Tag Team Tech August 2011

10 Alternatives to the Traditional Slide Show

Sarah Ludwig

August 2011

PowerPoint, the ubiquitous slideshow software, remains the go-to tool for professionals and students when it comes to providing visual support for presentations. Therefore, we should be teaching our students how to use it. There are, of course, good PowerPoint presentations and bad PowerPoint presentations. The bad ones can be laughably awful, so part of what we should be doing is teaching our students how to create effective PowerPoint presentations. There are several schools of thought about PowerPoint design, and you can easily find examples of beautiful, thoughtful slideshows online (search Slideshare for inspiration).

Despite all this, PowerPoint has some notable limitations:

  • It’s easy to use PowerPoint slides as a crutch–instead of using slides as visual aides to support the presentation, students jam all of their notes onto their slides and read them to their audience.
  • Slides can be either dull and lifeless or so oversaturated with transitions, colors, and animations that the presentation is essentially unwatchable.
  • PowerPoint presentations are hard to collaborate on, meaning that students often have to email huge files back and forth, leading to problems with different versions of the same file. At the same time, not all students have the most recent version of PowerPoint, or the same operating system.
  • It’s difficult to embed media in PowerPoint presentations. Videos embedded on one computer will not play on another, for example.
If you’d like to branch out from PowerPoint, you may find that your students become more engaged in the task at hand and devote more time to perfecting the presentation of their content. Some will be so excited about trying a new presentation tool that they’ll put far more effort into perfecting their presentation than they might have done otherwise.
I’ve found 10 tools that you, your students, or your teen patrons can use to present information in a fresh, compelling way. Some encourage students to look at research in a new way, while others allow students to stretch far beyond printed content. Some tools are a boon to those students who are more comfortable with speaking, creating art, or animating than with writing. All of these tools are web-based, and all are free at the basic level, though some offer or require paid upgrades for teachers who want to manage multiple student accounts.

1. Voki

Voki allows users to create talking characters, or avatars. These avatars can be designed to look like a variety of characters, human and non-human alike, and they can be given a script to read. Alternatively, students can record their own voices, which the avatar then “speaks.” Voki even allows users to choose from a variety of accents. These avatars can then be embedded on a website, or shown directly from the Voki website. Voki also features a teacher portal, which offers lesson plans, a teacher community, and tips for teachers.

Lesson Plans and Classroom Work

  • Voki‘s lesson plan database has much for you to borrow (some of these may open as PDFs): Famous Women, Reading Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Midsummer Night’s Dream for a Modern Audience.
  • Voki is especially great for language projects and ESOL students. See this lesson plan from Teaching English or this one from Box of Tricks.

Ideas for the Public Librarian

Teens could use Voki for a variety of programs, including:
  • Animating your favorite character from a book
  • Playwriting–write a monologue and make your avatar speak it.
  • Introducing yourself–tell your story with Voki (and teach teens how to embed these in their blogs!)
  • Avatars doing book, movie, or music reviews–these can then be posted on your library blog.
  • Creating your own Voki to put on the library blog–introduce yourself and the library!

2. Prezi

The closest to PowerPoint in its purpose, Prezi is a non-linear presentation tool, which means that instead of going from Slide A to Slide B, students can jump around a giant space, creating a web of elements that are all interconnected.

Because users can zoom in and out of this web, Prezi allows the user to focus on certain elements or show the big picture of their topic. Prezi‘s educational license allows teachers and students to sign up for free accounts, as well as make presentations private.

Lesson Plans and Classroom Work

Ideas for the Public Librarian

Again, teens could use Prezi in programs to:
  • Create an interactive character map
  • Create an “about me” presentation like the one shown above
  • Design an interactive poster to promote library events or books
  • Build an alternative book trailer by using text, images, and video clips instead of straight video

3. VoiceThread

Voicethread has a robust educational module. This tool allows users to record their voices over images in a slideshow format. Students can also type their comments over images, though I find this to be a less enriching experience. The images can be either single images or documents with multiple images and even text. The best part about Voicethread is how collaborative it is–it’s very easy for people to comment on each slide.

