Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Magic of Saving PowerPoints as JPEGs for Collage

One of the greatest challenges with the incorporation of digital technology into the 21st century classroom is how much time it can take to do so. The exploratory, experimental, and collaborative nature or simply the learning curve students need to climb to use tech in an English language arts classroom can be a real threat to delivery and mastery of content. That's why I'm always looking for ways that tech can either save time, deepen learning, or at least come out even with traditional ways of teaching and learning.

One of my best successes in this regard is using PowerPoint for collage.  Especially the 2007 (2008 for Mac) version, PowerPoint can be "a poor man's PhotoShop." The application's editing ribbon boasts oodles of options to reformat text, shapes, and images.  With transparency, reflection, rotation, size, and color you can combine images in ways to create meaningful and poignant ways.  It takes students a class period to play once they find their images, which brings me to the time-saving aspect of PowerPoint for collage.

For such project I ask the students for one slide to be saved not as a PowerPoint, but as a JPEG. (Yes, you can do that!--just click the format option when you Save As, and the application will let you make every slide a separate image.)  To garner copyright-friendly images, they visit Creative Commons Search or Compfight and mark "non-commercial use."  Since both sites offer search engines, they find what they are looking for with method rather than madness.  Instead of searching blindly through magazines for an image that might do, they consider how what they are looking for might be tagged. My 12th graders found the one, two, or three images they needed in the first class period.  A few students did some further searching as homework to find just what they needed.

The particular project for which I used PowerPoint collage last month asked students to identify an instance of magical realism in Laura Esquivel's novel Like Water for Chocolate.  The fantastical, archetypal, and mythical aspects of magical realism called for images that were more likely "created" by collage and combination of images, rather than a singular one simply "found." Students were assigned to quote the line, and represent the instance with image (collage encouraged but not required), and of course, credit the source(s) of images.  Students spent three class periods in total on the project before submitting their JPEGs to me via our class wiki. (A color printer would work for a classroom display, or you could collect them on a flashdrive, but that might take another period.)

Once I had each JPEG file, I spent an evening casting them into one single PowerPoint and then posting to Slideshare. The next day students could view their individual work amid that of their peers to see the combined effect of the many instances of magical realism in the novel. You can see the results here.

Glad that the project showed students a new way to use a familiar technology, I accomplished both some digital as well as traditional literacy lessons in a timely manner. That's real magic!

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