Thursday, September 18, 2014

Online Learning: Are We Doing It Wrong?

Tomorrow, I will be making two presentations to two very different audiences. One is a free webinar I'm doing for the TLT Group (register here) -- the audience will be primarily college instructors and instructional designers. Another is for the California Community College Online Education Initiative -- the audience will be a diverse group of stakeholders collecting input about the important characteristics for a statewide LMS for California Community Colleges (for classes that are offered through OEI initative).

Both of these presentations will incorporate my experiences and my students' experiences with using VoiceThread as an asynchronous discussion tool since 2007. 

"Experiences" is the key word here. This is not about a tool. It's about how teaching with a tool not typically found within an LMS toolkit can create a learning environment that impacts the student learning experience differently.  It's about the importance of relationships and affective learning in an online environment.  It's about the power of the human voice when a person is trying to figure out a new idea or delivering feedback. It's about supporting and inspiring students to be vulnerable.  It's about what gets lost if online instructors rely only on the LMS toolkit.  It's about how LTI integration with web-based tools saves faculty time (and money) and lowers the barrier of adoption of emerging technologies by providing embeds with a click, secure activities, grading from the gradebook, and automatically generated student accounts (with a single sign on), and the ability for students to generate their own creations that can be shared with a public audience (or secure to just the class registrants).

Below is a presentation you may review that provides the current (through Spring 2014) results of four consecutive semesters of anonymous online student surveys about how using asynchronous voice/video conversations impacts their experiences.

As I reflect on these findings, I am left with one question: Are we doing it wrong?  What are your takeaways?

To be clear about my relationship with VoiceThread, I am a college instructor and instructional technologist who has taught online and face-to-face with VoiceThread since 2007.  I supports faculty with the effective pedagogical application of the tool. The community college at which I teach has a sitewide license with LTI integration of VoiceThread into Blackboard and so does the university where I work as an instructional technologist. In the past, I was a paid higher education consultant for VoiceThread (to develop a higher ed webinar series) from 2012-2013.  In 2013, I authored a self-published eBook with compensation from the last months of consultancy at VoiceThread.  This eBook is available at no cost to VoiceThread site license holders and it is available for sale or rent to the general public. I receive royalties from the sales of the eBook.  I am a doctoral student working with VoiceThread as my research site to explore how the use of an eBook as a faculty support resource for a web 2.0 tool impacts faculty perceptions about the tool. Currently, I receive no income from VoiceThread.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Getting Started with "Connected Courses"

I'm putting my best learner foot forward and attempting to engage in an open online course that is filled with EdTech rockstars and exploring the dazzling topic of learning in the open web through peer interactions.  The course is called Connected Courses (#CCourses) and includes all of these amazing people as facilitators.

I'm making this post to be able to connect my blog to the syndication feed for the course.  Want to join in?  Sign up today (yes, it's free and open to all who have an interest in joining together to explore the possibilities of connected learning in the open web.  The class officially begins on September 15th. The first unit will explore:
What is, or should be, the future of higher education?  What do we stand to lose or gain in pursuing the possibilities opened up by the Web?  What are the underlying logics and effects of different approaches to teaching with technology/online?

Friday, August 15, 2014

VoiceThread Research Study

As some of you know, I am completing my EdD in Educational Leadership and Management at Capella University.  My dissertation research study will explore how eBooks provided as a faculty support resource impact faculty perceptions about teaching with VoiceThread.

You are eligible to participate in this study if you:

  • are a part-time or full-time higher education faculty member in the United States
  • have a VoiceThread account (free account, individual higher educator account, department license, or site license)
  • over the age of 18 (the previous age limit has been eliminated)
Participants do not need to be actively teaching with VoiceThread, nor do they need expertise with the use of VoiceThread.

For more information about how to review the full risks and benefits of participating in this study and to sign up, please click the link below:
I am happy to assist with any questions you may have. My contact information is on the website linked above or you may contact me directly through my blog using the "Contact Michelle" form on the right side.

Michelle Pacansky-Brock

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Liquid Syllabus: Are You Ready?

