-by Terra Graves-
Who doesn’t like to have a choice? This seems like a no-brainer to me. Whenever teachers can give their students choices in their learning process, everyone wins. When we have options, we tend to have more ownership of that experience. It also provides us with a sense of control, which most students do not experience in school. In her article on facultyfocus.com, Elizabeth Betsy Lasley EdD writes, “When students are asked to interpret, construct, and demonstrate their concepts or ideas regarding specific course concepts from a selection of product or performance options, content retention, commitment, motivation, and creativity increase.” Flipped Learning environments are ripe for offering choices to students in how they consume content and how they express their learning outcomes. Giving students choice allows us to reach every student, every day because it honors their individuality. Cassie Shoemaker explains it simply in her article Let it go: Giving students choices, “When teachers give students choices as to how they will show what they have learned, students become better problems solvers, more creative, and more engaged.” Problem-solving: It’s not just for math! Students NEED to have opportunities to make decisions in school to learn to make decisions in life. If we continue to spoonfeed and micromanage our students, they won’t learn to figure things out on their own. Teachers by nature tend to be control freaks (including me). However, when we allow our students to try/fail/try again, we support their growth and confidence.
The only thing worse than assigning our students the same assessment of learning is grading 30 (or more) identical assessments of learning. Well-meaning teachers who provide a template or a sample of a finished product are teaching students to create replicas, not to show what they know. Creativity is nonexistent in this model. Students aren’t motivated to do the project; we aren’t motivated to grade it.
As FL practitioners, we are uniquely poised to provide students with a personalized learning experience. That doesn’t mean we must do away with PowerPoint! PowerPoint itself is not entirely horrible. I prefer Google Slides when I am creating a slide deck, but to be fair, now that Office 365 exists, Microsoft is catching up to the collaborative documents idea that pushed many of us to Google Docs over ten years ago. Regardless of that, PowerPoint is typically the first technology tool teachers go to when assigning what they think is an “innovative” student project, and while students can innovate with PowerPoint, they rarely do.
I’m hoping that you have explored more than just PowerPoint as a presentation tool for students. The good news is, tons of amazing free (and some paid) tools exist, giving students more creative ways to show what they know. I’m just guessing here, but I think that most FL practitioners are somewhat tech savvy. Am I right? Even if you’re unfamiliar with new tools, I’m betting that you’ll be able to play around with them and learn just enough to be dangerous.
Here are a couple of my absolute favorites to check out.
This tool is an interactive digital version of a poster collage. You and your students can create amazing posters with text, images, web links, embedded videos, audio recordings, and attachments. These creations are easily shared with a web link, through social media, or by email. Each flipped lesson could be ONE glog. Students can create a glog as a final project. Super fun to create and super fun to consume! This is not a free tool, but I believe it is worth EVERY penny at any level of license you select. At this time, there isn’t any other tool that has the same functionality as Glogster.
Canva is my favorite tool for creating infographics. It is a freemium tool (basic stuff is free, cooler stuff costs money). There are many ready-made templates (infographics, cards, flyers, social media posts, documents, etc.) with amazing images and cool fonts. You can also start from scratch.
What is an infographic you say? Dave Gray posted this explanation on Communication Nation http://communicationnation.blogspot.com/2007/04/what-is-infographic.html
You may recall from our inaugural issue, I created this infographic The Evolution of Flipped Learning. Infographics are just more inviting to look at than a page full of text. When done correctly, they convey a much stronger message than text alone.
A BONUS outcome of having students create infographics as a project or an assessment is that they must consider what the most crucial information is and decide how to adequately represent it with images or graphs (decisions, remember?). This qualifies as nonlinguistic representation, one of Robert Marzano’s instructional strategies. Being able to communicate an abstract concept without using language requires students to really understand what they are learning. This supports a high level of knowledge construction. (Click HERE to read more about Knowledge Construction, one of six 21st-century dimensions used in Washoe County School District’s lesson design framework.) For more on nonlinguistic representation, read this great post on Cult of Pedagogy.
More Infographic Resources
So, ditch PowerPoint (at least a little bit), and let your students unleash their innate creativity. Show them these tools, let them decide which ones to use, and ask them to simply explain content to you and each other in their own way, in their own voice, through their own understanding. They will have fun, and you will have fun — because gone will be the days of grading 30 identical slide decks that all look the same as yours! Ultimately, the choice is yours.