Using presentation apps for more than just presentations


Last week, I wrote a post about helping students who have limited access to the internet. Not all teaching situations have the same access to technology and sometimes we need to be a bit creative in finding solutions that still help our students without breaking the bank.

I mentioned a series of portable applications that can be downloaded and used completely for free (open-source / freeware). These lightweight Windows-compatible programs can be run from a cheap USB flashdrive, so students can take them with them and use them on their own computers or on shared computers without having to install them.

Since many teachers working with immigrants and refugees often encounter students who haven’t had a lot of experience using computers, it is counterproductive to keep switching between various programs and tools. I have found it better to use a few tools for a variety of purposes, even if they aren’t necessarily the latest and greatest.

One such tool is the presentation software. PowerPoint, Google Drive, Keynote, and Impress are just a handful of the many different tools available for creating presentation slides. While many people hate these slideshows, I feel many don’t see the potential of these apps for doing far more than putting their audience to sleep. Here are just some of the ideas I have used in my classroom.

Digital Storytelling

An effective use of presentation software is the digital story. Instead of just text and maybe some images, you can also embed videos, audio, and even some animation. Each presentation app has the basics needed to create a digital story. Have students create a slide for each page, add some images, record some audio or upload a video, and put together a story they can share with you, their classmates, and beyond. Click on the image below for an example.

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 1.26.10 PM.png


  • Have students work ‘offline’ first before heading to the computer. I have found students will spend too much time on design rather than the story if I don’t start on paper first.
  • Google Drive doesn’t have an option for playing an audio file. It will only allow for YouTube videos or videos on Google Drive. This can still be useful, but just note the difference.
  • When adding an audio file in PowerPoint or Impress, I have students insert the audio into a slide and then move it off the slide. That way it doesn’t show up if viewed online since the “Hide during show” option only works in the app.
  • Create a class OneDrive account or Google Drive account to upload finished presentations. I use OneDrive since the audio file works there. This way students can share their creations with others.
  • Use the comment field for feedback. I have students give peer feedback first and then I come in later. Students then make changes from the feedback.

Graphic Design

I must admit, Microsoft Word is a terrible design tool. I understand it wasn’t intended for that purpose, but using images and changing layout is such a pain. That is why I tend to use PowerPoint or other presentation software in a pinch. It works much better and you can export slides as PDF files which can be used for printing out things such as graphic organizers, charts, diagrams, and so much more. Here is a sample of a graphic organizer I made for one of my classes. I printed it out and they worked at their table in groups. I will be the first to admit that I lack the graphic design skills to make it look pretty, but it worked.

Text Type graphic organizer.png

I have used this in my classroom to have students create brochures and posters such as when I was working with my low-level students on a food project. We looked at a number of print advertisements for health foods and then made our own. The idea was to review persuasive language and words with positive and negative meanings. Here is a sample from that.



  • Create a sample and a template for the students to create their projects. In this case, I just wanted students to use the three-row layout instead of going crazy. It is amazing what they can create within those limitations. I feel students don’t take as much time in creating their project if there is a boundary to work within.
  • Have students share their slides with you and then create one slideshow with all of the slides. This way, you can upload the slideshow online so students can comment on each other’s work.
  • Make the slide size somewhat smaller than a regular piece of paper. You can also make it vertical.


Since some of my students didn’t have access to internet at home or had limited access, I didn’t feel it was fair to make them blog. Then I came up with the idea to have them blog ‘offline’ using Impress on Portable Libre Office on their USB drive. I had them make each slide a blog post which I would then upload to our OneDrive account since Impress will export as a PowerPoint presentation. It isn’t the best blogging platform, but it works well and my students were already familiar with how to add images and text along with multimedia items to a slide, so they felt comfortable with it. I would add comments along with the other students using the comment tool. They could also share their blog using the share link. Here is a sample I made as an example (click on the image):

Sample Presentation Blog.png


  • Have students use their own images or photos from royalty-free image sites such as Pixabay.
  • Since the slide leads to shorter texts, give students a framework in which to write. It could be a prompt or an image. I used a calendar that showed the upcoming themes and prompts so students could start thinking ahead about what they would like write.
  • Give feedback, but keep it short since you will have a lot to reply to. Don’t make it a daily blog or you will be overwhelmed with feedback. Used once a week.
  • Ask students if it is okay for you to share on social media so they can get comments from others.
  • Google Drive has a cool option to share a link to a single slide. That would be great for sharing on social media.

Online Pinboard

There are some great sites out there for collaborative work such as Padlet, Lino, and AwwApp. This is just another option that students feel comfortable with since it is familiar to them. I use a shared slide with students so they can add links, text, images and videos. Here is a simple example using a PowerPoint slide on OneDrive:

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 2.40.37 PM.png


  • Combine the background image and the title text together and save as a new image. Add that as a background image so it won’t be tampered with.
  • Don’t try to do too much with both images and texts as it isn’t easy to combine images and text using PowerPoint Online.


Those are just some of the ideas of what you can do with a presentation app other than using it for slides. There are many others including games (ex. Jeopardy) and e-portfolios. I have also used this to have my higher-level students make a one-slide poster presentation. They then can project it or print it out to give their poster presentation.

I hope that helps spark some ideas. Let me know what you think.

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