It’s time to head back to school and educators and students alike are preparing themselves with the tools they need to sail through the year. It would be hard to get through the school year without making a presentation. It would be just as hard to get through the school year without collaborating on a group project. Collaborating and presenting have value because, hand in hand, they help groups synthesize and then clarify research and learning.
John Kuglin, a consultant for the US Department of Education, has identified a shift in the way education institutions collaborate and present. Kuglin points to cloud-based tools such as SlideRocket and Google Docs that integrate through Google Apps. “These tools ‘speak’ to each other now,” he says. “Once you move off platform-dependent software, such as PowerPoint, and move up into the cloud, your collaboration abilities increase significantly.”
Imagine a collection of data stored in a Google spreadsheet. Try embedding Google documents into a PowerPoint presentation. Impossible, right? But when cloud-based tools such as Google Docs and SlideRocket and “speak” to each other, collaboration doesn’t stop when it’s time to present. Multiple team members can easily pull online content into a single presentation, and then tell a meaningful and engaging story that helps people remember what they’ve heard.
Sarah Weston is the curriculum director for the Open High School of Utah, a charter school. “When we look at giving our students tools, I always look for two things: web-based and collaborative,” says Weston. “This is because our infrastructure is cloud-based and our curriculum encourages group work.”
Weston says that single sign-on access to SlideRocket through Google Apps saves time and cuts down on the number of accounts she creates and manages. Teachers embed presentations in their online courses, track statistics, and assess how the lesson was received. Students can work in teams, collect shared data in Google Docs, and organize their data in a presentation – regardless of location. “When I describe it to my new teachers,” says Weston, “I call it PowerPoint on steroids.”
Through presentations, facts and data gain meaning. “I look at SlideRocket as a tool that will allow unprecedented collaboration to occur,” Kuglin says, “but I also look at it as a tool that pulls together the work done in ‘building’ tools, like Google Docs, and displays it in such a way that communicates and conveys the ideas behind that work to other people.”
Using cloud-based tools in an education setting is not only about extending opportunities for collaboration, it’s about preparing students for careers where presenting and storytelling are critical communication skills. Kuglin explains, “It doesn’t matter what field you’re going into, you’ve got to be able to collect, organize, and pull your thoughts together – typically with a team – and then present those thoughts in a way that is understandable to other people. Collaboration and presentation are absolutely tied together.”
Education institutions can gain access to SlideRocket’s integrated and collaborative presentation tools through the Google Apps Marketplace.