking about. The blue/gold dress. Charlie bit my finger. LOLCats. Some of the most well known internet memes are the image with a pithy quote overlaid. They can be in turns hilariously funny, insightful or just crude, however they are a contemporary form of communication which many young people seem to instinctively ‘get’ and which leave many adults feeling like they are missing the joke.

The term meme was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, in his book The Selfish Gene, as a way of using evolutionary principles to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena such as melodies, catchphrases or fashion. These small units of culture were spread through imitation and innovation upon an original idea – a spread that is similar to a virus, as they go through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme’s reproductive success.

The meme above, known as ‘One does not simply’ is a good example. Drawn from a quote from The Lord of the Rings, where the character Boromir makes the quote “One does not simply walk into Mordor”.


The meme spread across sites such as Reddit, Tumblr and Imgur, with variations firstly on the word walk –

See more on Know Your Meme

 

See more on Know Your Meme

 

and became so well known it was included as an Easter Egg on Google Maps:
Google_Maps_'Mordor'_easter_egg

Now, the phrase “one does not simply” is well known enough that memes such as the one shared at the beginning of this post can be applied to a wide range of scenarios, with an underlying understanding of the context – that whatever is being suggested is no simple matter.

It is this rich intertextuality that makes memes both worthwhile, yet challenging. One must know the context of the initial post before the meme truly makes sense, but if the shared understanding is strong enough, the meme becomes a powerful and viral mode of communication.

Internet memes, and their viral spread, are an example of participatory culture, as the reproduction, imitation and re-interpretation of these nuggets of society are practices which have become a huge part of contemporary digital culture. In fact, Limor Shifman, in her text Memes in Digital Culture goes so far as to say that we live in an era driven by a hypermemetic logic, where almost every major public event sprouts a stream of memes. He argues that although at first glance they appear to be trivial pieces of pop culture, upon deeper reflection one sees that they play an integral part in some of the defining events of the 21st century.

Limor Shifman also takes the time to define internet memes differently to the original concept of a single cultural unit as described by Dawkins. Her definition describes an internet memes  as

(a) a group of digital items sharing common characteristics of content, form, and/or stance; (b) that were created with awareness of each other; and (c) were circulated, imitated, and transformed via the internet by multiple users. – http://henryjenkins.org/2014/02/a-meme-is-a-terrible-thing-to-waste-an-interview-with-limor-shifman-part-one.html#sthash.NfZt8OrC.dpuf

So why do educators need to be aware of memes and their role in communicating culture? They don’t. Educators don’t NEED to be aware of memes, anymore than they must play Minecraft or read Twilight. However, there are several compelling reasons to consider taking the time to think about memes and how they might play a role in teaching – particularly of older students.

Reason One: Engagement

It is true – memes are fun. They can be playful, humorous and, well, there is a reason they spread so quickly. Select use of memes can hook students in, and challenging students to create a meme actually demands higher order thinking at a level students often are not required to meet. The need to not only respond to a context, but respond creatively and concisely is difficult, and the most successful internet memes are often actually very clever. This is not to say all memes are clever; like everything online, there are many in poor taste, and with little depth. However an example of inferential comprehension required to understand a meme is evident with the popular ‘Soon’ meme:


See more on Know Your Meme

What appears to be an innocent cow in a field is rendered threatening by the simple addition of the word ‘Soon’…why is this so?

Reason Two: Information Literacy

Dr Alec Couros argues that the digital participatory culture within which students communicate, socialise and learn provides essential opportunities for information literacy, and suggests that memes are a powerful way of discussing many different aspects of this literacy. He begins by suggesting that students examine memes with a view to understanding how information travels and is distributed online. The viral nature of memes means that whether by merit, messenger or manipulation, a chunk of information/culture/art may be spread via networks at an astonishingly fast pace. Students who understand this are not only more likely to be aware of their responsibilities when sharing online, but are also more prepared for a world where marketing is pervasive.

Reason Three: Critical understanding of current world events

The Australian controversy with our previous Federal Parliamentary speaker is a very recent example of current events becoming a viral meme (helicopters anyone?).


