Teaching with Tech Tip: Making Slides Quickly

30 January 2020
By Carly J. Born

Now that I’ve been back in the classroom for a little while, I’m starting to collect various tips and tricks for preparing my course materials. I teach Japanese to high schoolers in the upper mid-west, so I don’t really have my pick of ready-made curricular materials.  I generally make my own versions of activities even when I find that someone else has posted something useful. So I do a LOT of material creation!

Thus, I’m starting a new segment to my very sparse blog: Teaching with Tech Tips.  These are little tricks that I’ve found along the way to help me make materials faster and with fewer clicks.  As I come up with more of them, I’ll try to write about it quickly to share with the world.  I have no doubt that many other people have found these tricks, too.  But they were new to me, so they might also be new to others!

Making Slides Quickly

In my Japanese class, I use a lot of pictures and Japanese and as little English as possible. When working with new vocabulary or grammar, I want to provide a lot of examples using the same slide format and layout for each one.  This can be incredibly time consuming if you approach each slide as a blank slate.  But I almost never do that now.

Why PowerPoint?

Good question!  The school I teach in is fully invested in Google Apps, so why would I not use Slides? The answer is font control. Typed Japanese introduces some complications for true beginners and can make learning to read confusing. I found a lovely font that simulates handwritten Japanese for my computer, so I use PowerPoint instead of slides.

Here’s what I do:

Finish One Slide

I spend the majority of my time creating a new slideshow creating and tweaking the first content-heavy slide.  I tweak the font size, layout, animations, etc until I am absolutely happy with that one slide.

Duplicate, Don’t Insert New Slide

Finish one slide

Once I have my first example slide decided upon, I right-click on the slide in the slide-sorter on the left side and choose Duplicate.  This will not only duplicate the text and images on the slide, but it will also duplicate all of the animations and transitions associated with the slide.  When working with learning a new sentence structure, often only a few words are different from example to example.  So after duplicating the slide, I just change the few items that make up the new example.

Change Picture

Another powerful feature of Powerpoint is “Change picture”. While scouring the internet for legally available images to exemplify concepts or just make your slideshow more interesting, you will find all kinds of images that are all different sizes and shapes.  You could spend an exorbitant amount of time inserting each new image and then manually resizing it to fit into your slide layout.  But you can also cut that time to almost nothing by using the change picture feature!

Software screenshot saying "Change Picture"

At this point, I don’t even download the images I want to use anymore.  I just right-click on the image and choose to Copy Image. This copies the image to your clipboard. Then in PowerPoint, I will right click on the image in my duplicated slide and choose to Change Picture > From Clipboard. This process alone has cut my time creating slides in half at least!

If you teach a discipline that is — or could be — fairly formulaic, then you can open a past slideshow file and start from there. While variety is the spice of life, teaching students to read Japanese is quite a challenge. So if I am consistent in my slide design, they have one less thing to figure out.  Ideally, this technique helps to lower the cognitive load on the students so that they can focus more on content.

Moving Forward

A lot of the “tricks” I learn come out of a need to do things efficiently. If I find myself clicking until the end of time, I start thinking that there has to be a better way! Those are the times that I find these little features here and there, come up with a more efficient process or change content creation strategies to same me and wrists from endless clicking. When I stumble upon these tricks, I will attempt to blog about them.  Both in an effort to share what I learned, and also as a reminder to myself!

Happy Slide Authoring!