Hampshire College to Serve on CLAMP Steering Committee

CLAMPHampshire College was fortunate to become involved with the Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Project (CLAMP) when we began testing and using the Moodle learning management system (LMS) in 2009.

We are happy to announce that Hampshire College was nominated to serve on the CLAMP Steering Committee. This committee oversees the Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Project, determining which events will be held — such as the biannual Moodle Hack/Doc Fests and the recent Git and Ruby workshops — and sets the budget for the organization. The committee also determines the strategic path for the organization, such as which Moodle versions will be supported by the group.

Colleges serve three year terms on the committee. The original founding schools have been slowly rotating off, and this year Luther College and Smith College are stepping down.

Given Hampshire College’s long-time participation in CLAMP, its physical location, and its relationship with the Five Colleges, the steering committee felt that Hampshire would be a good fit to step into the role that Smith College held.

Questions or concerns about CLAMP or Moodle at Hampshire College can be sent to moodle@hampshire.edu.

Presentation Software: The Good, the OK, the Sublime

There are so many options these days when it comes to presentations! Each of the following programs has its own strength and purpose, see which will work best for you!

Let’s start with the default here: Powerpoint.

Powerpoint, really, is a fine program. Is it the fault of the technology that it gets misused? No. Can you do a great presentation in Powerpoint? Sure, why not. Is it covered under Hampshire’s Microsoft contract for use on all college computers and even for at-home use? Yes it is.

New versions of Powerpoint even have forward-thinking features like embedding YouTube videos and publishing presentations to the web. Many of the cooler features are only available in the Windows version, however.

I have to say, though, that Powerpoint makes it easy to make a bad presentation. There are so many ugly backgrounds, clunky effects, the bullet point button is right there just begging to be clicked. It takes a little extra effort and forethought to defy the defaults and make your presentation your own.

Google Presentation

Welcome to the cloud. Google docs has a “presentation” type of doc with very basic options. The main reasons to use it are if you want to collaborate with others on the presentation, or be able to access your presentation anywhere. You can also upload an existing Powerpoint file into Google Docs (.ppt, not .pptx) and then have it available and editable online.

Google Docs is all about collaboration and is a great choice if you want to work with others. Multiple users can access the file at the same time, you can have a “chat” happening while you work, or use the brand new “discussion” feature for a richly collaborative, social-media-esque experience.

Google also just introduced a pretty nifty tool called Cloud Connect, which lets you work on a google doc, collaboratively, on your local computer, using Microsoft Office! So if you want to collaborate with someone who’s not familiar with Google Docs, they can just work on the presentation in Powerpoint but they are actually editing the Google doc. *Wow*.

And when you’re done, you can publish the presentation to the web or embed it in another webpage.

Prezi is about as outside the box as it gets for presentations, in fact, it’s completely non-linear and it can take a while to wrap your head around it. You create your presentations online, and instead of individual slides you just have a huge pasteboard. You add content wherever you want, and then tell Prezi which areas you want to display and in what order. The advantage is you can give a big-picture view, then zoom in to details as needed.

Overall it’s a limited program in terms of design options and effects, but if you’re a free thinking individual who doesn’t want to be confined by slides, Prezi may be for you. Oh, and an educational account is free.

One caution: the zooming and panning can sometimes make people a little seasick!

Steve Jobs is famous for his presentations. Just watch the one where he introduces the iPhone and the audience is practically throwing their underpants on the stage. People have written books about his skills. And we all know that you just don’t mess with Apple when it comes to design. So it figures that Apple’s presentation program, Keynote, is just a little bit cooler and more awesome than all the other options.

While Powerpoint makes it easy to do a bad presentation, Keynote makes it easy to do a good one. The design and layout defaults are beautiful and simple. The effects are fabulous- words can burst into flames or appear through a cloud of fairy sparkles. And it’s really hard to find where to add bullet points.

To be fair, Powerpoint can do everything Keynote can. Keynote just gives your presentation a subtle aesthetic advantage- and when you’re giving a visual presentation I would argue that aesthetics are pretty darn important.

I did find the program interface slightly un-intuitive and it took a little getting used to. They make it easy to insert media from your iTunes, iPhoto, etc, but it’s not so obvious as to how to place in content from outside Apple’s dominion. You can publish a presentation to the web, but it will only look good in, *sigh*, Safari. So Apple’s keeping it all in the family here, and it’s a little limiting and annoying.

The other downside is that it’s only available for Mac (duh), and Hampshire only has limited licensing for it.

So there we are. There are tons of great resources out there for advice on creating better presentations, here are a few!

Garry Reynolds: Presentation Zen Blog, Presentation Tips Website, Presentation Zen Book, Sample Before-and-After Slides

How Not to Suck at Powerpoint on Slideshare

Chart comparing Powerpoint and Prezi

Edward Tufte: The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint

– Asha Kinney