See more on Know Your Meme

One which we can examine with the benefit of hindsight is below:


See more on Know Your Meme

In a hypermemetic world, it is completely possible that current events filter into our Facebook feed as a meme before we even realise the deeper story behind them. A case in point is the Pepper Spray Cop (also known as “Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop”) –
See more on Know Your Meme

which went viral after the image of a police officer casually pepper spraying a group of Occupy protesters at the University of California  was captured in 2011.
See more on Know Your Meme

The image was photoshopped into a variety of contexts, which enflamed what was already a very tense political situation, and when the police officer’s contact details were made public online, he was the target of a huge text and email campaign critiquing his actions. This meme influenced news reports, customer reviews of pepper spray available for sale on Amazon and spawned songs and videos. The repercussions of this single (questionable) action resulted in the resignation of the police chief and the loss of the police officers job, as well as compensation claims and legal suits. The full detail of this meme can be read on Know Your Meme, however it is clear that a much larger and more serious story lies behind what many probably thought was a humorous internet joke.

Internet memes are an interpretation of the fad joke that has always been there, however with the power of the crowd and the potential to manipulate and remix in the hands of so many, they have become a much larger part of internet and general culture. It is important to be aware of the complexity behind many of these simple jokes (and be able to enjoy the ones that are indeed just simple jokes).

Have you taught using Memes? Please share your experiences and resources in the comments!

 

References:

Couros, A. (n.d.). open thinking [Blog]. Retrieved 11 August 2015, from http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/
Gladwell, M. (2002). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston: Back Bay Books.
Internet Meme Database | Know Your Meme. (n.d.). Retrieved 11 August 2015, from http://knowyourmeme.com/
Shifman, L. (2013). Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.

 

AustLit – Australian Literature like you’ve never accessed it before!

By Kay Oddone
austlit logo

Every Australian teacher, and any teachers of literature across the world who teach Australian Literature should make themselves aware of AustLit, an amazing resource created by a dedicated team of researchers and indexers based at the University of Queensland, funded by the Australian Government and a range of University and research partners.

AustLit’s mission is ‘to be the definitive information resource and research environment for Australian literary, print, and narrative cultures’ – and indeed it is.

AustLit is available to patrons of subscribing libraries, educational institutions, other organisations, and individuals. Currently, all registered users of subscribing libraries or institutions have full access to AustLit, which includes registered users of almost all Australian universities, the National Library of Australia, Australian State & Territory Libraries, a number of local council libraries around the country and…ALL STAFF AND STUDENTS OF BRISBANE CATHOLIC EDUCATION!!

The decision to subscribe on a system wide level has enabled all BCE students and staff to make full use of this fantastic resource – and this blog post aims to give some insight in to just some of the fantastic resources available to support quality learning and teaching.

Tip One: Use Search Effectively

austlit searchAustLit is a database, and as such it has a powerful search ability to access the 152 000 writers and organisations who have created the over 840 000 accessible works. This includes full text novels, poems, films and TV, children’s and young adult literature, biographies, criticisms and reviews.

Understandably, a simple search may not pinpoint the exact work you are looking for, so making use of the Advanced Search capability is a time-saving feature for busy teachers and students. AustLit provides extensive information on how to search effectively, as well as an overview of how to use the built in Boolean Operators and the handy Subject Heading thesaurus.

The Advanced Search allows for very fine-grained searching; a search for female authors of the crime genre, who were born in Brisbane revealed that there are eight that fit the bill:

adv search

brisbane authorsTip Two: Make Use of the Curated Exhibitions/Trails

Austlit staff don’t just add records to the database; they also curate rich resources known as Exhibitions or Trails around their research projects. These curated collections of AustLit records and other relevant material  provide insights into specific fields or areas of study – just some of them are pictured below:

Click on the image to access these and other research trails.

Click on the image to access these and other research trails.

Tip three: DO check out Black Words

Click on the image to read more about BlackWords

Click on the image to read more about BlackWords

BlackWords records information about the lives and works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers and the literary cultures and traditions that formed and influenced them. BlackWords is the most comprehensive record of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander publications available. It includes texts both by and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and literary and storytelling cultures.

This resource is magnificent, both for Australians wishing to learn more about Australia’s heritage and our first people, and for those internationally who would like to learn more about the oldest culture on earth. This article, by Dr Jeanine Leane (PDF) outlines what resources are available through BlackWords, and how teachers might use these resources to meaningfully embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into the curriculum. Please note that the link to the map of pre-colonial Australia referred to in the article has changed; the map can now be accessed here.

