Death by PowerPoint

I got to thinking about my own project for this course, having read Zlatka Dyankova's final project report. She teaches English at Tryana Private High School of Languages and IT in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria and her goal was to plan and conduct action research, which involves a change related to technology use in your classroom.

One of her basic aims was to use new technological tools (a sports WebQuest) to activate the students in reading and writing, make them more active in communicating and sharing opinions and to promoting motivation.

Dyankova's WebQuest was colorful, creative and full of engaging ideas, but in the end students were required to produce a PowerPoint presentation of their discoveries. At this point, I started thinking about my own history class WebQuests and how much more fun it was to involve the students in the process of creating a blog, taking photographs to illustrate posts and publishing blog posts for OUR blog. They also published prezis (Prezi.com) of their own "lectures," commented teachers' blog posts which were based on lectures in class, commented each others' blog posts and gave feedback online: History in English: Freedom Struggles Around the World.

PowerPoints are still very popular in schools and taught by many teachers. I fail to see why. PowerPoint is so old school. Let me explain why.

Student autonomy is the first incentive to any successful project and that can only be achieved by actively involving and encouraging students to create new content for the web. In the process they learn to censor themselves, think about copyrights and netiquette, practice constructive criticism and produce something they can call their own and be proud of for the world to enjoy.

Our course goes by the name interactive webskills. Interaction is the key element of social media. If a teacher merely creates something that has already been chewed up and processed FOR the students, they have no emotional ties to the web project and are therefore less motivated. Interaction on the web is achieved by commenting tools which are available when using blogs, Facebook, discussion forums, prezis, YouTube, collaborative mind maps etc. PowerPoint is not a webtool, unless it is published in a blog post, and is therefore far from interactive.

For my final project, I promise to involve my students in the entire process and give them the chance to show me the full scale of their skills on the interactive world wide web. Every teacher should do the same. You might be amazed!

I often show this video to my students before they start making their presentations and just for laughs:

And here is a sweded version of Harry Potter that my students created for Drama in English. We had so much fun and the video is amazing. You can read the feedback for the course on our blog, Sweet sweded!:

Delicous links

Check out my new link list on Delicious.com! I like to share links for my students on the orientation blog that I have created for all the English courses that I teach. However, I think I might use the stacking option of Delicious to share educational web tools with other teachers.

The Internet is a jungle. You have to be careful not to let your link lists get too lengthy. Too much information is hard to process and use to the students' advantage. Stacking and categorizing them is a great idea. Including a brief introduction and sharing lesson plans also help others survive in the jungle.



I learned a lot during the second week of our Web Skills Course. I discovered many new valuable search engines to use with my students from NoodleTools. I was especially intrigued by SweetSearch and AmericanMemory because I am teaching a History in English course which would greatly benefit from these sources.

I also learned that it is important to clarify task-specific objectives with measurable behaviors. For this task I used Penn State's Learning Design Community Hub. I realized that I am used to writing objectives for high school courses, but the last time I wrote down task-based objectives according to the ABCD-model was when I was training to become a teacher and our instructors wanted to see what we were getting at when assigning a task to our class. It was refreshing to actually sit down and approach tasks from an ABCD point-of-view again. Of course I always have the model in mind when teaching, but I don't write it down anymore. It is quite automatic after years of experience to consider the audience, their expected behavior, the conditions of the classroom and the degree of mastery that I require of my students. It is a constant thought-process, but one that I have not consciously recognized for quite some time.

I am pleasantly surprised by the academic proficiency of my fellow colleagues and impressed by their web-skills. I am picking up great ideas and links by visiting their blogs and reading the discussion threads. I hope that one of the high school student teachers will want to collaborate with me on the final project. Next term, I am teaching an English course which involves applying for jobs and considering future careers. We are creating a blog or several blogs (digital portfolios on Wordpress) and using Prezi.com to create CV's and cover letters. If there is time, hopefully videos as well (maybe job interviews). Collaborating with a web-teacher professional and his/her students from another country would be a fantastic opportunity. We could comment each others' blogs, share videos together, create a Facebook page and even chat on-line.

Anyone interested? If so, I'm hoping for someone who is proficient at blogging and has advanced English students of approximately the same age, 16 - 18 years old.

Another idea that has been spawning in my head is a grading system mimicking a game. For each English course students collect a certain amount of points and in Finland, 50% is required in order to pass. If students were to see how many points they have gained by meeting deadlines and doing the assigned tasks well throughout the course, they would definitely be more motivated. Today's kids like playing on the computer, visual affects, and competing. The only problem is that numerical grades cannot be shown to other students (the law), so the teacher would have to figure out a reward system, for example, rewarding three best scores. And if the "grading game" had different levels and prizes for reaching each level (high scores, smileys, applause) within itself, that could suffice.

If anyone has ideas on where to build this sort of grading system, let me know? I have tried Janine's JupiterGrades, but it is not very visual.

I will think about all of this and hope for comments to help me along!



My career as a teacher has been shaped by social media and the infinite possibilities offered by the realm of information technology. I studied Media Education as a minor at the University of Helsinki and I have now been blogging with my high school students for 5 years. It's been a blast!

A Native American proverb says, "Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand." I believe in teaching English by involving students in the process and letting them enjoy the thrill of the experience. Right now I mostly use this collective blog for course orientation: Espoo heart English! By clicking any of the Student Blogs, you can see what we have done for each course.

My goal is to use social media as a tool that enables the students to communicate during the learning process with each other, practice constructive criticism by commenting, learn about modern information technologies, use their imagination, and create something new together in an interactive environment. Task-based learning and blended learning are something I am interested in as methodologies and I am always looking for new ways to develop my skills as a professional and stay on the cutting-edge of education.I have experience editing video material with iMovies, MovieMaker and Pinnacle and have used them to make movies with my students like this Sweded Version of Harry Potter and Don't Be A Loser, Get a Job!

I also have a rudimentary knowledge of HTML, CSS and Dreamweaver for simple coding. I can create web-based work and study environments using blogs, wikipedia, GoogleDocs, Moodle, Fronter, BSCW, Jing Project, Adobe Connect Professional, WebCT, CmapTools and Blackboard. I have taught educational technologies at the Department of Applied Sciences of Education to those training to be teachers and professors.I prefer blogging on Wordpress, but Blogger is quite simple to use. I will be reporting here about my experiences with the University of Oregon Web Skills Course. More coming right up!