What we did
Another short post just to share something which I thought was unexpectedly successful: I had G7 Humanities students present short reports on inventions from the Industrial Revolution in the form of a half Pecha Kucha, that is, 10 slides which they discussed for only 20 seconds each.
Why we did it
I was feeling a bit behind in this particular class due to some missed time after a snow day and some assemblies, so I wanted students to learn about inventions and share what they learned, but I didn’t want to take more than two days in class doing it. So I assigned them the research and slide-making on one day, then spent the entire two periods sharing their work on the second day.
The idea to limit the format of the presentations came from the fact that the last time we’d tried to present student work in a single period, it ended up taking three times as long as I’d expected and spilling over into the next week.
The biggest time waste always seems to be the transitions – switching between student files or computers, the seemingly eternal wait time when opening up PowerPoint, etc., so I told everyone to dump their 10 slides into a single shared Google Documents Presentation, and set the timer to advance the slides every 20 seconds. The transitions would thus be obliterated.
The format worked perfectly. The reports were reasonably detailed and interesting, the 10 slides each student had assembled seemed to be a good amount of space for them to share what they’d discovered and answer the prompt questions I’d given them, and it took exactly 2 class periods for 16 students to present 10 slides each, with no pauses (I think I had to keep them 1 minute after the bell rang for the final student to finish). No one’s slides were cluttered or filled with walls of text, and everyone rose to the challenge of springing from their seat and launching into their presentation when the slide advanced.
What I learned
Pros – A potentially boring and straightforward research report seemed to become a bit more interesting when I added the time and slide constraints, and we finally solved the problem of not being able to hear presentations from every single student in a single block of class time. I thought it worked extremely well and will try to use this presentation format in the future. One key to the success of the technique might have been the list of prompt questions I gave the students, including “Why wasn’t this invention made earlier?” and “Do we still use this invention today?”, which made it difficult for the reports to be a straightforward info dump of facts cribbed from Wikipedia.
Cons – I think I had to “hack” Google Documents Presentation’s slideshow mode to get a delay of 20 seconds. It involved publishing the slideshow publicly, then monkeying with some digits in the URL. A Google Docs presentation with ~160 slides gets pretty slow to load, as well. Aside from those two minor technical issues, I think everything worked very well.