Liquid Gold by mcdarius. CC-BY-NC
by mcdarius CC-BY-NC
Liquid content refers to web content that is highly shared - where the desire for sharing is driven by contagious or 'viral ideas' within the content. OK, ok. Maybe a college course syllabus won't become viral (for good reasons) but what if a course syllabus could transform into a content experience that students really wanted to look at and engage with, as opposed to resource we dictated they "must read." Are we at the tipping point for this to happen?

Back in 2011, I wrote a post titled "Time for an Extreme Syllabus Make-Over?" In that post I explore the importance and value of the course syllabus to both instructors and students, ideas I still support. I also explored the value of communicating with students more visually than faculty generally do in higher education. This argument was contextualized in a brief reference to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and mentioned the general shift toward the visual digital media context our students toggle in and out of as they move between their formal (i.e. in Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn, Canvas, etc.) and informal (in the open web -- YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.) environments. That dichotomy remains -- if anything, visual content has become more central to an individual's informal learning as the ownership of smartphones has accelerated in recent years.

I've been reflecting a lot lately on this notion of the 21st century syllabus (and chuckling to myself that I would even use such a phrase). Three years ago, I found a visually compelling PDF to be cutting edge. Today, with so many students accessing content from smartphones, is a PDF the best format for a syllabus? I think not.  The syllabus should be a resource that could be easily accessed and bookmarked on a phone, not locked inside an LMS, and a resource that does not need to be downloaded.

I receive a notification in my email each time someone downloads the "Educator's Guide to a 21st Century Syllabus" that I shared back in 2011. And each time I receive one of those notifications, I am torn -- part of me wants to take that resource down, as I think it needs some serious updating, but I also feel it is helpful to faculty who may not be ready to leave the PDF format all together.

This is where digital media can really become transformative for a resource like a syllabus.
Here is my grand vision. Imagine with me. What if your syllabi were beautiful? What if they were a pleasure for students to engage with? What if they provided opportunities to not only understand and access policies, expectations, schedules and such, but for our students to meet us?  What if the syllabus became a site where former students could share voices (stories, feedback, words of encouragement) with future students? Isn't THIS what our goal should be as we move into this amazing landscape of mobile, digital media?

What if these syllabi were all open websites, as opposed to documents secured inside a Learning Management System, as so many are? Thiw would encourage sharing of ideas amongst faculty and students could bookmark them on their smartphones and refer to them frequently, on the go.

But beyond that, they could be linked to pre-registration experiences for learners. Why do students need to wait until after they register for a class to review a course syllabus? This has always made me scratch my head. Imagine if the registration process was truly student-centered and students could not only review the course syllabus but also experience a video from each instructor and any other creative resources designed into that syllabus.

Now we're talking.

Now you may be thinking, "I don't know how to make a syllabus like that" or "faculty at my institution aren't that tech savvy."  Well, you are wrong -- and I hope you take that as a challenge.

In the past year, many micro-publishing tools have emerged that facilitate simple creation of beautiful, captivating single-page websites.  They are perfect for making a liquid syllabus.  In past blog posts, I've referenced Populr, Smore, and Tackk -- and all three of them make great tools for creating beautiful, mobile-friendly course syllabi (or digital flyers that link to course syllabi)!

Below are a few examples of syllabi for you to explore that have been created with these micro-publishing tools.  I encourage you to view them on both a web browser and your mobile device, an important experiment for testing the value of new tools in our mobile learning society.
  • Offers a robust ad-free account for educators, although you would never know it based upon the design and organization of their site. offers institutional accounts too, which could be incredible transformational for faculty across the board, as the upgraded options included blocks of content that can be customized and updated from single point and pushed out into templates across the institution. While I have not used this type of account, I imagine this being a pathway towards supporting faculty syllabus creation by establishing a template with institutional policies plugged in, saving the faculty time and creating more consistency in the student experience overall.  Of course there are many other uses too like faculty pages, faculty training offerings, events, committee meeting notes, and more.
  • How are you using Syllabus Examples:

