Hate PowerPoint? Here are 5 REAL Alternatives

This post “Hate PowerPoint? Here are 5 Alternatives” from Read/Write Web has been floating around the web this weekend.  With the exception of Prezi (which I will list here as well), this post lists four other programs that are basically PowerPoint clones.  Here’s an alternative set:

1. Prezi – I use Prezi quite a bit, but not all the time.  It is right for presentations that still need a linear flow overall (that’s what the path is … a linear flow).  It is also right when there is a “big picture” that will help you make sense of the information being presented.  But it is not always the right thing to use.  Most of my Prezis took at least 20 hours to build – these are not “throw it together at the last minute” affairs.  A poorly-designed Prezi is just as bad as a poorly-designed slide deck, so don’t use it unless you have a good design in mind.

Image of Playing to Learn Prezi

2. Mindmaps – I give a LOT of presentations off of mindmaps.  I find the flow of the presentation can more easily morph to the needs of the audience this way.  As

the participants ask questions, I can easily guide us to different parts of the mindmap to answer the questions and explore new resources.  I have about ten active mindmaps, but here are some of my favorites for presentations:

Image of Mindmap

    3. Google Sites – If you want participants to be able to explore resources during the presentation, how about a quickie website?  Google Sites is great for this.  I’ve built a couple websites that were built for presentation purposes

    4. Crowd-built alternative (Google Doc, Mindmaps, Chat Rooms) – If you have a room full of people and they all have access to computers, harness the power of the crowd to create the resource.  It goes something

    like this … “We’re going to learn about _____ and if you find any links, insights, or tips helpful, then please add them to the [mindmap/google doc/chat room].  At the end of the talk/workshop, you’ll be able to take this resource with you.”  Here are two examples from past presentations.

    Image of Google Doc for Wolfram Alpha Workshop

    5. Animoto – I gave a Travelogue about my trip to India last year that was built entirely of Animoto videos with music of India and

    photos/videos from the trip.

    My husband and I narrated over the videos.  My students and I have been experimenting with teaching through Animoto videos.  Any time you need to share a lot of images and short video clips, Animoto could be a great option.

    Image of Animoto video (women in India)

    I’ll offer up one more alternative. Just learn how to create a well-designed slide deck. If you do it well, it shouldn’t matter which slide-deck program you use.  If you create bad PowerPoints you’re perfectly capable of creating bad Keynote presentations too.  I found that reading books like Presentation Zen and Slide:eology laid a great foundation for learning how to build better slide decks.

    Finally, ask yourself, Why do you hate PowerPoint?  Is it because you actually hate PowerPoint, the software?  Or is it possibly because most presenters that use PowerPoint put less than 1 hour of thought into designing their presentation.  A good presentation takes considerable thought to form, design, flow, audience, and venue.  I’ve seen bad presentations in Keynote, bad presentations in Prezi, and bad presentations from presenters that “in an effort to avoid PowerPoint” used no visual resources whatsoever.  The quality of the presentation usually boils down to one thing:  How much time and thought did the presenter put into creating a learning experience for the audience?

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    Mindmaps for Learning

    I’ve been using a web-app called Mindomo for about two years now. With it I am able to map out ideas and create interactive sets of resources in a non-linear fashion. You may have seen some of my resources or been in a presentation where I used one of these maps:


    I think that using these interactive maps gives three main advantages:

    1. If you present with a map, you are no longer forced into a linear presentation and can easily respond and adapt to audience questions.
    2. The audience can play along during the presentation, wandering off to explore the areas of the map that interest them most.  This is the same idea behind Edward Tufte’s “supergraphic” – a data-rich resource that the audience becomes engaged with, each person in their own context.
    3. The process of creating a mindmap helps to organize resources and ideas, think of applications to ideas, fosters thinking about comparisons and contrasts, and helps you to see the holes where information or resources are missing, all in a very visual manner.

