Students have always needed ways to show others what they have learned.
For many years, teachers turned to quizzes, tests, essays, and reports to monitor kids’ progress. As time moved on, more progressive educators assigned hands-on projects to gauge student knowledge. Then, about 25 years ago, as schools entered the digital age, a new form of assessment was introduced: the PowerPoint presentation.
PowerPoint provided a much-needed alternative to the traditional written report, particularly for students with learning disabilities and differences like dyslexia. Even now, the program continues to allow students to use images (and smaller amounts of text to convey information to classmates and teachers.
Though it was pretty revolutionary upon its release, today’s digital natives are demanding alternatives to PowerPoint, which hasn’t changed much over the past two decades. In part as a consequence, not all students are able to create effective presentations using the program. In this Universal Design for Learning (UDL) age in which many educators strive to meet inclusive guidelines, all students deserve options that meet their needs.
The following are five alternative technologies that kids can use to give creative presentations in school.
Created by assistive technology (AT) company AssistiveWare, Pictello is a visual storytelling app that runs on Apple devices. Geared toward younger students, it allows kids to present information using images and short videos that include voice recordings (as narration) and text that can be read aloud with the app’s integrated text-to-speech capabilities. While students are typing within the app, they can use built-in word prediction to get help with spelling.
Users may view a completed project page by page — like a book — or with animated transitions — like a PowerPoint slideshow. The app also allows kids to export presentations as PDF files or to print them to share with friends, family, and teachers.
For iPad users of any age, Adobe Voice provides a simple way to create professional-quality video presentations. While students can include short pieces of text, Voice presentations are driven by narration and images. The app makes it easy to create a series of slides with recorded voice-over narration, photos, and open-source images. There are various layouts available for each slide, and editing is remarkably uncomplicated.
After users make the slides, they can then select a visual theme (with corresponding colors and fonts) and background music. The app will put everything together into an animated video that looks like it must have taken hours to create (it doesn’t!). Finished projects can be shared on social media, emailed to teachers, or saved to the iPad Photos app for later viewing. All in all, Adobe Voice is a fantastic app for students who have difficulty writing text but can verbalize their ideas well.
(iOS, Android, Windows, and Chrome)
Explain Everything describes itself as an interactive whiteboard and screencasting app. Similar to traditional presentation tools, it allows students to set up a series of slides containing text, images, videos, drawings, and even math problems and equations.
What makes it unique is that users can also record everything they do on-screen during the creation process — the app produces an animated video that students can then supplement with voice narration if they so choose.
In addition, users can import an existing slideshow they’ve created using a different application, such as PowerPoint or Keynote, and then use Explain Everything to annotate it and to record a verbal explanation of the material. In the interest of UDL, there is also an option to switch from the full-featured user interface to a simpler one with fewer options. Available for just about any platform, including mobile devices, Windows desktop, and Chromebooks, Explain Everything provides a plethora of options for creating dynamic presentations.
(iPad, Android, Windows, OS X, Chrome, and Web)
Also available on a variety of platforms, Mindomo offers a way to create and give presentations that don’t follow the traditional slide format. Some students find it easier to organize their ideas visually in a graphic organizer than in a linear series of slides. Mindomo is a mind-mapping tool that gives kids a drawing board on which to group their thoughts and link main ideas to supporting details. There are a variety of layout and theme options, and users can add images to support the text they’ve written.
What makes Mindomo stand out from other mind-mapping applications is its Presenter tool. When you put a project into Presenter mode, you can zoom in on any given entry while talking about it during a presentation to draw attention to all of its smaller details.
(Windows and Mac)
Like Mindomo, Inspiration is a popular mind-mapping program available for Windows and Mac computers. It can be used for organizing and outlining ideas during the writing process, as a reading comprehension tool, and for visual note-taking.
One of the most powerful features of the program is its Presentation Manager. Students who have difficulty setting up a traditional slideshow presentation in the proper order can use the software to organize their ideas on a single-page map. Then, with one click of a button, the graphic organizer converts the map to an initial set of slides that can be reordered and edited as needed. Many of the basic features of traditional slideshow programs, such as the ability to add transitions and speaker notes, are available. If you need more robust editing tools, you can export your project from Inspiration to PowerPoint for additional features.
Even though PowerPoint has been reliable for many years, today’s device-minded students are primed for alternative presentation technology. With more options, they are better equipped to stay enthusiastic about learning — and about sharing their knowledge.
Want even more options? Check out our list of innovative online tools, which features an entire section dedicated to helping you make a great presentation.
Find — and ask questions about — the best schools for you, and learn more about assistive technology from Noodle Expert Jamie Martin.