Tip Four: Don’t forget Reading Australia

Reading Australia was created separately, by the Copyright Agency of Australia. It is a list of over 200 Australian titles, many of which are accompanied by practical teaching resources that align to the Australian Curriculum. In addition to these resources, AustLit has created a series of curated information trails that provide context and supporting information relating to the Reading Australia texts.

Click on the image to go directly to Reading Australia.

Click on the image to go directly to Reading Australia.

 Tip Five: BCE Students and Staff – access AustLit TODAY!

As mentioned in the introduction, AustLit is available through many channels, but for Brisbane Catholic Education students and staff, the database is being delivered system wide, with the username and password available via the ResourceLink Portal.

Go to the ResourceLink Portal AustLit page, where you will find further resources, as well as useful links and our conditions of use. BCE staff can share access information with BCE students. Simply sign into KWeb and go to the ResourceLink Portal, click on School Access and then Austlit, or go directly using this link, signing in when prompted.

AustLit has an active social media presence, as recognised by this recently crowdsourced list of Australian historic fiction; follow them on Twitter @AustLit or stay up to date via their blog at http://www.austlit.edu.au/news/.

Have you used AustLit in your learning or teaching? Share in the comments what you did, and how it went – we’d love to hear from you!

 

Ebooks revisioned with the launch of “The Boat”

The Boat is a book of short stories, authored by Nam Le, which has been extensively used in education to stimulate discussions and elicit challenges about the way Senior students (aged 15 and up) might think about concepts such as war, refugees, resilience, family, intercultural perspectives and more. Extensive teaching guides are available via AustLit & Reading Australia. As a text, it is powerful, and critics admire how Le writes with authenticity across a variety of worldviews and experiences.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, SBS has launched an interactive graphic novel, specifically for online audiences, which brings the title story, ‘The Boat’ to a whole new audience, in a whole new way. The work, in Le’s own words,

” is strange and powerful. More importantly, it opens up new ground.”

Using a combination of illustration and movie-making techniques, the online story draws the reader in, as they scroll down at their own pace, immersed in a soundscape that engages the senses and following text that flows across the screen like the ocean the boat is traversing. Experience it here.

As a librarian, this is what I imagine ebooks truly should be. To use Puentedura‘s terms – this is not just a substitution – backlit text on an electronic page – but something that reimagines and redefines storytelling and the experience of story, taking advantage of flexibility in form and function, and drawing together word, image, animation and sound.


flickr photo shared by laura pasquini under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

While movie sound designer, Sam Petty, reflects on the challenges he experienced while creating in this new media form:

“I’ve had to break up what I do into very specific moments that relate to a particular drawing, extend the mood for as long as someone lingers and provide atmospheres that blend into one another. It’s been fascinating… and quite a technical challenge.”

it is clear to see that this style of publishing requires a whole new literacy to be taught to students. No longer just dealing with alphabetic fonts on a static page, readers must move with the text in a non-linear way – sometimes fading into dreams which feature a collage of line drawing and historical photo, then returning to the main storyline, simultaneously combining their understanding of the interplay of many different forms of expression.

Screengrab from 'The Boat' - click image to access the site.

Screengrab from ‘The Boat’ – click image to access the site.

Will there be more re-imaginings of the ebook, and even more interactive and engaging stories being shared via changing technologies? I hope so. I also hope that educators continue to deepen their definition of literacy, so that students are able to not just consume, but begin to create innovations such as this.

shape-of-text-cover-250-320

 

The shape of texts to come by Jon Callow as well as the work of Anstey and Bull are great places for teachers to begin exploring multiliteracies and the development of visual literacy. Another avenue to explore is that of graphic novels – the format which shapes The Boat – as complex, stand-alone plotlines are developed using text and sequential art. You can read more about the potential of graphic novels in the classroom in this recent ResourceLink blog post, Getting Graphic.

So please, take the time to explore ‘The Boat’ – both interactive and traditional versions. Introduce it to your students (even younger students can access the story as retold on the site); and consider how literacy has changed, is changing, and the impact this has on your practice. Share your thoughts below!

 

 

How to Haiku!

Presentations that work

I was recently asked to run a workshop on how to develop effective presentations. I had run this workshop last year, but of course, last year’s work needed updating, as so much changes so quickly that workshops from even last week seem out of date! Some things remain the same:

Of course, a lot of things have also changed; and one of the most important updates I made to my workshop was to introduce participants to Haiku Deck.