  • Tackk is my newest find and we are becoming very happy together. I'm using Tack to create Unit Overviews for my online class (which I write about here and plan to blog more about soon).  Tackk does not have options for creating multiple columns but the user experience is lovely -- very simple and the content is beautiful. Each Tackk also has the option to include a stream at the bottom to which viewers may comment. Tackks can be embedded (adjust the height and width provided to make it larger and fit well in your LMS) and even when embedded, the videos play great on my iPhone and iPad (which I can't say about the same YouTube videos I embed directly into Blackboard...sigh). Customizable URLs are also built right in, which is nice!
       Tackk Syllabus Example:
  • I have not actively used Smore so it's tough for me to comment on its features. Smore offers educator accounts for $59/year and details are available here.
  • In the limited use I have with it, it seems to have fewer layout options than (which can be limiting for syllabus creation). Smore is marketed as a tool for creating digital"flyers." It is simple to use and the content you create is beautiful. Analytics are also included.
  • How are you using Smore?
        Smore Syllabus Example:
  •  Disabilities in Society by Jill Leafstedt at CSU Channel Islands. (I should note that this is an old syllabus of Jill's. After learning about she made the move and started using it for her syllabus.

Monday, August 11, 2014

VoiceThreading Learning Opportunities Ahead!
I am coordinating a series of events in collaboration with the TLT Group, a non-profit group of higher education faculty, staff, and administrators exploring opportunities for using new technologies to improve teaching and learning. 

The series will be anchored around my eBook, How to Humanize Your Online Class with VoiceThread.  The events will include one webinar that will be free and open to the public followed by a series of deeper dive experiences designed to engage participants in group dialogue and reflection about the eBook's narrative which is designed to support an individual's pedagogical growth, experimentation and development. 

Learning Out Loud Webinar
Fri, Sept 19th
11am-12pm PT/2pm-3pm ET

(this event is free and open to the public)
This 60-minute webinar will be interactive and provide opportunities for Q&A. It is intended for VoiceThread beginners who are seeking to learn more about the unique benefits that VoiceThread brings to the college teaching experience. I will draw largely upon my own teaching experiences and share findings from an ongoing study about how learning out loud is impacting my community college learners.

Book Discussion & VoiceThread How-To Series

Thurs, Sept 18th through Wed, October 15th

(this series is open to members of the TLT Group)

This series will include:

After Oct 15th
Continue the learning in the VoiceThread Google+ Community.  

Stay tuned! I hope to organize a Hangout on Air to showcase some of the recent innovations occurring in the VoiceThread higher education community. If you have a creative teaching use of VoiceThread you'd like to share with me, please let me know!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Humanizing Online Learning at CSUCI!

An online faculty development offering for CSUCI
Last March, I was hired by CSU Channel Islands to support faculty with the exciting journey into online and blended teaching and learning. Between March and June, I worked furiously to develop a series of online courses for the small, creative, and entrepreneurial campus. If that sounds like an unsual way to describe a public institution of higher education, you're right. And that's one of the things I love so much about this institution -- and why I decided it was right for me to work here. :)  It has a vibrancy and sense of curiosity about learning that makes me feel very at home.

Risky Business

Me Hanging Out with my CSUCI colleagues,
Jill Leafsted and Michael McGarry.
The simple fact that CSUCI was willing to hire me to work remotely to support faculty in this endeavor says a great deal. I know, I know -- how can hiring a remote employee have a "humanizing" effect?  What am I, nuts?

Well, on the one hand, it really makes a great deal of sense.  One of my major tasks is developing online trainings, facilitating these trainings entirely remotely, supporting the vetting of emerging technologies for the campus, and working with faculty (which I do through asynchronous and synchronous technologies). For example, I participate in one-on-one and group meetings with my colleagues via Google+ Hangouts.  This process has been an enriching learning experience on both sides, I believe, as many individuals on campus have had the opportunity to learn experientially about the humanizing effect of technology without being explicitly told that's what their learning.

I don't want to come across as one who is advocating for the virtualization of brick-and-mortar campus employees. But I think there is something to be said about considering the option in certain scenarios when it makes sense. That requires a leader to do something against the grain of what's typical in higher ed tradition and that can be immensely difficult and scary. Roselind Torres would say this is a characteristic that defines a 21st century leader.

The Courses

The three courses I've developed for faculty are each two weeks long. We offered the first full series of the courses in the Spring (May-June), as I was developing the final course. The feedback has been extremely positive...but, yes, these are the early adopters so it's more likely to see positive reactions to online learning, in general.