Lesson Plans and Classroom Work

  • The Voicethread for Education wiki contains numerous examples of student work, in subjects ranging from art to biology to American history. The wiki includes a section for grades 6 through 8, grades 9 through 12, and library resources.
  • See the 8th Grade Child Labor Investigation, as featured on TeachingHistory.org.
  • Students can gather images on any topic–science, history, literature, language–and record themselves speaking about it. World language Voicethreads are particularly compelling.
  • Students often need help with writing slide scripts that are short and concise because they are generally used to writing longer pieces for essays or oral presentations. Script templates can help with this, as can one-on-one conferencing with the subject teacher.

Ideas for the Public Librarian

  • Librarians can use VoiceThread to create virtual booktalks by using the images of book covers and the recorded voice.
  • Teens can create book reviews, book trailers, movie trailers, or slideshows about themselves or topics that are interesting to them–gather images that relate to the topic and then write a script for each image.
  • Teens can create advertisements for library events.
  • Teens can upload their art to Voicethread for their peers to critique.

4. Glogster

Glogs are interactive posters. Like many of the other tools mentioned here, Glogster offers an educational portal. This allows teachers to set up multiple accounts for their students, as well as gives teachers and students more privacy options. Students can use video, images, text, or audio to give a complete picture of any topic. Better still, other students can comment on these posters. Glogs often look “easy” because they’re so much fun to use, and Glogster has done an excellent job of finding design elements, backgrounds, fonts, and more that appeal to children and teens.

Lesson Plans and Classroom Work

Ideas for the Public Librarian

  • Glogs can be printed out and therefore make awesome locker decorations or collages to give to friends, though of course they lose their interactivity once printed.
  • Students can easily create digital collages about themselves or other topics of interest to them–their favorite bands, teams, movies, etc.
  • Host a Glog party where teens make their own Glogs and then share with others.
  • Glogs can also become websites, with links embedded into images, videos, graphic elements, and more. You could use a Glog as your teen webpage, as the splash page for a teen literary or art magazine, as the summer reading page, etc.

5. Museum Box

Students can curate their own collections with Museum Box by placing certain items in a virtual box. These boxes can contain information about events, people, current events, or topics of any nature, really. The content can include images, documents, podcasts, or videos and can have multiple layers. Once an image is clicked, the user can read a caption explaining its significance. Students can share or print their boxes, and their peers can comment on them (teachers, too). The Teachers Administration Area allows teachers to register their schools and provide accounts for their students (including approving student work before it is published).

Lesson Plans and Classroom Work

  • Museum Box provides a few resources for teachers, including curriculum areas to focus on and guidance on using Museum Box as an educator.
  • Have students find artifacts that represent a story they are reading or an important event in history.
  • Students can find images or videos that explain particular mathematical or scientific concepts
  • Here is TeachWeb2’s review of Museum Box, including some lesson plan ideas. And here are some ideas, along with examples of student work, from I Heart Ed Tech.

Ideas for the Public Librarian

  • Use Museum Box as an oral history tool for teens to use when interviewing each other or members of their community. Upload podcasts or video interviews.
  • Have students start telling the story of themselves, their community, their school, their soccer team–anything that they care about. If they think of this project as curating a museum collection, they can try to find the “objects” that best represent their topic.

6. ToonDoo

Perhaps one of the more fun tools on the list, ToonDoo makes it easy to create comics on any topic. While students may want to take the time to simply play around with ToonDoo (and should!), the fun begins in the classroom when lessons incorporate ToonDoo for a greater understanding of people, events, and concepts. Any topic that can be written about can be represented in a comic. One of the benefits of ToonDoo is that it encourages students to look at the essentials of their topic, stripping away all extraneous words to include only the core of the topic. Students can print comics or share them online. ToonDoo does not provide educational content or an educational portal, so not all cartoons on the site may be appropriate for your classroom. If cartoons are left public, anyone can comment on them.

Lesson Plans and Classroom Work

  • A Teacher’s Guide to ToonDoo is a good jumping-off point, with sample cartoons, a rubric, and lesson plan ideas. This Examples of ToonDoo in the Classroom article also provides some great ideas.
  • Any creative writing or language arts assignment could easily be transferred to ToonDoo; focusing on dialogue, students could illustrate conflict, relationships, or important plot elements.
  • ToonDoo also lends itself well to Social studies projects. Students could illustrate important moments in history, or have characters visit special places and talk about them.