What is Haiku Deck?

Originally an iPad app, and now available on the web, with future plans for access on other platforms, Haiku Deck is a gorgeously simple slideshow creator, that enables the user to create presentations that easily meet all of the tips for presentations mentioned above.

The creators behind the app focus on three words: simple, beautiful and fun.

Click this image to view a simple Haiku Deck example.
Click this image to view a simple Haiku Deck example.

A ‘deck’ or presentation can be created in four easy steps, and the finished result can be shared on social media such as Twitter or Facebook, embedded on a blog, website or in a learning management system, emailed or opened in PowerPoint or Keynote for further editing (if necessary).

How to Haiku

The steps to create a deck are incredibly easy. The process described below is for the iPad app – but it is very similar using the web-based app, and extremely intuitive.

First, click the plus sign in the centre of the bottom of the screen to create a new deck.

Then, give your deck a name, and choose a theme. Don’t worry – if the theme doesn’t suit, you can always change it again at any time during the creation process.

The different themes run across the top of the iPad screen. Simply scroll through to choose your favourite.

2014-06-30_1109The deck creation process is determined by the four images you will see on the left hand side of the screen. These allow you to (from top to bottom) add text, add images, arrange your text and add notes.

Adding text is very simple, and the beauty of Haiku Deck is that it encourages you to keep the text to a minimum. Yes, they have made additions, to enable users to input dot points, or blocks of text, however the deck is most powerful when text is used sparingly.

One exception to this is using the block of text option  for quotes, which can be quite powerful when combined with the right image – see this example below:

quote eg

Choose from selected keywords, search with your own keywords or upload your own image!

Choose from selected keywords, search with your own keywords or upload your own image!

Choosing images is the fun part. Haiku deck cleverly identifies key words in the text on the slide, and automatically allows you to search a database of thousands of images using these words. You can also choose to search using your own key word, or upload your own image. The thing that really stands Haiku Deck apart from other presentation software is that if you choose a Creative Commons Licenced image (read more about this type of image here) it automatically includes the attribution on the slide – saving an enormous amount of time.

You can also choose from a range of pre-formatted charts, or choose a solid background colour (handy for those quote slides or for when you do need to include a lot of text). In addition, in the iPad app, you can purchase stock photography right from inside the app, with images costing $1.99 US.

Even if you are not wanting to create the entire slideshow in Haiku Deck this automatic attribution is powerful. Why not  create a deck of awesome pictures, complete with attribution in Haiku Deck, and then export the slides to PowerPoint or Keynote (say if you wanted to also embed movies, music or other features not currently a part of the Haiku Deck suite).

Choose to add a headline and subheading, or add dot points or a block of text.

Choose to add a headline and subheading, or add dot points or a block of text.

The third stage is to place the text. Here you have a number of options, which are useful for working around the image in order to best combine image and text. Although the options are somewhat limited (you can’t freely place text anywhere you wish on the slide, you must choose one of the set positions), this restriction actually frees the creator, as it enables the focus to be on simply word and image, and speeds the creation process.

The fourth step is optional, and is the addition of notes. You can make these notes either private, or you can publish them along with your slides, for sharing with others. This is a much valued addition to Haiku Deck, as it really enables the tool to be used for much longer or more complex presentations, and is a godsend for those of us who get nervous when speaking, and like to have a visual prompt!

When to Haiku

Haiku Deck has been designed to be used for any type of presentation, however it’s ease of use and the simplicity of the slide design lend itself particularly well to the following uses:

2014-07-01_12431. Prayer/Reflection/Meditation: when you want beautiful images and few words, nothing beats a Haiku Slide deck. Being based in Brisbane Catholic Education, many of our meetings and gatherings begin with a simple prayer or reflection; and often these are required at short notice. Even the most familiar prayer can be given new life when it is paired with amazing imagery.

2014-07-01_12422. Conference reviews: when you attend a conference, you hear many nuggets of wisdom. What better way to capture and share these, than by using Haiku Deck. When you return from the conference, and have an amazing looking presentation to share with colleagues, no one will know just how quick and easy it was to create!

There are so many other creative ways to use Haiku Deck; young students could easily create a deck for a show and tell item, use as a simple way of sharing visual instructions, create awesome looking flashcards to learn a foreign language, and then share the great holiday snaps upon return from said foreign location; the list is endless!

