Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen has some nice reflection on Steve Jobs’ thoughts on PowerPoint. Jobs is quoted in his new biography:
People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.
Reynolds points out that “slides and other forms of projected visualization—no matter how “cool” they may be—are not appropriate for every context.”
Jobs preferred a whiteboard to facilitate the exchange of ideas, the hashing out of details, for in-the-moment collaboration. I’d like to point out that whiteboards, and even their predecessors blackboards and chalkboards, are (or were) technological advancements in the classroom. So, in the spirit of recognizing our current use of and comfort with technology in the classroom, let’s take a look at where technology is moving. If we take the design principle and intended usage of various boards, be they white, black, or brown, and look at what’s out there in the electronic realm, we find a number of options.
So-called “smartbaords” may be the first thing that comes to mind. These electronic whiteboards allow an instructor to use different colored markers and an eraser along with familiar computer tools such as cut, copy, paste, and the ever-helpful undo. They can also easily record an image of the screen at any time, play videos, display slideware, and project a computer screen for computer training. It’s no wonder these tools have gained in popularity and usage, especially in primary schools.
With the advent of tablet computing and even smaller mobile devices and smart phones, we have the potential to take the classroom of yesterday, with students taking notes on pads of paper, and the classroom of yesteryear, with students practicing on their own personal slate boards, and mashing them up with the power of the Internet. Imagine allowing students to submit brainstorming ideas to a projected screen–whether smartboard or simply a projected computer screen–directly from their personal devices to the instructor’s canvas. The iBrainstorm app allows you to do this.
If you’d prefer to maintain more control over the board, there are apps like AirSketch that allow you to draw on your iPad and have it mirrored on the projection screen. This allows you to use the board while roaming the classroom, and you can hand the iPad to a student for them to contribute directly to the ideas being documented. This app also allows you to annotate other documents on the iPad while projected for the benefit of the whole class.
These are just a few ideas for keeping the conversation and collaboration flowing in the classroom, rather than just projecting slideware to augment a lecture. For smaller classes where discussion is paramount, these technological advances add an element of excitement and engagement, perhaps even empowerment, that’s not otherwise there.
(Steve Jobs’ innovative iPad has been a leader and standard in the field of tablet computing, so, naturally, there are more apps developed for the iOS platform. Thus my examples are all for the iPad. However, Android tablets are quickly gaining in popularity. If iBrainstorm and AirSketch aren’t currently available in the Android Market, odds are that they will be coming soon or that something similar will show up there.)