Monday, April 28, 2014

Tired of Using PowerPoint? Free, Awesome, Alternative Presentation Tools - Part 1

Recently, I was asked to do a webinar event about 21st Century tools. As I spent some time thinking about something to present, it became very apparent that people are tired of the same old tired ways of presenting information. Not to say, I don't use PowerPoint, because I do. But there so many different ways to present information that demonstrate a little more creativity.

As I began this presentation, I realized that I need to probably break this up into a couple of posts, because there is just so much information,  so I will break this into a few different categories.

 So I see the basic, standard, presentation tools that are out there. They are good tools and have their place, but they also have their limitations as well.

In addition, I will talk about some exciting new tools that are great in the classroom.

Finally, I will share three great ways to share your presentations in a format that takes it beyond the classroom, workshop, training session and broadens your audience. But I will do that in Part 2. Today I want to talk about the first two categories.

Google Presentations


  • Free and easy to use
  • Ability to collaborate with others
  • Variety of themes and backgrounds to choose from
  • Connected to Google Drive for storage and sharing
  • Can insert hyperlinks right into the presentation
  • Very basic without a lot of perks
  • Limited ability to engage the viewers

  • Easy to use, can import PPT files
  • Works with Windows, Android, Linux.
  • Has a nice selection of templates available for free download
  • Great free alternative to PowerPoint if you can't afford to buy Office Suite
  • Still a basic presentation tool without many options. 

I love this new tool. It promotes itself as a presentation tool for telling your story. But also it gives you the ability to share your presentations publicly as well.

It's very easy to use. It has a nice look to it. I was impressed with the variety of backgrounds you can choose to use. You can search for different images to use. In addition, you can share your presentation to almost 10 different social media networks. Your deck can be embedded into your website or blog as well. Plus, you can export your deck to pdf or ppt. Another great feature is being able to add notes that you can read along with your presentation. This makes this a very versatile tool. I haven't noticed many glitches with this tool yet, but I will keep you posted.

Meet Haiku Deck from Haiku Deck on Vimeo.

Emaze has been around for a little while. It really is a great way to do presentations. You can import photos to add to your backgrounds. The sliding transitions are very smooth. The aesthetic appeal of Emaze makes it an attract option. Students would love to use this tool in a classroom setting. It does have a limited number of templates, but for the most part, you can do lots with it, that you probably would never exhaust the options available. I do like the feature that allows you to import a PowerPoint into Emaze, however, only if you have a paid account. It would be great if they would consider an education pricing scheme. As with Haiku Deck, you can share it to a couple of social media networks. You can also choose to make the presentation private or public. I did have a few problems when I was editing text that I lost all the text because of some glitch. It happened a few times, but I was still able to make a presentation quickly with Emaze. The top two images come from Emaze.

Prezi has been a go-to-tool for many schools. I have used this tool with high school students, and college students alike. They have all loved using it. It took a bit of getting used to and wasn't as easy to get started with at first, but they got it done. Even the least experienced computer user was able to make presentations. There were plenty of videos to assist them with the steps to creating a presentation. It has some limitations though in exporting the presentation. I had a friend tell me they were able to export to PPT, but I have never been able to find that option yet. You can share the link to present remotely or export to pdf, but you lose all the smooth transitions that make this a great tool for telling a story, especially for young children. I had college students write children's stories and turn them into a Prezi. They loved doing it, but many shared that they used this with their children, nieces and nephews with great enthusiasm.  This is a great tool in the classroom with multiple purposes, telling stories, reports, book reports, essays, science projects, and even math, where the problem is written out in one screen and it zooms into the next screen with the solution.

This was the surprise of the week for me. If you really want to stick with PowerPoint, then you need to download and add this amazing add-on. I was literally left in awe with the effects and changes it made to old PowerPoints that I had made years ago. I pulled up an old PPT file and ran the Enhanced feature to the file and out came a transformed new PPT.

This is just a small sample of what it can do. It randomly selected images based upon the words on the page, and inserted them where appropriate. It was very intuitive.

However, I must make a note, when you install, don't add any search toolbars. This is no different than Java asking you to add a search toolbar when it is installing. Uncheck the boxes when you come to that screen, and everything should be okay.

If I have to stick with PowerPoint, I definitely will be using VisualBee. A must have!

In the end, I see the benefits to everyone of the tools I shared here today. Some edge out others for various reasons, but mostly, because of what I would be using it for. Everyone one of these tools can and need to be used in the classroom. They should not be limited to just the humanities, but expanded into the maths and sciences as well.
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