You can find many more exciting and wonderful applications for Haiku Deck on the Haiku Pinterest Page. Better still, share ways you have found to use this beautiful piece of technology in your classroom, library or beyond!

 

 

 

 

 

Creating Quality Presentations Part Two: Nuts and Bolts

 

nuts and bolts

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Pot Noodle: http://flickr.com/photos/maggiew/6121970836/

Now the previous post has given you  an overview of the basics for creating a great presentation, the following information will focus on ‘how to’ actually produce it.

Choose your Tool

Your first decision when creating a presentation is deciding which tool best suits the purpose. The main players for presentations are PowerPoint (Windows), Keynote (Mac) and Prezi (Online).

PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi

There are also mobile apps that create presentations, which are useful if you are on the move.

PowerPoint is the best known application in this area. Superb presentations can be created using PowerPoint – Nancy Duarte has created an amazing example of just how far PowerPoint can be pushed, which can be viewed here. PowerPoint is easy to use, although it can sometimes be a little unreliable when embedding video, (more on this later) and many of its pre-designed themes and templates are less than appealing.

Keynote is only available to those operating on the Mac platform. It performs the same role as PowerPoint, however some argue its design is sleeker and it is known to be able to handle video and music files more capably than PowerPoint.

What is Prezi

Click the image to go to a Prezi presentation explaining Prezi in further detail.

Prezi is a relative newcomer, but it is growing in popularity. Prezi is online, and stores your presentations ‘in the cloud’, although for a modest subscription you can download a desktop editor, which allows you to work in an offline mode.

Prezi is not based on linear slides, but has an unlimited canvas, onto which you place your content. As you design your Prezi, you create a ‘path’ which directs the order in which this content is presented. Being a canvas, Prezi is terrific for creating non-linear presentations, as you can zoom in and out to view the big picture or focus on smaller details, and the design is not limited by slide size. A tutorial on getting started with Prezi  can be downloaded here. Click the image to view a brief Prezi on what Prezi is all about.

A beautiful mobile device presentation app is Haiku Deck. The focus of Haiku Deck is to create image based slides, with minimal text. Built into the app is a search of Creative Commons licenced images, and it automatically places the attribution onto the image, which is a huge time saver. If you have access to an iPad, it is worth exploring. Below is an example of a Haiku Deck slide.Haiku deck slide example

Start Creating

    • Slide Layout

Avoid using the standard templates, if at all possible. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, they are not original or memorable. As PowerPoint is used so commonly, the layouts will make your slides seem just like everyone else’s. Secondly, the templates provided encourage the creation of slideuments – encouraging headings and subheadings, dot points and even two columns of information on the one slide.

    • Colour Matters
Ishihara colour perception test

Example of an Ishihara color test plate. The numeral “74” should be clearly visible to viewers with normal color vision.

What looks amazing on the computer may not display as well when projected on a screen. The size and brightness of the room and strength of the projector can impact upon the colours, rendering some colour combinations unreadable. Another consideration is that approximately 8% of men suffer from colour-blindness (Victorian Department of Health and Safety,2013). Therefore the choice of background colour, text colour and the use of contrast are all important.

    • Finding Quality Images

The vast majority of images found through Google Images are copyrighted. When presenting to an audience, replicating images you do not have permission to use breaches copyright. Fortunately, there are a number of sources of images you can use, and these sources are growing.Creative Commons licenced images are an alternative to copyrighted images. Whereas copyright works on an all rights reserved model, Creative Commons licences allow the creator of the work to state which rights they choose to reserve (e.g. non-commercial indicates the creator reserves the right to prohibit commercial use of their creation). Images can also be labelled Public Domain, which means anyone is free to use them. These images are usually commonly used symbols, or images that have passed out of copyright.

A comprehensive explanation of Creative Commons, Public Domain and Copyright is available on the Copyright and Copyleft wiki.

If you have a budget for the presentation, you can purchase images from one of the many stock photo companies online. We have found iStockphoto to have an excellent range, and reasonably priced.

If you have no funds, don’t despair! There are many other excellent sources of creative commons licenced and free images and quality clipart.

Flickr Creative Commons – a huge range of photos all licenced to be used under various CC Licences.

Wikimedia Commons – a database of over 16 million freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.

Clker  royalty free public domain clip art in vector format and in image PNG format. It also allows you to make simple edits to these images.