The courses include:
Image of The Tool Buffet site, a resource for the CSUCI "How to Humanize Your Online Class' course.
The Tool Buffet, a suite of emerging technologies
with humanizing potential.
Click here to visit the site I've put together for CSUCI faculty, which includes a link to each syllabus.  The How to Humanize Your Online Class course is a unique offering to CSUCI (as far as I'm aware). Its intent is to model to faculty how to effectively integrate outside (web-based) technologies into an LMS (in our instance, Blackboard), review recent research that explores how voice/video and social technologies are being used to improve teaching and social presence, experience the humanizing impact of select tools within an online learning environment, encourage faculty to experiment with emerging technologies, and to reduce to fear and anxiety often associated with participating online in video and voice. The faculty that complete the course each produce an online video introduction for their course, in a tool of their choice, and share it in a (closed) Google+ Community for CSUCI faculty, as well as create a "humanized course action plan" which is intended to be a reflective learning experience to help faculty be cognizant about their growth (this too is shared in the Google+ Community with peers).

Here is a link to the Tool Buffet that is provided to faculty in the "Humanizing" course. Notice that it is created in a web-based tool ( (the same tool used to create each online syllabus), which enables faculty to bookmark the URL during course and visit it later for continued learning (as it is continuously updated by me!). also renders content very well on mobile devices, which makes it a great match for online learning. Each course ends with a live Google+ Hangout to dig deeper into questions that have been collected on a collaborative Padlet board throughout the 2-week class. 

A Potential Humanizing Workshop with ELI!

Yesterday I had a great conversation with Veronica Diaz at EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative and we are discussing the possibility of offering the Humanizing course as an multi-week online session in May through ELI. Details will be shared as they come into focus!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tackk, meet Blackboard; Blackboard, meet Tackk
Teaching online in higher education requires most instructors to use an LMS (Learning Management System; i.e. Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn, etc.). According to ECAR, 99% of higher education institutions report LMSs use as ubiquitous on campus. Understanding how an expensive LMS displays content on mobile devices (used more and more by students to access content -- as well as a huge opportunity increase interactions with and among our students) and ensuring the user experience of a course designed with an LMS is up to par with user experience created with  free, more social, and easier-to-use technologies that are surfacing like wildfire these days in the edtech startup arena are important topics for higher education administrators, instructional designers, and faculty to remain aware of.

I shared some of other thoughts LMSs in a recent post (to be fully transparent) and will reserve those for the moment, as my reality for today is the same as that of many other faculty -- I can use external tools but I also have to use an LMS.  So, how the question becomes we bring these two worlds together in design that makes sense for our students?

And, most importantly, what can the LMS community and edtech startup community learn from our experiences as educators?  I hope this post will illuminate a few insights for both communities, as well as for faculty who share my own interests.

Life as a Hacker Teacher

Often we hear about new tools and their potential for learning.  That may mean they create more visually engaging content than the content within our LMS, which can be flat and simply boring. It can also mean a tool could inspire new options for engaging with students including opportunities for content creation, which can be clunky and even down right impossible with some LMSs.

But then there is the somewhat uncomfortable introductory moment...when you must figure out how to integrate that awesome new tool with your LMS in a way that creates a fluid experience for your students. If you can't do that, it's not worth it.  And, to me, this can be the most difficult part. I often tell people, teaching with Blackboard has taught me some pretty impressive hacking skills.

This week, I am experimenting with I learned about Tackk after follwing the ISTE feed this year. There was much awesome chatter about it! Then yesterday, my good friend and colleague Anna Stirling shared a post on Facebook about it, which nudged me to take another look. It was enough to get me to spend the day exploring, thinking, and wanting to redesign much of my class.

What I Learned:

