Thursday, November 30, 2006

Paper Airplanes, Online Presentations

Paper Airplane Lesson Plan

In my effort to create an online archive of lesson plans that stresses quality over quantity, I've added another of my more successful science lessons to my website. It's about paper airplanes and the scientific method. Here's a brief overview of the lesson:

Students work with a partner to create two paper airplanes, each with a different design. They then fly the paper airplanes a set number of times and observe how far each goes. The lesson acts as a perfect introduction to the scientific method. Through it, students learn how to:
  • Ask scientific questions
  • Formulate hypotheses
  • Clearly write procedures
  • Collect data
  • Draw conclusions
  • Identify variables

The lesson has three stages: an observation period, a whole class experiment, and student experiments. An optional fourth stage would be a presentation of results. It also offers many opportunities for the incorporation of technology. Tech tips appear throughout the lesson.

Click here to download and view the lesson.

Online Presentations - Which site is best?

As a teacher who likes to hit the presentation circuit, I've been trying out some online slideshow software. Last February, I embedded a flickr slideshow in a post and liked it quite well. But embedding flickr slideshows isn't always the best way to share your slides. Below are my thoughts on some of the sites that allow users to share their presentations.

  • About a month ago Tim Lauer posted about SlideShare, a site where you can upload a preexisting PowerPoint or OpenOffice slideshow. This is pretty handy since it means you no longer have to save your shows as a web page and then upload them to a server. Of course, the site is a also about social networking as users can tag presentations and comment on them as well. Here's SlideShare's major limitation: there's no way to publish a notes page. My slides are simple--they mostly contain a photo, a sentence, phrase, or sometimes just a single word. Bullet points are scarce in my presentations. Therefore, it's hard to get much information from them if I can't publish a notes page.
  • Another site that I have tried is Thumbstacks. This site allows users to actually create, edit, and share the slideshow online. It's full of great features, unless you're into animations and transitions, it doesn't support those yet. But, once again, it doesn't have a notes page.
  • Embedding a flickr slideshow works best if you have notes about each slide that you'd like to share with others. However, the slides come from photos in your archive and I can't imagine trying to turn my PowerPoint slides into images and uploading them to my flickr account.
The verdict: I like using PowerPoint to create my presentations, so Thumbstacks is out. I think for now my choice is SlideShare. If the slides are good enough and contain links to relevant websites, they can be powerful enough on their own to get your message across.

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1 comment:

DanitaRussell said...

I've used a paper airplane lab similar to yours for several years. It's a great beginning of the year opener for middle school science classes.

I would have kids ask from year to year if they were going to be able to do the airplane lab. Of course, I would fly the airplanes near the 6th graders so they would get a taste for what was coming from me in 7th grade.