    • Inserting Video

Insert video optionsInserting video in PowerPoint can be problematic. PowerPoint offers three options for inserting video.

Inserting a video from file is essentially the same as inserting an image. You browse to where the file is located, and click insert. There are a number of caveats on this simple process.

a)   Keep the video file and the PowerPoint file in the same folder. The video is not embedded into the PowerPoint, it ‘links’ to it, so if you move the PowerPoint (say onto a data key to transport to the presentation location) and you don’t move the video file as well, the video will fail to load. Moving the entire folder with all linked files goes some way to resolving this (although it is good to test at the presentation location, as sometimes videos need to be ‘reinserted’).

b)  If you have a video stored as a file on your hard drive, you should either own this video or have permission to store it. Downloading YouTube videos without the permission of the creator is a breach of copyright.

Inserting a video from a website
can be problematic. There are multiple requests for assistance online from PowerPoint users for whom this process just simply doesn’t work. The process seems simple:

Step 1: Copy the embed code from the video you wish to include. Note you must choose the ‘old embed code’ option.
embedding YouTube: finding the embed code
Step 2: Paste into PowerPoint in the appropriate field under Insert Video from Website.

paste into powerpoint

This process has never worked successfully for us, on a range of different computers. The video appears as a black box that will not play, or there is an error which requires Adobe Flash to be updated (even when the latest version is installed).
Fortunately, there are two alternatives:

a) Hyperlink to the video

b) Use a third party plug-in such as AuthorStream

Hyperlinking to the video means you temporarily leave the presentation, and go to where the video is situated to view. This can be disruptive during a presentation, however it does mean you can link to any video on any website (YouTube, Vimeo, TeacherTube etc). You can also link to a video edited on SafeShare TV, so that all of the annoying ads are removed. A tutorial on how to hyperlink to Safeshare TV can be downloaded here.

A third party plug-in such as AuthorStream allows you to embed YouTube or Vimeo videos directly into the slideshow so that they can be seamlessly displayed as part of the presentation.

Download Authorstream and follow the directions to install. Once it is installed, in PowerPoint a new tab will appear on the ribbon at the top of the screen.

Embedding the video is simply a matter of pasting the video hyperlink (not the embed code) into the window, as below.

embedding video using AuthorStream

Please note that embedded videos require an internet connection to operate.

Embedding video from clipart is quite straight forward, however the limited range of videos available from clipart means this option is rarely chosen.        The videos available are generally classified as animations, and add little to formal presentations.

If you have many videos to embed, it may be easier to choose Prezi as your presentation tool. To embed video into Prezi, simply paste the link where you want the video to appear, and as long as you have an internet connection, the process is complete.

  • Fonts are important

Choice of font is essential if you wish to have readable slides. If at all possible, choose no more than two fonts; a headline font and a text font. Make use of bold and italic options if you need further differentiation.

Nancy Duarte explains font choice very well in her book, Slideology. Essentially, there are two types of fonts; serif and sans serif.
Serifs are the small strokes at the end of letters that aid readability – you can see them

example of serif font

Serif fonts are good for long chunks of text. San Serif fonts don’t have the serifs, and are

sans serif font example

Once you have selected the font, don’t make the mistake of keeping it too small. Even though it may be readable on the computer screen, once projected this may change. As a general rule, stick to 24pt and above, larger if you are presenting in a large room and some audience members may be seated far from the screen.

Choice of font does not have to be limited to those available in the application. There are several websites where you can download free fonts for maximum impact. Two excellent sites are

DaFont logofont squirrel logo

(click on the logos to go to the sites).

One thing to note if you are using downloaded fonts – they will only work on the computer where the fonts are installed. This is vital to know, as many presentations are created on one computer and transferred for presentation onto a different computer. If you know the presentation is going to be moved, it is best to stick to one of the pre-installed fonts, or save the presentation in PDF format, which will prevent the fonts from changing no matter what computer is being used.

Avoid the overuse of bullet points!

Slide19

Want to know more?

These two posts on creating presentations that work have drawn on the work of several experts in this area; Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds and Seth Godin. A full bibliography of references used is below for further reading and information.

5 Ways to Make PowerPoint Sing! (And Dance!). (n.d.). Duarte Blog. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://blog.duarte.com/2010/01/5-ways-to-make-powerpoint-sing-and-dance/

Department of Human Services, Victoria. (n.d.). Colour blindness. Better Health Channel. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Colour_blindness

Duarte, N. (2008). slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations (1st ed.). O’Reilly Media.