    It is this third item that has me particularly intrigued.  When I begin building a new presentation, I now find it helpful to organize a mindmap as one of the first activities I do.  The process of building the map teaches me more than I would ever learn on my own.

    This year I’m planning to put this idea to the student test and have each student in my MET class (Math for Elementary Teachers) create a Mindomo mindmap for one of the units as one of their four Learning Projects.  The Mindomo accounts are free (for up to 6 maps) as long as you are willing to live with a 1-inch wide strip of advertising on the right-hand side.

    I had been stressing over the need to create a tutorial video, but one of our workshop participants (Rose Jenkins of Teching Up) has created a fabulous video on getting started with Mindomo (click here for her tutorial).  I’m planning on just sending my students right to Rose’s video for their introductory tutorial on using Mindomo.mindomo2

    Rose has also got an interesting idea for pushing out a partially-created mindmap to her statistics students, and then asking them to add the appropriate resources and annotations to the map (Read her post, Mapping Out Math).  It was a little tricky to figure out HOW to create a map and then share it to students in a way that makes each copy their own, but Rose made a tutorial about THAT too! (click here for the tutorial about sharing maps)

    Kudos to Rose for taking charge of a set of tutorials that really needed to be made!

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    Designing a Digital Presentation

    For the AMATYC presentation on Cognitive Assessments for Math, I began from scratch (no prior slides to pull from). For me, an hour-long presentation will have something like 100-150 slides and it’s way too much to think about in a linear fashion.

    You might find this odd, but when I go to design a new digital presentation, I start on paper. I began this presentation with about a hundred quarter-sheets of paper, each with a key phrase, main idea, supporting idea, or statement. I first try to organize these into some kind of cohesive structure – here’s what my first attempt looked like:

    After some more playing with the structure of the presentation, I settled into three “groupings” that made up the meat of the presentation. You can see remnants of these groupings in the menu-structures of the final presentation.

    At the initial organization seems right, I think about where I’d like to insert images that might enhance the ideas in the presentation, specific examples that make points, and other minutia. For each of these I make another placeholder sheet and insert it in the proper stack.

    This is the point of the narration where I admit how horribly I procrastinated on this presentation. All of this on-paper organization took place prior to leaving the house. I got about 30 slides built at my house, and then the other 75 were built in the car (as a passenger), at the airport, on a plane, or in my hotel room.

    Once all the slides were built, I went back through the whole presentation and built the two navigation menus (see below) and icons that link back to those menus.

    The final slide in every presentation is typically the Questions slide, and on this slide I make it easy to get quickly back to other slides in the presentation by making simple links to the other two menus.

    You can view the final presentation below (and all the menus should work in this, so play all you want.

    Uploaded on authorSTREAM by wyandersen

    Start to finish, I’d say that building this particular presentation (and just the presentation) took about 20 hours.

    Is it finished? No, there are things I would alter before running the presentation again. I wish I’d had time to put in more “zooms” of the assessments I show towards the end. By that point I’d just run out of time and didn’t have time to do multi-slide zooms. I’ve had a couple requests for printed slides – so I may go back through and make a handout with selected slide material on it. In a complicated presentation like this one, there are slides that basically just repeat the previous slide with one more animation included (they run better on the Internet that way).

    If you’re interested in learning more about effective digital presentations, I highly recommend the book Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. If you’d like to build an interactive menu-driven PowerPoint presentation of your own, check out this older post on that topic, An Experiment with Action Buttons.

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    Managing a mountain of email

    Most likely, if you’re involved in higher education, you get a lot of email. During the week, I get between 50 and 100 emails a day, which seems like a lot, but I recently read that some people receive (and deal with) over 1000 a day!

    My goal has always been to try to “zero” my inbox frequently, but lately I have not been so successful – lots of reading material comes in, and between newsletters in my inbox and my Google Reader, I’m buried in information.

    I just came across this Google Tech Talk, called “Inbox Zero” (by Merlin Mann) that I thought was a very appropriate thing to share with my readers – especially since almost everyone is either done, or almost done, with the semester. The Google Talks run 60 minutes, but you can get by watching the first 30 minutes of this one – and in the end, watching this video will save you well over 30 minutes of time, so I would consider it good value for your attention & time budget.

