3 Ways to Hack Classroom Presentations with James Sturtevant

Today James Sturtevant @jamessturtevant helps us hack our classroom presentations. So, whether they are flipped or in person, you can have more engagement with these tools and ideas. We're also giving away a copy of his book to a lucky winner, Hacking Engagement Again. Awesome!

james sturtevant hack presentations

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Below is a transcript modified for your reading pleasure. For information on the guests and items mentioned in this show, scroll down to the bottom of this post.

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Transcript for Episode 122 

3 Ways to Hack Classroom Presentations with James Sturtevant

Link for this show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e122

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VICKI: Today’s show is sponsored by Powerschool. I use their student information system and learning management system but do you know they have brought it together in one unified classroom? Stay tuned at the end of the show for more information.

Episode 122 – 3 Ways to hack presentations



VICKI: Today we're talking to James Sturtevant. He has a book coming out, Hacking Engagement Again. This is 50 more hacks to improve engagement and we will be doing a book giveaway. But today for edtech tool Tuesday we're talking about three ways to present to 21st century students, so we are hacking those lame, boring presentations that some of us, yes, even me, I have given. So, James, what can we do to be better presenters?

JAMES: Here's one thing that I'm really excited about. This is year 33 in education for me coming up. And I can't retire because I'm having a lot of fun. One thing that's happened to me over the last five years is I have totally evolved the way I present to students.

Now, one thing that I'm very bullish in is education is changing. We're moving to more a self-directed model. We're moving to more personalization and all those things are good. But there are occasionally times when you still have to go up and be the sage on the stage. There are times when you have to get in front of those kids and engage them.

But you can't do it the old fashioned way. So, I remember being a college student and sitting in lecture halls for 50 minutes in this very passive method of instruction. And so what I've done over the last five years is revolutionize that. And I'm going to talk about three ways that I did that.


Idea #1: Use Presentation Zen Techniques from Garr Reynolds

VICKI: OK, let's get started, what's your first?

JAMES: Well, I read this book about four years a go that changed everything about the way I present. It's called Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. And the whole…

VICKI: Great book.

JAMES: Oh, you've read it.

VICKI: Oh yeah, it changed mine too. And I changed how I taught presentations!

JAMES: Once you've read this book every presentation you go to and you look at a slide that is filled with bullet points. You just want to take the person aside and give them the book so they'll stop doing that. So what Garr is all about is he wants image rich slides populated by very few bullet points, a sentence tops.

Or maybe, a title. And when I started doing this, I did a little research and I found out that the typical sentence is roughly 15 words long. And so I gave myself that limit. And then I tried to populate my slides with just incredibly compelling images. And, Vicki, I couldn't get over the difference. My students were no longer having to multi task. They didn't have to listen to me try to read the bullet point, try to take notes all simultaneously. They just relaxed and started to listen to me.

So that was a relatively old school fix to a problem of student engagement during presentations. And one other thing, the big change I made in that regard is [that] I shortened the length of the presentation. I was inspired to do that just by watching TED talks and then reading some of the research behind the length of TEd talks.

So, I try to populate my slides with compelling images. Hold myself to 15 words or less. And not go over 10 minutes on a presentation. That's adjustment number one.

VICKI: Yes. And that's great advice for all of us.


VICKI: I know some teachers are saying, “I wish somebody would tell so-and-so that.”

JAMES: laughter

Idea #2: Use PearDeck to Engage Students in Live Presentations

VICKI: OK, what's our second?

JAMES: Here's the other thing that happens with presentations is I don't care how compelling your images are or how neat your explanations are. A lot of times you're still just having a handful of kids participate by asking questions or answering questions or throwing up observations. And you have five kids doing that and twenty kids just sitting there passively. So, I was searching for some tech tools that will pull those 20 wallflowers in by the virtual lapels just pull them into the presentation. And what I found is called, Pear Deck. Have you used Peardeck?

VICKI: I haven't. I've heard all about it. And, tell me.

JAMES:  Here's the thing. If you do your presentations on Google Slides or PowerPoint, it's just simple to upload them to PearDeck. And, Vicki, I teach in a class. I imagine you teach in a similar situation where I have a projector in the front of the room. LIke a SmartBoard.

VICKI: Yes, I have a big old massive touch screen TV type thing.

JAMES: Yes, but here's the thing. I have students that are twenty and twenty-five feet away from that board. In my room on a sunny day all of a sudden that board just isn't quite as crisp as it is in a dark room. So, the first thing that PearDeck does is it instantly places your presentation on their device. So, its inches from their face. And all of a sudden it's very clear and these compelling images are right there in front of them. You, then, control the pace of the presentation.

But here's what makes it so cool. Is then you insert prompts into the presentation that the kids respond to. And then their responses come anonymously on your smartboard. It is one heck of a way to insert a hook at the beginning of a lesson. And if you have 25 kids it says 25 responses there. So those kids that were the wallflowers, those kids who were introverted who were reluctant, maybe, to put their hand up during a class discussion are participating.


VICKI: Love that, what's our third?

Idea #3: Use Edpuzzle to Increase Engagement in Your Videos

JAMES: I'm a huge proponent of flipped presentations. I probably flip about 75% of my presentations. I did that because just in observing students in my class during their downtime, they are constantly on their phones watching absurd videos.

