Raising the Bar

I had the good fortune to attend a presentation by Mrs. Hricik’s first grade class at Woodland Elementary School last week. Her students have been working on their presentations for the last few weeks.

Working individually or in pairs, they selected animals to study.  They used Google to find information about the animal, its habitat, diet, and other interesting facts. They also found pictures of the animals online. The students then incorporated the information into a Powerpoint presentation, added the graphics, and selected themes, sounds, and other effects. While Mrs. Hricik provided some assistance and instruction when needed, the students did all of the work themselves.

For the presentation, each student took his or her iBook up to the cart, connected it to the projector, opened the powerpoint file, and delivered the presentation. The teacher’s role was to call on the students, so they knew when to present. They did everything with the technology themselves.

After the presentations, I told the class that their presentations were better prepared, and better delivered, than the ones my eighth graders used to do. They really should be proud of their accomplishments.

Here’s what I didn’t tell them: in the high school in my current district, the government teacher requires all students to complete a Powerpoint presentation at the end of the year. It’s the capstone of the course, and she believes that no student should graduate without having done at least one presentation. While I didn’t actually see any of the presentations this year, I do know that the 12th graders had more problems with their presentations than the first graders did.

We’ve been teaching Powerpoint in 7th grade now for seven years. We’ve been teaching it in fourth and fifth grades for three years. We don’t teach it at all at K-3 (though we do teach Kid Pix slide shows, which have many similar tech skills). The students get the presentation thing pretty quickly, and it seems that the youngest kids learn it the fastest.

Oddly, when we ask teachers what kind of technology-related professional development they need, they still want more Powerpoint classes (it’s number two behind "show me how to make a web page"). Maybe we can get the first graders to teach them.