Godin, S. (2001, January 10). Really Bad PowerPoint: (and how to avoid it): Seth Godin: Amazon.com: Books. Do You Zoom Inc.

Hooker, D. (2012, March 25). Get Started with Prezi. Prezi Support. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from https://prezi.zendesk.com/entries/23448918-Get-Started-with-Prezi

Lessons from TED: 5 Simple Tweaks. (n.d.). Duarte Blog. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://blog.duarte.com/2009/02/lessons-from-ted-5-simple-tweaks/

Reynolds, G. (2011). Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (2nd Edition) (2nd ed.). New Riders.

Creating Quality Presentations Part One: First Steps

Death by PowerPoint

Every day, in conference rooms and offices around the world, people are dying. Death by PowerPoint is the commonly used term for presentations of endless slides, filled with dense text, complex diagrams and poor design.

The simple tips in this two-part post will help you transform presentations into tools of communication that will engage the audience, and provide a memorable accompaniment to your message.

The first post  will give you four simple steps to improve the overall impact of your presentations. The second post will focus on specific strategies to aid in the creation of effective presentations, as well as a tutorial for the PowerPoint alternative, Prezi. You can download the printable booklet of both posts here:http://tinyurl.com/presentationsthatwork .

You can view the presentation that accompanies this workshop here.

First Steps

First Steps

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Thomas Leth-Olsen: http://flickr.com/photos/thomasletholsen/6050828458/

Seth Godin, entrepreneur, author and public speaker admits that he has seen a lot of presentations in his career; and is adamant that most are poor. His simple rules for creating effective presentations have formed the basis of what I call ‘First Steps’.

Step 1: Keep Text Minimal

One of the common issues with slides in a presentation is ‘cognitive load’. Cognitive load is essentially how much your brain can take in. Our working memory is limited, and we process words and images separately, and therefore, when a speaker is presenting to an audience, and there is a slide full of text behind them, the audience must make a subconscious choice about which to pay attention to. They simply can’t take in both.  Seth Godin says absolutely no more than 6 words per slide; however if this is too rigid, at least try to limit the text to the main ideas. The audience came to hear the speaker. If all of the content is on the presentation, they could have just stayed at home and had the slideshow emailed to them!

Step 2: Use Inspiring Images

Now that the text on each slide is minimised, you have room to include amazing images! The content of the presentation is made richer when it is accompanied by images that engage the audience emotionally. An image smokestacks belching into the sky is far more memorable than a list of dot points about pollution. One key thing to remember when choosing images is that the image should illustrate the point you are making – design, don’t decorate. For example:

An example of a poorly designed slide, with too much text and 'decorative' clipart.

An example of a poorly designed slide, with too much text and ‘decorative’ clipart.

An example of a slide with better design. Limited text, and an image that illustrates the point of the speaker.

An example of a slide with better design. Limited text, and an image that illustrates the point of the speaker.

Step 3: Keep it Simple

PowerPoint is fitted out with many features that are not conducive to good design. Animations that have text swooshing across the slide, transitions that blink and flash and overdone backgrounds that distract from the text simply confuse your message. The best presentations are simple, clean and free of distractions.

Step 4: Put the Information in a Handout

Like this! The audience will be relieved to know that all of the information being communicated during the presentation will be theirs to walk away with at the conclusion. This frees them up to truly listen to the presenter – rather than scribbling down notes. It also means your slides do not have to contain all of the information, and can be used to engage the audience using the tips above.  It is important – vital! However, that it is handed out at the end of the presentation – otherwise the audience will simply read the document, and ignore the presenter.

Presentations which contain the entirety of information being delivered are known as ‘slideuments’. They are a terrible hybrid of document and slideshow presentation. While it may take a little longer to create a document and an accompanying presentation, the results are worth it in audience engagement and quality communication.

More is coming!

This has been an overview of the basics for creating a great presentation. The following post will detail more specific strategies for actually producing presentations.

Augmented Reality – Even Better than the Real Thing?

Augmented Reality has become a buzz word recently in ed-tech circles.The K-12 Horizon Report describes Augmented Reality as  blending — or augmenting — what
we see in the real world with related information,data, media, and even live action.