So, I thought, when in Rome, you just got to do like the Romans. So, I started flipping my presentations five years a go. And I was so pleased to hear those unsolicited compliments. That's when you know you're striking gold with kids. They're like, we like this better. We watch at our own pace. We can watch parts of it and take a break. We can multi task like kids do and still watch a presentation. But, Vicki, there was something missing. I didn't know for certain whether they were watching. And I also felt a little disconnect when they were watching my video at home.


JAMES: So, the key to me was Edpuzzle. Have you used Edpuzzle?

VICKI: I know about it. But tell us.

JAMES: So, Edpuzzle was the way, just like PearDeck, that you insert prompts into a video. And this is what's beautiful, Vicki, its like on demand programming. The kids cannot fast forward through the video. They have to watch it in real time. They can pause it. And they can rewind. But they can't fast forward. So, all of a sudden it's like you are there with them wherever they are watching it. You're asking them a question. They are responding. You can comment back to their responses. You can see the responses on your dashboard. And what's also cool, this gives kids an incredible accountability factor as well because you can see what time they watched. You can see what percent they watched. So, gone is the concern that these kids just copied the notes off someone else and they didn't even watch.


VICKI: I love that! Thank you! I'm sitting here and like “Oh wow.” I've been recording interviews all day and this amazing PD and you've just given me two great tools. And then, now, I understand Edpuzzle and appreciate that explanation in understanding it.

JAMES: And let me just say one more thing. With Edpuzzle and PearDeck if you teach in a Google School in particular, Edupuzzle, those kids just bam, they're in. They sign in with Google and “Pow” they're in, there's nothing to it.


VICKI: So, the name of the book is Hacking Engagement Again, you can get lots more information from James Sturtevant. Please go to the show notes so you can enter to win because we all need more ideas to hack engagement and this is 50 more. Of course he has his first book, Hacking Engagement. And now we have fifty more Hacking Engagement again. And, you've just hacked our presentations in such a great way, James.

JAMES: Thank you.


Thank You to our Sponsor, PowerSchool, and their Unified Classroom Product

VICKI: This summer, Powerschool announced their Unified Classroom. The Unified Classroom brings together the teacher's gradebook, Learning Management System, Student Information System, and assessment in one powerful platform with just one login. Take a look at the Unified Classroom from PowerSchool at coolcatteacher.com/powerschool.

Full Bio As Submitted

James SturtevantJames Sturtevant

In August, I'll begin my 33rd year teaching high school social studies. I've been married for 26 years to the lovely Penny. I have 3 children and 2 grandchildren. I live on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Crystal Koenig August 8, 2017 - 6:39 am

I love this podcast. I have an entire unit my students work on giving Ted Talks! I had never thought of using Edpuzzle! That is a wonderful idea!

Angela Keller August 8, 2017 - 9:16 pm

Two great things coming together Cool Cat Teacher and Hack Learning! Love what you both do!

Tara Brown August 8, 2017 - 10:25 pm

I’m a HUGE fan of the Hack Learning Series!! Congratulations on the release of the new book! Woohoo!! It would be so amazing to win a copy! I loved this episode! Thank you so much!

Steven Miletto August 9, 2017 - 8:28 am

James S. has great ideas! I can’t wait to try some of his hacks especially his use of PearDeck. Thanks so much for the awesome interview! Thanks for your show! look forward to it every day!

Jennifer August 11, 2017 - 9:03 pm

I look forward to your podcasts because I always take away something new to use in the classroom or something that will help me grow. Thanks for adding PearDeck to my teaching tool kit!

Jeannette Bruno August 12, 2017 - 5:17 am

What a great resource! This podcast is a gold mine! I listen every morning to get a quick idea or pep talk! Thanks!! This specific topic is awesome!! So many great ideas I am sharing with my staff! (I am an assistant principal who misses the classroom each time I listen to your podcast!) Would love a copy of the book for EACH of my teachers! So practical and easy to implement! Love this! Thanks for ALL your great work!

Vicki Davis August 12, 2017 - 11:51 am

Thank you Jeannette and am so excited about this topic and James’ book! Thanks for the kind words! I am so glad they are helpful!

Erik Simonsen September 20, 2019 - 9:17 am

I’m a HUGE fan of the Hack Learning Series!! Congratulations on the release of the new book! Woohoo!! It would be so amazing to win a copy! I loved this episode! Thank you so much!

Nico Pfeifer September 16, 2020 - 2:11 pm

As a student, things like peardeck or edpuzzle really don’t engage me, it simply means I can either ignore peardeck, or do a dumb answer, or leave the room or go on my phone during an edpuzzle and then just rewind to find the answer, in honesty neither peardeck nor edpuzzle increase engagement in a student who doesn’t want to have that engagement

Vicki Davis October 25, 2020 - 8:07 pm

Truthfully, if a student doesn’t want to engage then nothing will work. That said, if you know how to effectively use these tools, in my experience, I’ve been able to help more kids engage. It looks like you have enough of an opinion to engage with this post and comment, though, so I guess that is good. In the end, intrinsic motivation to succeed always trumps everything else we can do.


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere