Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bringing the World of ESPN to Our Students

The following is a guest post by Mat Barker, a social studies teacher, graduate tutor and intervention manager from Garfield Heights, Ohio.
Contributing Author Mat Barker
When I was in school, technology was just beginning to emerge to the forefront of the classroom. I remember the early days of teachers using technology, which usually consisted of PowerPoint presentations that were little more than duplicates of old 8mm slides. It was always one of two scenarios, A) the slides consisted of plain white backgrounds with monochromatic, Times New Roman type or B) It was a trip to the clipart jamboree with millions of cheesy PrintShop Deluxe images and more colors than a box of Lucky Charms. Thankfully, as teachers today, we have so many more options and design elements available to us.

During my time as a graduation tutor, I was often confronted with unmotivated, uninterested students. As a result, I am always looking for new and different ways to reach students, and that is what brought me to the flipped classroom model. After reviewing some of the videos and presentations by Tom Driscoll, I decided to begin to build a framework for my own flipped classroom.
Reaching Students on a Familiar Medium
I have always considered myself a visual learner and someone who cares as much about the presentation as I do the content. In college, I was even a graphic design major before switching to education. That being said, I decided to expand upon a presentation idea I saw on one of Tom’s videos. I was really attracted to the preview bar on the bottom of the screen and how it mimicked similar bars on sports networks like ESPN. As you can see in the images below, I expanded on Tom’s premise and mimicked the ‘Pardon the Interruption’ (PTI) graphics format.
ESPN's Pardon the Interruption
Mat's PTI-Style Presentation
The reason? I wanted to foster a greater connection with kids and develop a layout that would resonate with them. My students love ESPN and Sports Center. It is something that they watch every day. My hope is that I can attract students to the content through the presentation. The format is comfortable; it is something they are familiar with.
How Is It Done?
Believe it or not, you do not have to have super amazing Photoshop skills to create a similar presentation. The entire slideshow was designed in Google Slides and a few of the images were edited in Pixlr Editor which works as an add-on in Google Drive.  
If you are interested in creating a similar presentation you will need to play around with the shapes tool within Google Slides (Insert>Shape). After you create the desired shapes, you can then go to Pixlr Editor and use the Gradient Tool to create images that fade from one color to another. Once you do so, you have the choice of saving your image to your Google Drive or hard drive. Just insert the images into your presentation and resize as needed.
A few design notes:
  • I did create the blue box above the rundown as a space to insert a video, similar to Tom’s presentations.
  • If you are trying to truly mimic the PTI graphics, be sure to shadow the previously shown topics. You can easily do that through changing the shape and text color to a darker hue.
In closing, I would encourage you to have fun with your presentations. I often include humor in my slides to keep kids laughing and help ease the relationship between student and teacher. Also, don’t feel as though you have to take every presentation to this level. Sometimes just adding more thought into the graphic elements and not simply going with the same prefab template will really help kids to sit up and take notice.
Links to other presentations:
Big Ideas in Government – My take on the PTI presentation.
March World Madness – A concept design which is an expansion on the AP Euro Madness presentation.  
Barker's Sketch History – A link to some visual handouts I made during my time as a social studies tutor.

About the Contributing Author:

Twitter: @CoachBarker33
School: Garfield Heights High School, Garfield Heights, OH
Position: Intervention Manager – Graduation Tutor – Social Studies Teacher