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8 Great Tools for Classroom Presentations

Teachers are pairing hardware and software to create lessons that engage students and inspire collaboration.

Creating classroom presentations that keep students engaged and on task is getting complicated for K-12 teachers, who have to rise above myriad distractions to get their points across. Fortunately, there are a number of hardware and software tools available that can help teachers break through the distractions and effectively engage students in class. Here, educators share eight presentation tools that they're using successfully in their 21st century classrooms.

Board Builder
Described by its maker as a "modern day poster board," Discovery Education's Board Builder is a digital platform (similar to Glogster) that lets teachers select backgrounds, text formats, templates and color schemes. Student s can customize their collection of resources, tell their own stories and upload their own images, videos and documents to personalize their boards. Second-grade teacher Cheryl Lykowski uses the presentation toll with her Monroe Road Elementary class in Lambertville, MI. By combining her classroom Smart Board and Board Builder, Lykowski can upload short video clips, reading materials and graphics showing the various components of a mountain or elements of common land plains. "It's a nice, easy and tidy package," said Lykowski, "that helps me tie everything together on a single platform and present it in a very intuitive and logical way."

Designed by Barco, ClickShare is a wireless presentation and collaboration product designed to let multiple users on multiple computers collaborate on a single projector. The solution projects content from a laptop, tablet or smartphone onto a screen with a single click. Students and teachers can use the equipment to share information and ideas to create an ongoing conversation. Since the fall of 2013, The Charter School of San Diego has been using ClickShare for screensharing of live television and lectures during student workshops. According to operations administrator Tiffany Yardell, ClickShare lends itself to collaboration because teachers can deliver a lecture and students can handle the related coursework via one streamlined process. "Because it's 'live' learning, it really has helpoed inprove student engagement," said Yandell. "At the same time, students are also learning how to do their own presentations."

An interactive whiteboard app that captures voice and handwriting and allows teachers to produce video lessons that they can then share online, Educreations is another one of Yandell's favorite presentation tools. "What's cool about it is that you can record your presentation," she pointed out. A teacher who is conducting a short one-on-one lesson with a student, for example, can hit "record," walk the pupil through a problem, record his or her instructions and then save it for later use. "The student can go back and rewind it — kind of like a YouTube video," Yandell said. "The learning stays with them, they learn at their own pace and they can watch it over and over again. It's a great tool."

Read&Write Gold
Texthelp's literacy software for the desktop, cloud and iPad helps struggling readers and writers, students with learning disabilities and English language learners access the support tools they need in and out of the classroom. At The Glenholme School in Washington, CT, teachers combine their Smart Boards with Read&Write Gold to help the school's special needs student population graphically organize their writing (by concept, mind map or outline). The software also predicts words and manages text-to-speech for students handling issues like dyslexia. Educational Director Sharon Murphy said, It's made our students' lives much easier, and makes presentations much simpler to develop and get across to students."

An all-in-one mapping software, iMapBuilder allows users to design interactive maps with pinpoints, heat maps, routes, zooming and other elements. The maps are viewable on PCs, Macs and mobile devices. Paul LaRue, a high school teacher at Washington Court House City Schools in Ohio, has been using the software with his social studies students. Recently, for example, third-graders from another rural school in the region collaborated with his high school students (who collaborated with one another in class) to create a map of the surrounding county. The map was later published on the county's travel and tourism Web site. "It's great to see students take ownership of technology and create something that actually has a purpose to it," said LaRue.

Collaborative classroom management software for K-12 teachers and administrators, DyKnow helps teachers like Kamilah Chajin effectively collaborate and share information with students during short classroom periods. A high school science teacher at David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, FL, Chajin uses DyKnow in conjunction with her Epson BrightLink interactive projector to "create a Smart Board out of a traditional whiteboard." DyKnow opens up like PowerPoint, said Chajin, and allows her to write on her computer (using a special pen) and project the presentation onto the whiteboard. Students receive the information on their laptops or devices, and it's also saved to a server for later use. "Even students who are home sick can participate and engage in my presentations," said Chajin.

Epson Document Camera
After winning a free Epson DC-20 document camera last year, Rachel Perkins, a math teacher at Barren County High School in Glasgow, KY, began using it to show geometric constructions, demonstrate proper compass and straight-edge placement and illustrate the various origami folding methods that she uses as a teaching tool in geometry. Perkins said she saves class time by being able to show all students a single demonstration, adding, "These lessons are hard to get across with a Smart Board or white board, but when my students can see exactly what I'm doing and how my hands and tools are positioned, it becomes pretty self-explanatory for them."

In a video made with Max Cases, Apple Distinguished Educator Mark Hammons shares how he uses Apple TV to teach.

Apple TV
A small device that connects via HDMI and Wi-Fi or Ethernet to stream movies, TV shows, sports, music and YouTube videos, Apple TV is typically associated with home television sets and computers. At Asheville School in North Carolina, however, teachers are pairing their Apple TVs with iPads and Smart Boards to create interactive presentations for their students. Varghese Alexander, director of technology and a high school math instructor, said the school's math and humanities teachers like the wireless aspect of the equipment and how it lets them demonstrate complicated topics using both internal and external sources (such as online videos). Alexander said, "We have one statistics teacher here who uses his Apple TV in every lesson because it allows him to do anything he could do on a computer, only wirelessly on a Smart Board in front of the class."

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