The Difference Technology Can Make

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This entry was originally posted on December 9, 2014 on the Bits Blog.

Logitech Professional Presenter R800 with Green Laser PointerWhat you see in the photo on the right is the Logitech Professional Presenter R800 with Green Laser Pointer, one of the best purchases I have ever made for the classroom.

Last spring, one of the students in my technical writing class had a remote like this Logitech Presenter, which his group used as they made their presentation. It seemed like an  awkward “pass the conch” game, as group members passed the remote back and forth to give their portion of the presentation, but it was better than all of them shuffling around at the keyboard. Seeing the tool in action, I realized that I needed a similar remote for  my Writing and Digital Media class.

In that class, students give two individual presentations. Because of the classroom’s configuration, I open the presentations on the teacher’s workstation so that they can be displayed on the large screen. As they present, students, who stand on the other side of the room, call out, “Next slide please” to let me know when to advance the slideshow. It wasn’t the best set-up, but it worked.

This fall, I forgot about ordering a remote on time, so my Writing and Digital Media students did their first presentations using that “next slide please” method. When sign-up time came for their second presentations, I ordered the remote and tried it out in the classroom while they were doing peer review on their projects.

I hadn’t planned on experimenting on students, but as it turned out, I had seen them all do their first presentations without the remote, and I am now seeing them all present with it—and I cannot believe the difference that having the right technological gizmo has made in their presentations.

With control over the progression of slides, students move fluidly from point to point in their presentations. There are no awkward pauses, when they are waiting for me to realize I need to advance the slide. Their transitions are smooth, and  students have been far more polished than they were during their first presentation. Even better, because I am no longer distracted by watching them for cues to advance the slides, I have been able to pay better attention to their presentations and take better notes on what they were doing.

At $70, the remote was a pricey personal investment, but students have been so much better during their second presentations, that I’m glad I spent my money on it. It reminded me how important it is to make sure students have the right tools, instead of just trying to make do with what’s available, what’s cheap, or what’s free.

Have you found something that completely changed students’ performance? Do you know of a piece of software or hardware that makes a difference? Tell me more by leaving  a comment below.

About the Author
Traci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.