What I learned (view the 9-minute video above for a visual tour!):
  1. Tackk's user interface is simple and intuitive.
  2. Tackk offers cool features including a simple URL paste option for plugging in online videos and a nice RSVP feature that allowed me to ask my students if they're planning to attend my online orientation. The content items on a Tackk can be moved up or down with a simple arrow (similar to Blackboard's drag/drop feature).
  3. The overall design of a Tack is more coherent and visually appealing than content designed using Blackboard. I've tried for years to create content with Blackboard that is visually appealing and I have simply given up. I'm not a web designer and neither are more than 99% of college instructors. Creating content should be simple and intuitive, and it should look beautiful. Period.
  4. I also learned that the YouTube videos I have manually embedded into my Blackboard course do not render on either my iPad or iPhone. This was disappointing, to say the least, considering that the majority of my students own these devices (a fact I know because I've surveyed them for years). Each of my learning units includes a welcome video that I have taken the extra time to record and YouTube videos that demonstrate complex photographic processes. Does this gap prevent students from viewing the content? Or at the very least create a missed opportunity for reaching my students (that I wasn't even aware of)?
  5. The very same videos render beautifully in a Tackk embedded into Blackboard.
  6. While a Tackk can be embedded into Blackboard, there are only three embed code options provided by Tackk and the largest one is tiny. It does not render a visually appealing experience in Blackboard. I edited the HTML code (to 800 wide x 1200 tall) and it then it rendered well in both Firefox and on an iPad. Tack needs more embed options that play well with LMSs.
  7. The embed code created a scroll bar, which resulted a double scroll situation in Blackboard. This is a problem that also needs to be resolved.
  8. There is no option to add alt-tags to images in a Tackk. Alt-tags are critical additions when creating web-based content because they are read by screen readers (accessible devices used by blind students when navigated the web) and are a necessary element for creating accessible web content.  This needs to be resolved on Tackk's end (and I would add, nearly all ed tech startup tools I experiment with).

Moving forward

This semester, I'm considering using Tackk for some of my content in my online class. I'd like to hear from Tackk about some of the suggestions I offered above to see if they could be implemented.  Next semester, I'm considering having my students create visual learning journeys with Tackk. I think it's a promising learning tool!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Threat of Higher Ed's Love Affair with Closed-LMSs

Closed Sign in Yellowstone from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Bryan Mills, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Michael Berman (whom I am fortunate to work with at CSU Channel Islands) has been blogging about "LMS Futures," a topic he presented on at BbWorld in Las Vegas this month.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term LMS, it stands for Learning Management System and refers to the application used by nearly all colleges and universities to administer and teach online/blended classes, as well as organize digital content for face-to-face classes (examples of the most popular LMSs include Blackboard, Desire2Learn and Moodle).

The post Michael shared yesterday got me thinking more deeply about the "closed" nature of the LMS.  When I say "closed," I am referring to the way the activity and content within an LMS is disconnected from the open web. I understand the development and adoption of the closed LMS is intertwined with compliance of FERPA policy. Yes, that's part of the conversation but, as we know, priorities guide change. And currently, there are important social shifts that are ignored when efficiency and compliance of policy become our guiding lights. 

I am writing this blog post in an effort to try to encourage awakening in those who use LMSs and may not be part of the usual conversation.  And to understand that the act of implementing a closed LMS within an organization and constructing policies around it, as well as teaching within a closed LMS constructs a "mental model" about using social media that positions social technologies as threatening and bad.  That, I believe, is the wrong direction for us to be headed as college educators situated on the brink of a new social era.

Constructing and Reinforcing Mental Models

A mental model refers to ideas, descriptions, and beliefs that guide one's actions.  Mental models may exist within a broad culture, a company, or a broader organizational context (like higher education).  Individuals are extremely committed to mental models, as they are guide us through our actions at an unconscious level. When mental models are challenged, one's first reaction is to act defensively.  This is one reason why we must be critical of how the technologies used at a systemic level can foster status quo attitudes, which can become intensely difficult to change over time.

Leading Through Change: Inspiring Awakening - by Michelle Pacansky-Brock
Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Through my social media interactions, conference attendances, and presentations over the years, I have noticed a generalized difference in attitude between K12 and higher education educators on social media about teaching with social media (again, this is anecdotal). I blogged about this observation in 2011 after attending the annual CUE Conference, a large (and awesome) ed tech conference attended largely by a K12 audience.  Essentially, over the years, in K12, there seems to have been rising consensus of teachers who demand access to social technologies for learning. While, in higher education, where more than 30% of students took at least one online class in 2013, the story is somewhat different.

K12 leaders have advocated for access to social media for learning, arguing that, "Knowing how to build successful communities of learning and how to integrate social connectivity within a learning environment is a much more needed outcome than finding a way to control and monitor specific users and content." I wonder how this difference in attitude toward social media in K12 is informed by the lower LMS use. I realize FERPA is a big player in the conversation in higher education -- but, come on, in K12, we are dealing with users who are younger than the permitted age on the Terms of Use for the technologies  being references. The point is, our actions are driven by our mental models.