Ideas for the Public Librarian

  • Host a ToonDoo workshop for budding cartoonists or comic book writers and artists. ToonDoo allows teens to create multiple-panel toons to tell any story they like.
  • ToonDoo could also be used to have teens reflect on the book they’re reading for book club, or to promote books through “teasers” in cartoon style.

7. LiveBinders

While LiveBinders is not really considered a presentation tool, it can certainly be used as one. LiveBinders allow users to collect Web resources on any topic and collect them in one virtual binder, organized in any way the user likes. These binders can be as simple or as complex as necessary. LiveBinders are a great way to share information as a teacher or a librarian, but could also be used by students to demonstrate knowledge of a particular topic, if accompanied by a verbal or written report.

Lesson Plans and Classroom Work

  • Have students display their sources in a LiveBinder and ask them to present it to a class as an oral annotated bibliography.
  • Students can collect their work in an online portfolio and present the portfolio to the class.
  • Students gather the 10 best (or any number) resources on a particular topic and then explain them to the class.
  • LiveBinders can be used almost as a blog or slideshow, with each tab representing a different topic. Students can then write and include images for each tab.
  • LiveBinders collected 10 great student binders, including some on travel, mythology, recipes, and more.

Ideas for the Public Librarian

  • Use LiveBinders as an online portfolio to showcase student artwork or writing.
  • Collect online resources for your patrons on a variety of topics.
  • Have students curate online collections–games, Web comics, photography, etc.

8. Xtranormal

For teens who like to make movies or animations, Xtranormal will be a huge treat in the classroom. The site’s education portal is a great resource and a good place to send students, as the main Xtranormal site, though very popular, contains some videos that might not be appropriate for your school environment. Xtranormal uses animated characters to play our different scenes. Students select the characters from a database (and many more are available with the paid subscription), and then type out lines for those characters to speak. The results are often hilarious. Xtranormal is now offering a voice recording feature, with which users can record their own voices for the characters to speak–much like Voki.

Lesson Plans and Classroom Work

  • Box of Tricks explains using Xtranormal with high school students and gives examples of their work. Teach2Web does the same.
  • When thought of as a documentary film creator, the possibilities become endless. Students can create short films on anything they’re studying in class, from vocabulary to social issues to trig functions.
  • Instead of oral reports, students can use Xtranormal to present movie-like book reports.
  • Teachers can create “welcome” videos for their students to watch at the beginning of the year to introduce the course.
  • Xtranormal offers timely characters like political figures and celebrities, which can be a fun way to have students reflect on what they’re seeing in the news.

Ideas for the Public Librarian

  • Teens can create public service announcements on issues that are important to them.
  • Some Xtranormal videos are hilarious–teens will create funny short films with little to no guidance. Hold a workshop where you teach teens the basics and then turn them loose! This could be a fun group or partner project, where teens co-write scripts.

9. Tiki-Toki

For any project that requires a timeline–which could be in any subject, not just history–Tiki-Toki is a great resource. Tiki-Toki allows users to create lovely, interactive timelines. The basic account is free, but there is an educator license available for a fee, which allows you to set up and manage accounts for your students. Projects can require a great deal of writing if students are to explain certain items on the timeline, and they also include images, video, and links, which make projects far more interactive than standard written timelines.

Lesson Plans and Classroom Work

  • Students could outline important historical events, selecting images that best represent each event.
  • Students could also outline the plot of a book they are reading.
  • Tiki-Toki could also be used as a blog alternative, with students adding entries and multimedia content throughout the year and reflecting on any issue that they choose.
  • Students in science classes could chart the life cycle of an organism.
  • It’s very difficult to find examples of student work online, but here are two examples that Tiki-Toki seems to share as illustrations of how it can be used–The Fight for Democracy in the Middle East and The Life of Mary Kearns.