Although it was once envisaged that the future would be completely virtual, it is now becoming apparent that rather than stepping into entirely computer created worlds, it is better to harness technology to add to our current reality – hence ‘augmented reality’ has become more popular, and ‘virtual reality’ has become less so.

An easy way to understand exactly what the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality is by viewing examples of each:

This is an explanation of Virtual Reality (also known as Virtual Worlds):

Below is an example of Augmented Reality:

The girl is able to see a 3d model of the lego before she purchases it.

Virtual reality has existed for quite some time, however the increasing use of mobile devices equipped with cameras has enabled the development of apps that put this technology into the hands of students and teachers; and the potential for learning is very exciting.

Augmented reality has two major forms; the first is where a printed trigger image initiates an interaction through the camera of the mobile device; there are many examples of this (and they will be elaborated on below), but the one pictured here is ‘Sneaker ID’, where the printed image of a sneaker transforms into a realistic 3d depiction of a sneaker when viewed through the app.

The second form is where the app uses the devices GPS capabilities to ‘layer’ digital data over the location where the user is. A well known example of this is Layar, which provides a huge number of layers which can provide information about the user’s local environment. The photo below shows a Layar view of Museums and Galleries in a 5 kilometre radius from the Brisbane Catholic Education head office in Brisbane.

Although augmented reality as a learning tool is still in its infancy, there are a number of apps that provide an engaging way to stimulate students imaginations, and one app in particular, Aurasma Lite, which moves beyond simple viewing an augmented reality, and provides tools that students and teachers can use to quickly and easily create their own digital layers onto images and items.

The Horizon Report suggests that Augmented reality is very likely to become a powerful teaching tool within the near future for the following reasons:

  • It can be used for visual and highly interactive forms of learning.
  • Students find connections between their lives and their education through the addition of a contextual layer.
  • It is an active, not a passive technology; students can use it to construct new understanding based on interactions with virtual  objects that bring underlying data to life.
  • Dynamic processes, extensive datasets, and objects too large or too small to be manipulated can be brought into a student’s personal space at a scale and in a form easy to understand and work with.

Before looking at using Aurasma though, let’s just explore some of the ‘fun’ ways that augmented reality can be used in the classroom.

1. As a stimulus for creative writing:

Download the String AR app, and using the printouts available from the String website, bring ‘Proto’ to life on a student’s desk, or inspire a story based around a dragon who bursts out of the computer screen and into the classroom.

2. As part of a science unit on Earth and Space Science:

Examine the Mars Rover in a way that was never possible previously; Using the marker downloaded from the NASA 3D spacecraft app, bring the Rover right into the classroom for an interactive experience:

3. Make mental calculations of money fun:

Capture photos of students with money falling from the sky using MoneyVision; add the totals and graph to seewhich student received the most ‘virtual’ cash!

4. Students studying weather patterns can use the Floodlines app and printable markers created by the State Library of Queensland to examine the extent of the flooding in Brisbane during the 2011 floods.

More ideas for these apps can be found in the attached booklet.

Aurasma takes the tools for augmenting reality and gives it to users.

It allows users to connect short movies, animations or still images to items; best explained by the creator of Aurasma himself, Matt Mills

Creating an ‘aura’ is simple – instructions are in this booklet.

Ideas for using Aurasma in a school setting are numerous; here are just a few:

1. Attach a video of a student presenting their project/artwork/writing to the piece, so that those who weren’t in attendance at the presentation can view it later.

2. Attach a student created book trailer to the cover of the actual book, so that others can view the trailer prior to reading.

3. Embed footage of a school event into the printed school newsletter – still photos in the newsletter become video captured on the day.

4. Record a student reading to a photo of the student holding that book; a collation of these images with embedded video taken over time can provide a timeline of student reading development.

5. Embed a video of the teacher reading out an exam/assignment question onto the task sheet for those students who struggle with reading print text.

6. Create a short video orientation of the school and attach to the school emblem/crest – this will provide a multimedia introduction to the school to anyone who scans the emblem using the Aurasma app.

7. Place Location Auras around the school grounds, with video explaining the history/useful information about that part of the school.

8. Attach labels with embedded video to realia in the school library to add additional explanations about use or care of the item.

The list is endless! Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Augmented Reality might still seem futuristic, but it is hardly science fiction. Students will be engaged and challenged by the multimedia and transmedia possibilities augmented reality brings to learning; what an exciting time to be an educator!

Check out more augmented reality information and resources on my PearlTree.