Closed for Learning

Image by Michael Berman

While there are many innovators in higher ed (whom I am grateful for and I learn from every day in my PLN), and there are colleges/universities that have made the jump to create social media guidelines that foster understanding and stress the value of openness, what I feel concerned about is how the mainstream integration of the closed-LMS system across higher education is constructing and enforcing a mental model in college and university faculty ("Here is your shell, go teach with it.") that undercuts values graduates need to succeed in the workplace today.   According to a 2014 report from ECAR about LMSs in Higher Ed, 99% of higher education institutions report use of the LMS is ubiquitous. These values -- community, sharing, relationship building -- are the very values employers expect college graduates to have mastered and demonstrate within the workplace, which is becoming more and more social each year. 

"The social network is the new production line."

The world has been deeply transformed by globalization and technology. As college graduates enter the workplace today, they are expected to demonstrate how they are unique from others and in what ways their contributions set themselves apart from others. One's digital footprint is an opportunity to do be one step ahead in life at graduation.  And the continuous reliance on the closed-LMS environment continously constructs a mental model for faculty, instructional designers, administrators, all members of higher education that using social media is, in essence, the wrong thing to do.  Moving forward, the mainstream use of closed LMS environments is creating yet another digital divide.

As I discussed in an earlier postGartner predicts that by 2016 many large companies will begin to replace the use of phones and email with social networks.  Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, noted in 2013 that "the social network is the new production line." Value in the social era is cultivated around openness, collaboration, shared visions, and transparency. Individuals who demonstrate their ability to foster relationships through social technologies (which is very different from simply having accounts on or using social media) will be one step ahead of the rest.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

8 Tips for Making Beautiful Presentations

Believe it or not, when I started teaching art history I had to rely on physical color slides to illustrate my presentations. Ugh. When I stop to pause and think about how technology has revolutionized communications and learning, the transformative nature of digital images makes me speechless.

Still, it takes more than access to an endless flow of digital content and knowledge of how to effectively use this content to make something meaningful.  And that is why I am writing this post.

Last night, I received these two Tweets from Michael Berman (who happens to be my boss) in response to my presentation, The Fractal Life: Harnessing the Power of the Social Era for Agile, Authentic Living.
Michael's nudge made me think about how I've improved my design sense over the years to put together beautiful presentations but it also made me think about the importance of stressing why this is so important.

Humans are visual creatures. Creating and engaging with visual content was more innate to our species than text.  But beyond the "what came first" argument, we must understand the power of images to engage the affective domain of learning.  For a moment, reflect on your childhood memories. What comes to mind? How much of what you remember is imprinted in memory because someone took photographs of those moments? Just last week, I spent a week in Carmel with my family and visited the gorgeous Point Lobos State Park. My older sister mentioned, "Wow, I remember coming here with mom and dad as kids!'  I thought about that and could not remember the trip at all but had a clear vision of a single photograph of me and my two sisters sitting on one of the creamy colored rocks. I remembered the Pepsi-Cola jacket I was wearing, the "Captain and Tenille" style haircut I had, and I also remembered my younger sister clinging to her favorite stuffed animal (in tears because she had been told to leave it in the car initially). 

Our personal memories, our lives are shaped through images. And as they have become more accessible to educators, understanding how to use them effectively to persuade, impact, empower, and inspire others is an important part of communicating.

But Michael's Tweets also made me realize that creating beautiful presentations requires more than nice images and thoughtful design.

Here are just a few tips I would offer to anyone who has a desire to create more beautiful presentations.

1. Make the text-to-image paradigm shift.  

  • This can be a big, very big shift for college educators. If you are presenting live to a room of people, your voice, your facial expressions, and your the motions of your body should deliver your textual narrative.  The screen behind you should be an opportunity to enhance what you say. Build your slides around images, not text. Text will play a role but it is more of an opportunity to anchor thoughts, reference sources, showcase key concepts. 

2. View your role as a storyteller. 

  • What is your story about? What key message(s) do you want your audience to walk away with?  And what image(s) come to mind when you imagine these messages?   
  • Be vulnerable and share stories from your own life. Make yourself and your topic real, relevant, and meaningful to your audience.  I often use images of my family and videos of them or that they have created.  I delete these slides before I share my slide decks on Slideshare or other social media sites publicly, out of respect for their privacy.

