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Using PowerPoint Slides in the AP Art History Classroom

by Yu Bong Ko
Tappan Zee High School
Orangeburg, New York

This is the second of two articles on using digital images in the AP Art History classroom.

Having struggled for years with traditional mounted slides on carousels for my in-class lectures, I have found relief in PowerPoint as a valuable teaching tool. By electronically combining a variety of text, sound, and visual material into a sequence of slides, you can create an engaging multimedia presentation. Teachers and students have truly embraced this popular software application. The computer technology allows for a delivery of information that takes into account the different learning styles that our students possess.

The PowerPoint application can trigger animation, movie, and music files while the slide show of digital images can be summarized with bullet-point texts. The entire presentation can be printed out as class notes including thumbnails of images and text for students to use. As AP Art History teachers, we are particularly interested in presenting art works to the students by comparing different combinations of images. The beauty of setting up a lecture with a PowerPoint slide presentation is that you can recombine images from other lectures to make new presentations with great ease. All it takes is a few clicks of a mouse button to have another copy of the desired image. The entire folder full of complete lectures in presentation format can be "burned" to a CD-RW for easy storage, transport, and duplication.

Proven PowerPoint Tips
Tip #1: Keep it simple. Too often I have sat through PowerPoint presentations in which fluff more than outweighs substance; it is a classic case of technology making content trivial. To avoid this pitfall, I keep each slide "pure" and to the point as I lay out the presentation. Just as presenting with traditional slides requires a projection onto a clean white background, I also begin each PowerPoint slide with a plain white background. We are tempted to add our favorite color as the background color of the slide, but the image stands out best against a white background. No special transitional or sound effects are added in between slides, either. Moreover, I avoid using any premade slides (such as are made by the "Wizard"). These simple precautions will leave the essential element -- the very best digital image of the artwork that I can find -- pure and intact on each slide. In addition, the storage space requirement for each presentation (i.e., file size) will be dramatically reduced, hence allowing the file to open that much faster on the computer each time.

Tip #2: Save and paste Web images. One issue to keep in mind as you look for images on the Internet is to never get too complacent with what you find right away. The same image that you are seeking may be found in dozens of other sites, each with varying degrees in quality. Thus, with a bit of added effort, you may be able to find the best one available.

Do not copy the thumbnail of the image; rather, click on the image to get an enlarged or full-screen view of it. Then, copy it or save it. A thumbnail will break up as it is enlarged to fit the slide, whereas the full-screen view will retain the resolution as it is being resized. An image needs to be minimum 30 KB (kilobytes) in size to be "projectable," while an image of around 100 KB is the most desirable.

Some users like to perform an actual "Save Image As" for each image, thus saving the image to a designated folder (e.g., "Egypt-Old Kingdom") as a separate file. This is time consuming, but it is a good practice, as you will have a permanent backup copy stored in your computer. To paste the image onto the PowerPoint slide in this case, click on "Insert" from the main menu to see a pull-down menu and select "Picture - from File." Now find the image that you have previously saved to a designated folder. Select it to paste it onto the slide.

(Note: Sometimes you may not see the file that you want listed within a folder. In this case, you must select "All Files" from "Files of Type" to view all file types in your folder. The images that you are obtaining come in different picture file formats, such as .bmp, .tif, or .jpeg. The latter is the most common picture format found on the Internet, although PowerPoint supports all of the above formats.)

Tip #3: Adjust your Web images. Once the picture has been placed onto the slide, it can be resized by clicking on the picture and dragging the corner "window handles" to push or pull to a desired size. It is important to drag by the corners to retain the original shape of the picture, while keeping in mind the relative proportion between the picture and the slide. You can make more fine-tuned moves by clicking on the picture to "select" it and then pressing on the arrow keys on the keyboard.

If the picture has to be adjusted for cropping, brightness, contrast, etc., select the picture by right-clicking on the mouse button to access the Picture toolbar, then select the appropriate icon on the toolbar to access its features.

(Note: The Picture toolbar has a Line Outline feature, which allows you to wrap a border around the picture. Depending on the nature of the image, this feature can give a nice finished look to a picture on the slide.)

Tip #4: Use text sparingly with slides. Too often I have run into presentations in which a slide is filled with paragraph after paragraph of written text. This is simply a bad use of the medium. The audience is not able to read lengthy text off of a slide, and worse, the presenter reads the slide verbatim. What I want to advocate is avoidance of text on all slides (except for the title and citations slides). If text must be used, then I suggest the "4 by 4" rule. This guideline is intended to keep text on a slide in bullet format, where each line is about four words long and no more than four lines deep. The purpose behind the use of text in this style is simply to introduce the main focal points of the talk and nothing more.