    One of the most valuable ideas that Mann discusses is the idea of an “email DMZ folder” (I think this came in the Q&A period after the talk). If you’ve been letting your email inbox build up forever, create a folder (or label) called DMZ. Take everything currently in your inbox (and I do mean EVERYTHING) and move it to the DMZ. There. Now you have zero messages in your inbox and can begin to use a sane system for processing your email.

    Another important distinction that Mann makes in his talk is that we have to stop thinking of email as requiring a response, and start thinking of it as simply requiring processing. Using gmail certainly makes this easy, as you are already forced to abandon silly folders (he points out … how often do you actually manage to locate emails in those folders correctly? how often do you even look in those folders?). I sorted through the 200 or so emails still sitting in my inbox (while I watched the Inbox Zero talk) and whittled down my labels to the following:

    MCC: email that comes to my college address – it’s automatically labeled MCC

    Respond: email that does need a response, but not necessarily immediately

    Reading: email that is informational … like newsletters, I also set up several filters to have newsletters automatically sent to this label and archived

    Blogs-to-be: email that I send myself or I get from readers that should eventually be blogged about – if you have sent me something, but haven’t yet seen it on the blog, this is where it is located until being dealt with

    Copier: email sent from the copier at school … I have to remember to delet these after I save them or they take up a lot of storage space

    Respond (Starred): these are emails that I need to respond to, and I need to do it relatively quickly. I removed the stars from all my emails this morning, and then only applied them to the truly high-priority items.

    The general idea:

    1) Junk? Or you don’t it after reading it? Delete it.

    2) If it’s simple to do respond to (and requires a response), deal with it.

    3) Otherwise, archive it (to the appropriate folder or with the appropriate label).

    I’ve been good about these first two, but not the third. So, now that I’m back at zero … I’m going to try to be better about maintaining my Zero Inbox.

    P.S. Stay tuned for our updates from the first (annual?) MCC Math & Technology Workshop, happening on the Muskegon Community College campus from Monday-Friday next week.

    I will be inviting participation from the Internet audience on Wednesday afternoon for our session on Synchronous Online Communication, so if you can’t come, but want to join in the technology fun, watch for a link to participate in that.

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    NKU Day Three

    I spent the morning building the presentation for online calculus that I gave this afternoon. The presentation is not built in PowerPoint, it’s in Mindomo. I don’t think I’ve blogged about Mindomo yet – but since January I’ve been using it for all my presentions.

    You can visit the presentations by following the links below. At the mind map, you can view all my notes, follow all my hyperlinks, etc. The thing that makes it a significantly different presentation is that it is a) interactive, b) the audience can explore while you give the presentation, each on their own browser, c) it does not have to be linear.

    Online Calculus (today’s presentation)

    Using the Internet to Spice Up your Math Class (yesterday’s presentation)

    Following all of those links and watching all of those videos should keep you busy all weekend.

    So… on to my non-presentation progress. I spent some time developing a concept map for my “perfect” faculty development platform (including the ability to integrate mathematics in all text options). They are trying to build one for someone else, but having trouble with the design, so I got to choose everything I would ideally want. Hopefully that will be built in Flex by mid-April so that I can use it for the MCC Math & Technology workshop too.

    And … drumroll please … here’s the iClone avatar for my Calculus Orientation (this is really just a demo – intending to see if it was possible to get the avatar to do what we wanted it to do – namely POINT to something). The software is a bit difficult to learn (but the good software usually is). Anyways, enjoy!

    Avatar on Blackboard Class

    I have made Matt promise to post a tutorial on how we did it (although we’re not really sure we understand how we did it)… so I hope to have a more advanced orientation done soon.

    I know that this is really ridiculous and that I could do it much easier with a mouse pointer and a voice over, but it’s fun … so I want to learn.

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