3. First impressions matter. 

  • Create a compelling title and a great title slide with an visually dynamic image.

4. Be thoughtful about text placement and font choice. 

  • Using Haiku Deck to design your presentations is a good way to train yourself to create visually-centric presentations with beautiful text.  You'll see how the style of Haiku Deck demonstrates how laying white text over a block of transparent black will make it 'pop' off the page and anchor it visually on your slide. The transparency of the block also allows for the image behind the text to show through.  Also, you will begin to start thinking about text placement as you select your images (a sign that your skills are developing!). 
  • Haiku Deck is simple to use, free, and is available in a web and iPad app.  Another great feature is the direct integration with Flickr's collection of Creative Commons licensed images. When you select an image using Haiku Deck, it is automatically attributed (in very small text) at the bottom of the screen. Haiku Deck presentations may be presented from the web, embedded on other sides with html code, you may export them into PowerPoint files for offline presenting, export them into SlideShare, or you can export them into a PDF that will organize each image with your notes (a nice way to create a handout).
  • After I used Haiku Deck for a few months, I found that the style of my "decks" had grown on me so much that I now organically design my own slides in Keynote to look like Haiku Deck slides (and, yes, I still use it too for special projects).  
Here is an example of a Haiku Deck presentation I made.

The Power of Images in Teaching & Learning - Created with Haiku Deck by Michelle Pacansky-Brock

  • Another incredible tool I use heavily and learn a lot from is Canva. It is an online graphic design tool. Even if you don't think of yourself as a graphic designer, I encourage you sign up for a Canva account if you are interested in creating more visually aesthetic content.  You will receive emails (not frequently) notifying you of new, awesome, interactive tutorials that will teach you how to improve your design skills. Being a Canva user is like being enrolled in a Design Academy!

5. Use Creative Commons-licensed images and learn to attribute them correctly.

Image by Michelle Pacansky-Brock CC-BY
  • Be a rockstar and model how to properly re-use digital images for your peers and students.  If you are using images in a presentation, on a blog, or in some other manner that you did not take, you are using images that are shared under some type of copyright license. 
  • Traditional copyright (all rights reserved) requires the permission of the copyright owner for re-use, unless your re-use falls under Fair Use of the U.S. Copyright Law (see this fabulous video for help with this complex topic).  Creative Commons licenses offer more flexibility for re-use.  Images that were never covered by copyright or that have have a license that has expired fall into the Public Domain and may be freely re-used.
  • If you locate an image on Google Image search, for example, you likely have no clue who the copyright owner is and if you choose to download it and use it in your presentation, you may be violating copyright law. 
  • Try searching for Creative Commons licensed images on sites that provide you with the full attribution information. Some recommendations are FlickrCompfight, and Wylio (requires an account and a premium account will auto-attribute images for you!).
  • Want to understand how to attribute CC-Licensed images? Check out this great article from Creative Commons, "Best Practices for Attribution."
  • Don't hesitate to search for Public Domain images too! Check out this presentation by kapost for some search recommendations.

6. Make it a labor of love.

  • Creating beautiful presentations is intensely time consuming. I put dozens of hours into the creation of each presentation. When I look at my slides, I need to be able to feel my ideas through the slides. If I cannot feel what I'm trying to convey, then I know the presentation is not working.  I know I am done with my presentation when I love it.

7. Vary your content

  • The human brain becomes likely to drift off about 10 minutes. So, as you design your presentation, build in "moments" that will shift your audience into different experiences. This may simply be including a silent video that plays behind you instead of a still image, pausing to play a 1-minute video, having your audience respond to a poll, shifting over to Twitter to acknowledge Tweets coming in on the backchannel, or posing an open-ended question to the group. 

8. Share your stuff!

  • If you don't have one already, create a Slideshare account and share your presentations. When you upload a presentation, you'll have the option to share it with traditional copyright or select from one of the Creative Commons licenses.  It will default to allow users to download your presentation but you have the option to disable this by editing the settings. Once your presentation is shared on Slideshare, you can embed it on a blog, Tweet it, and even directly share it to your LinkedIn profile! Make it social and inspire all your networks with your beautiful work!

    Follow me on Slideshare!