We’ve all made it through high school. If your teachers were anything like mine, most of them relied heavily on Microsoft PowerPoint to accompany their lectures. If you’re anything like me, you have also relied heavily on them for in-class presentations from middle school to now. Have you ever wanted to get away form the standard format of image and text you’ve always used in PowerPoint? In this post I’ll share with you some of the neat new tricks I learned about enhancing my presentations by making my images more interesting, adding video and audio, and some of the many options PowerPoint offers through SmartArt. Though we have been told time and time again to favor hands-on learning with our elementary school students, with these snazzy tools, PowerPoints can be a great way to introduce concepts or as a tool for them to use for their own presentations.
To find out more, I watched the videos in Chapter six of the lynda.com course PowerPoint for Mac 2011 Essential Training, which discusses Working with Pictures and Multimedia. If you use a PC, check out the Up and Running with PowerPoint 2010 Chapter Three, Using graphics in presentations for more specific tips.
The first video, titled Inserting pictures and clip art, covers just that. Using the the picture button on the Home toolbar in Powerpoint, or by going to Insert then Picture, you can add pictures from your personal files, or from the ClipArt collection.
The next video discusses Replacing and adjusting pictures. If you ever insert the wrong picture, or decide to change a picture, you can easily replace it with another image downloaded to your computer or a ClipArt image. All you have to do is right click over the image, choose change picture, and then select your new picture. The new image will be in the same place and the same size as the picture you replaced, so you do not have to reformat your slide to accommodate the replacement. The video also details how to format and edit images in PowerPoint using the Format Picture in the ribbon at the top of the page. You can add cool effects to your picture by editing the brightness, contrast, and warmth of the image. If your image has a solid background that you do not want, you can remove that as well by editing the transparency of the image or using the remove background button in the Format Picture toolbar.
In addition to these effects, PowerPoint also offers several borders, shadows, and styles under the Format Picture toolbar and the Paintbrush tool. To the right I’ve illustrated the reflection effect.
The third video shows some of the ways you can use SmartArt and drawing tools to create flowcharts in PowerPoint. Check out Robin’s post Working with Google Drawings to learn about similar tools in Google Drive. If you want to control every aspect of your drawing, you can use the drawing tool to create shapes and connect them with lines. One neat thing about the lines is that they will continue to connect the shapes you select, even if you change the position of the shapes. SmartArt can make your life much easier though. There are several flowcharts, tables, and graphic organizers offered by SmartArt in PowerPoint. To the right are the many options in just one category of SmartArt charts.
You can add images and text to these templates and they can be customized with features and effects from the SmartArt toolbar so that your presentation can remain unique. Anything you create with SmartArt can be saved as a separate file to your computer. You can then embed this image anywhere you want. This is a great tool for us to use on our websites when we become teachers, and for our blog now! The SmartArt I embedded shows the categories of chart templates offered along with most of the templates.
One other thing that always adds some pizzaz to your presentation is a video. The fourth video describes how to insert one of your own. If you have created a video on your computer, you can embed it in your presentation using the Insert Video/Audio button on the Home toolbar. You can adjust the volume of the video, how it begins, and whether or not it takes up the whole slide when playing.
The final video in the chapter is on Adding audio. I never realized that PowerPoint allowed music to play throughout the presentation. Using the same Insert Video/Audio button mentioned above, you can insert a song or recording of your voice into your presentation. Though an image of a speaker shows up where you insert the file, you can remove this from the visuals of your presentation if you want. As with all the other features, you can customize this by determining when the audio begins, the volume, and which slides contain the sounds.
Feel free to explore the Lynda videos on these topics, and play around with SmartArt in PowerPoint, as well as Word and Excel. Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts on these tools and your experiences with them. What are some ways you would use PowerPoint, and especially SmartArt in your classroom?