(Note: you can input your entire lecture notes onto the Notes section of the frame in Normal View of each slide.)

Tip #5: Use hyperlinks on slides. If the presentation computer can access the Internet, you can create a hyperlink from the PowerPoint presentation slide to a "live" Web site connection. For example, some Web sites for art history contain wonderful step-by-step visual illustrations or a "virtual reality tour" of an architectural site. By simply creating a hyperlink to this Web site from the lecture slide, the live connection to the Internet site provides a nice tangential journey from the slide presentation. With a click of a button, I can return immediately back to my presentation and continue on with the talk. The flip side to this technique is that there is no guarantee that the Web site will always be up and running for you to access.

To create a hyperlink, in Normal View, go to "Slide Show" on the main menu to activate a pull-down menu and select "Action Buttons." As another pull-down menu is activated, select from the choice of icons. Click and drag the icon onto a blank portion of the slide. This will activate an Action Settings dialogue box from which to choose a link to open a program, another file, or an Internet address.

Tip #6: Show slides effectively. To see the slide as it would appear full screen, click "View" on the main menu to activate a pull-down menu and select "Slide Show." Or click on the icon at the bottom of the PowerPoint screen. (The icon looks like a projection screen.)

You do not have to run through all of the slides in your presentation from the beginning to get to a particular slide. Simply click on the slide of choice from the Slide Sorter View and then click on the Slide Show icon to jump to that slide. In addition, during the slide show, you can quickly go back to the previous slide by simply right-clicking on the mouse to activate a pop-up menu or simply pressing the backspace key. During the presentation, you may want to create a blank screen so that it may not be distracting to other activities. To make a temporary blank screen in the course of a presentation, simply press "B" on the keyboard. Press it again to return to the slide.

Tip #7: Print your slide presentation. Go to "File" on the main menu, click to pull down a list, and select "Print." At the Print pull-down menu, look for the "Print What" box, which is located toward the bottom left of the menu. Click on the down arrow to choose "Notes Pages" or "Hand-outs" from the list of choices. The "Notes Pages" option provides an image with all of your lecture notes about the image below it. This is ideal for your own personal use. On the other hand, the "Hand-outs" option provides choices for you to print two, three, or six slides per page. The three slides per page print with lined space next to the thumbnail images of the slides for students to take notes. If you have a fast color printer, you are lucky, but grayscale will do for these notes.

When you print the presentation slides instead from the Slide Sorter View, it functions very much like viewing mounted slides placed in clear slide sleeves. This printed page, preferably in color, lets me know at a glance what I have in terms of images related to my presentation on Old Kingdom Egypt, for example.

Tip #8: Store your presentations. The beauty of authoring your own PowerPoint slide presentations is that you can customize them to anchor in-class lectures. Unlike commercially available CD-ROMs with fixed presentations, you have limitless possibilities to do as you wish with the images. My PowerPoint presentations for Ancient Egypt lectures, for example, contain 140 different images. They contain the typical prescribed views of Egyptian art and architecture, but also hard-to-find images, alternate views, plans, and maps. My collection of traditional mounted slides for Ancient Egypt is not bad, but it does not come close to the digital collection of images. To this end, I recommend that you make manageable files that can be easily transported, located, and opened on the computer.

Let's take Aegean art, for example. Instead of creating a single lengthy slide presentation for the entire chapter on Aegean art, logically divide the presentation into three separate presentations: Cycladic, Minoan, and Mycenaean. By creating a folder entitled "Aegean Art," you can save the three completed PowerPoint slide presentations into that folder for quick retrieval. Additionally, smaller-sized files open faster on the computer and allow for a manageable attachment that can be sent via email or saved to a portable single diskette. Ultimately, the complete lectures in digital slide format for each chapter of the AP Art History course can be burned to a single CD-RW for easy storage, transport, and duplication.

In short, I have embraced authoring in PowerPoint for use in my classroom lectures and more, for its unsurpassed flexibility, ease of use, and durability not found in presenting with traditional slides on carousels alone.

Yu Bong Ko teaches AP Art History at Tappan Zee High School in Orangeburg, New York, and is an adjunct professor of education at New York Institute of Technology, where he teaches graduate courses in instructional technology. A frequent speaker and session leader at AP teacher conferences and summer institutes, Yu Bong continues to read AP Examinations and is a former member of the AP Art History Development Committee.

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