Ideas for the Public Librarian

  • Teens could chart out the plots of books they’re reading for pleasure.
  • Teens could use Tiki-Toki’s blogging capabilities (see above) to share with their friends or a wider audience.
  • Teens could write the story of their lives.
  • Librarians could create calendars of events or newsletters detailing past events.

10. Go Animate!

Go Animate! allows the user to create scenes with characters interacting. The characters speak the student’s script in a computer-generated voice (or they can “speak” with speech bubbles and no sound). As with Voki and Xtranormal, students will have to write their scripts carefully to demonstrate the essence of their topic. The thing that sets Go Animate! apart is the professional quality of finished products, with panning camera work, soundtracks, and awesome graphics.

Lesson Plans and Classroom Work

  • Students can create animated films on any topic imaginable. A few great examples–seed dispersal, Billiards and Trigonometry, and American Literature.
  • Students could animate their creative writing and turn short stories into scripts, or poems into monologues.
  • Students could illustrate mathematical or scientific concepts, either by animating a teacher lecturing to a class or two students doing their homework or an experiment.
  • Check out this review of Go Animate on I Heart Ed Tech, which includes digital storytelling projects created by students.
  • Visit librarian Gwyneth Jones’s wiki page on Go Animate! to get great ideas and examples of how to use the tool.

Ideas for the Public Librarian

Go Animate! is perfect for public libraries, as the extracurricular uses are endless.

  • Host a workshop on using Go Animate!, taught either by teens or by librarians.
  • Hold a Go Animate! contest on a particular theme
  • Have teens animate certain scenarios–alternate endings to books, prequels to series, or characters from different books meeting up.
  • Use Go Animate! to get teens excited about upcoming events or new acquisitions.

Google Docs

For educators who would like their students to continue focusing on PowerPoint, using Google’s Presentation tool can be an excellent alternative. Part of the Google Docs suite, Google Presentation offers all of the basic features of PowerPoint without the flashy animations and transitions. This allows students to focus entirely on the presentation and not get bogged down in customization. Additionally, because Google Presentation lives in the Cloud, it eliminates any compatibility issues that students who are collaborating might run up against. (Mac users and PC users can work together–so can those with different versions of PowerPoint.) Of course, students must have access to an Internet connection to use it. Finally, Google Presentation is truly collaborative, with students able to work on different slides within the same presentation concurrently. This means no more emailing huge files back and forth and getting confused about which version is the most recent.
Sarah Ludwig  is the academic technology coordinator at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden, Connecticut. Formerly she was the head of teen, technology, and reference services at the Darien (CT) Library, where she developed the library’s first teen program after serving as  the head of library services at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in western Massachusetts for three years. She  is currently the chair of the YALSA Advocacy Resources Update Task Force and a member of YALSA’s Teen Tech Week Committee. Her book, Starting from Scratch: Building a Teen Library Program, will be published by ABC-CLIO in May 2011.


  1. 10 Alternatives to PPT « Y's Guide: SLMPS says:

    […] Tag Team Tech August 2011 | VOYA: 10 alternatives to the traditional slide show for students to use. […]

  2. You wrote a very great article. I think that the websites listed in your article can be used also for presentations with staff, and if incorporated correctly will all creativity, enhancement, and thought provoking questions to be considered depending on the material that needs to be presented. I can see alot of presentations not being boring anymore if people can use their minds.

  3. Robin Anderson says:

    Great resources!  I have used a couple already in my English classrooms.  I am looking to incorporate a voice thread presentation in my class this year for book reviews and book discussions.  When experimenting with the site you posted, I see that I can register and use it.  Can I create multiple groups within this for my classes?  I have two sections of 7th grade and two sections of 8th grade.  Currently, I am also in a program to receive a MLIS degree and these resources will be a great addition to what I am learning. Please let me know if grouping can be done using the voice thread resource.

    Thank you!

  4. Sarah Ludwig says:

    Robin, I’m sorry I’m just now responding to your comment. I’m so glad you found some of these resources useful.

    If you register for a K-12 account on Voicethread, you can register your students and group them easily. It is a subscription service but I find it extremely useful, especially with the age group you’re working with. Here’s a link: http://voicethread.com/products/k12/educator/

    Good luck and have fun!

  5. […] 10 Alternatives to the Traditional Slide Show […]

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