Posts Tagged ‘education’

Powerpoint Karaoke

February 13, 2017

microphone-closeup-by-paulRecently we held a Powerpoint Karaoke event at work to bookend our workshops on creating better presentations.  The purpose was to have fun but at the same time make clear the difference between great and awful slides.

So, what exactly is Powerpoint Karaoke?  It is an event where volunteer presenters come up to the front of the room and narrate slides that they’ve never seen before.  The slides change automatically and the presenter must improvise with every new slide.  The slides may or may not be related.  For the audience it’s usually a laugh-inducing event.  For the presenters, it can be a chance to show off their improv and presenting skills with welcome humor.

How did we do it and how can you do it?  Here is the way it worked:   First, we sent out a flyer advertising the event with a link to more info and a signup form.


Since we only had one hour or less for the event I decided to have only 10 performer/presenter slots.  Each volunteer presenter would get 9 slides that would show for 20 seconds each.  The total running time of 3 minutes seemed reasonable for possible embarrassment or boredom.  I preselected slides with an intentional mix of good and bad examples.  This assortment added flavor and at the same time demonstrated the power of a well-designed slide.

Because I needed to control the breaks between presenters, I advanced the slides manually with a stopwatch app to measure the seconds.  You could do this with automation, but if so, then I would recommend a blank slide or two between presenters.

After the last presenter/improviser was done I brought out my iPad and opened a free app called Decibel 10th and we metered the applause for each presenter, going down the list and recording the number achieved.  The top applause winner chose one of the items I brought-a gift card, the book Slideology by Nancy Duarte, and a copy of Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  Second and third place winners chose from the remaining prizes.

This was so much fun that we are definitely doing it again in late Spring.  The next time we are also going to hold it in our public lunch space to draw a larger audience who might just stumble upon the event as well.  There is talk about doing this after-hours at a bar/restaurant to enable presenters full freedom in their speech.  I’ve seen this done at other places…just do a search on Youtube on Powerpoint Karaoke and you’ll see what I mean.

Finally, I want to note that this is also a great way to learn more about the talents of members of your team.  Let me know if you try it with your group.  I’d love to know how it went.

Creating Effective Online Discussion Boards

November 2, 2012

Earlier this week I gave a presentation to our faculty on how to create effective discussion boards online.  I thought that others could benefit from this knowledge, so I am sharing my thoughts here.  These recommendations come from personal experience as a teacher & learner, and from researching the literature.  Many have never tried discussion boards in their courses, or have tried and found the results to be unsatisfactory.  This post can help you plan and create online boards that are more successful for you and your students.

Creating Effective Discussion Boards- 

Recommendations by Paul Iwancio

Why use online discussion boards?

They keep students engaged with the material after class.

They inspire critical thinking.

It gives shy students or ESL students a chance to participate equally.

They allow for hyperlinking to outside resources.

They create gradable items for the course.

They can be low-risk assessments.

They enable  monitoring of learning/comprehension.

They can be tied to readings and research.


Consider the purpose of the discussion and how it relates to your learning objectives.

Ask yourself-what do I want the students to be able to do?  What do I want them to understand from the material?

Focus on the most controversial, difficult, and important concepts.

Pose questions that may be provocative and spark critical thinking.

Create questions that are open-ended and elicit divergent thinking from students.

Examples of activities-web field trips, brainstorming, problem-solving, writing groups, case analysis, debates, discussion of course readings, discussion of  live or recorded presentations, research.

Examples of questions that stimulate thinking are found on page 5 of this document from the University of Oregon.

Overall, promote engagement with the material, with peers, and with the teacher.


Post rules of netiquette, create a safe learning environment.

Make participation mandatory-graded with points.

Provide clear expectations to students-quality, quantity, what will be in post, length of post, level of formality, show a rubric, due dates, naming expectations.

In respect to dates, have one deadline for first post, another deadline for first response, and a closing date for the overall discussion.

Tell students how often you will be checking the board.

Assessment can be completed by the teacher and/or student peer assessment.

Encourage students to mention personal experiences, but also cite literature.

Allow posting of links and attachments if relevant.

Encourage responders to pose questions-for clarification, questioning assumptions, looking for rationale and evidence, questioning viewpoints and perspectives, what are implications and consequences?  Posing followup questions keeps a discussion moving.

Let discussion flow on its own without much interference from teacher, but maintain a presence-intervene when needed for clarity or re-tracking if they become stuck, you don’t have to reply to every post.

Followup in the classroom afterwards, ask for “muddy” questions/concepts and clear them up.


Assign roles for each discussion-e.g. researcher, responders, critical friends, fact checkers, reporters/summarizers.

Create a casual, open discussion board for personal news and topical discussions.

Use one board for initial introductions-develop an online community.

Collect exam/quiz questions from discussion boards, possibly have students create the questions.

Breaking into groups may be necessary to manage large classes so that the number of posts doesn’t become overwhelming.

To achieve “critical mass” make sure there are at least 4 to 6 students on each board.

Consider creating a short audio or video recording to introduce the topic/discussion, humor(which doesn’t always come across in text) could even be used here.

Consider using an anonymous posting board occasionally for frank discussions and/or a board where students can anonymously pose questions to the teacher.

Consider using a tool such as Voicethread which allows students to respond in text, audio, or video.