One of the trends I have noticed in educational technology is an obsession with trying to find the perfect presentation tool.
PowerPoint is the traditional presentation tool. It has been around longer than most schools have had LCD projectors. There are really two key things about Powerpoint that have caused educators to start looking elsewhere for a better option. The first is price. In Ontario, the Ministry licensing of Corel WordPerfect Suite created an opportunity for schools to take advantage of an alternative presentation tool at no cost. Over the last several years, other free options like OpenOffice.org, Prezi, and Google Presentations have also created opportunities to avoid the costs associated with PowerPoint.
The second thing driving people to look for an alternative to PowerPoint is that it is perceived as boring. It is a linear presentation tool, with a collection of transitions and animations that everyone is familiar with. Microsoft has added various features over the years, but it really is a basic presentation tool. To make matters worse, so many people use PowerPoint that it is common to see some of the included visual themes repeatedly.
Some of the PowerPoint alternatives really fail to offer any unique feature. They just happen to be lower cost, and in many cases free. OpenOffice.org and Corel Presentations come to mind.
Other alternatives do offer more unique features, but I would not go so far as to say they are "better" than PowerPoint.
I know that the argument for Prezi is that it is for the non-linear creation and presentation of information, but even Prezi has the basic functionality of creating a linear path through the presentation. Honestly, interactive presentation tools like SMART Notebook or Hyperstudio have a much more sophisticated method for creating non-linear presentations, and even during the creative process, it is not necessary to construct pages or slides in a linear way using those tools.
SlideRocket is the latest presentation tool to make an appearance in our school. It features a much more sophisticated slide management system than the other tools, but that feature is just as likely to become a liability to your presentation. Although I absolutely encourage collaborative work, especially among students, collaborative work on a presentation makes your own personal presentation much less reliable when someone else has the ability to change one or more of your slides. The presentation tool in Google Docs can be susceptible to this as well when taking advantage of the document sharing feature.
Do not forget, when it comes to presentations, your audience
is there to gather information and learn. Trying to impress the audience with
fancy transitions, animations, and gadgets only serves to help your
audience remember the tool you were using more than the message.
Although Sir Ken Robinson's talk on rethinking education was already
popular, the subsequent animation by the RSA caused some educators to
ask "how did they do that" rather than consider the actual message being
Finally, as a Systems Administrator, I want to share this. Constantly trying something new creates challenges for you and for the IT support staff who often haven't heard of your fantastic new presentation tool until you show up on the doorstep. Do not be surprised when they roll their eyes at "the best presentation tool, ever". It's something they have heard before.
Have the PowerPoint version on your key.