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Breathe New Life Into Your PowerPoint Slides With Dozens Of Exciting Free Tools & Resources

by Kelly Walsh on October 2, 2011

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A wealth of free resources that can help you jazz up those tired old (or new) lesson slides and presentations.

Thanks to a preponderance of boring content, PowerPoint has earned an undeserved bad name. It has become an all-too-easy target for bashing in today’s web media. At a recent education conference, someone used the phrase “Power Corrupts, but PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely” and they got a lot of laughs.

At the same time, we’ve all seen PowerPoint presentations that made us stop and think, “wow – that’s pretty cool, how’d they do that?” Or even better, we got so caught up in the presentation that we completely forgot about the medium of the slide deck.

Following are a number of ideas and free resources that can help you add fun and pizzazz to your PowerPoint slide presentations by incorporating engaging visual and audio elements. The extent to which you evolve your slides is limited only by the time you wish to devote to it, and how imaginative you are. Of course, it’s also important not get carried away (which is easy to do with some of these tools), so remember that the addition of a couple simple visual or audio elements is usually more than enough to add new life to an old slide deck, or make a new one fun for both you and your students.

Add Animations
PowerPoint includes easy tools that make it a snap to add exciting visual elements to your slides using automated animations.

  • Slide Transitions: This tutorial from Online Tech Tips explains how to create slide transition automations using easy pre-configured tools in PowerPoint.
  • Custom Animations: You can really kick it up a notch by creating your own custom animations, which is easier than you might think. This tutorial from Utah State University explains some of the different animation effects and how to use them (this was written for PowerPoint 2003, but the same effects are available in the 2007 version, and are found on a standalone Animations menu rather than under the Slide Show menu). This tutorial from About.com discusses the use of Animations in PowerPoint 2010.

Here is an example custom animation that I created:

Note that I went beyond what is shown in the tutorial, and clicked on “More Effects” menu options, as well as clicking on the drop box options that appear to the right of each animation listing after it’s created, to access “Effects Options” and “Timing” choices, etc. 


Add cool free picture and text effects and backgrounds using dozens of templates for PowerPoint from Microsoft
There are so many of these cool free templates available on the Internet today. Click here to access a preconfigured search of Microsoft’s Office Site, set up to return dozens of articles with hundreds of free templates for PowerPoint.  To use the templates, you just download them and the follow the instructions provided in the articles.

These template sets range from simple, ready-to-use slides, to much more sophisticated templates that require significant effort to update with your own images, but can produce spectacular results. Below are two examples of the kinds of template sets available here, a simple one and a more advanced set:

  • This is a set of a dozen backgrounds that can be used as is by just inserting text boxes, etc., or if you wish, you can follow the included instructions to learn how to create similarly themed backgrounds using your own images. Here’s one of the backgrounds in the set:

  • This advanced set of templates contains two dozen striking animations and step-by-step instructions on how to recreate each of them with your own pictures and text (it will take some time and effort to work through the process). Below is a screen shot of one such image in mid-transition. This animation features three circular images, each with its own associated text, and a transitioning effect in which each of the images and its text phases in:


Add audio to your presentations
Adding audio elements to your presentation is a wonderful way to modernize them and make them more appealing to viewers. Here’s a couple resources that offer two different approaches to doing this.

  • Add Audio or Music to Your PowerPoint Presentations
    This article from the online magazine Presentation Magazine (more on that below) explains how to add audio files to your presentations so they can play in the background.
  • Slideshare Presentations Plus Audio
    SlideShare is a popular free tool that lets you upload your PowerPoint decks and run them across the web. This SlideShare presentation explains how you can add audio to a SlideShare deck using the free application Audacity.


Check out Presentation Magazine for tons of tips, tricks, and templates: http://www.presentationmagazine.com/

This online magazine has lots of great resources focused on improving your PowerPoint presentations, such as:


“Bonus Option” – Consider synchronizing video to your slides with Zentation.com: www.zentation.com
Zentation comes in various pricing levels, and the free option claims to allow users to upload a video to YouTube and then “create a new presentation in Zentation to synchronize your YouTube video with your PowerPoint slides”. We have not tried this yet here at EmergingEdTech, but it sounded so interesting, we figured we’d throw it out there for your consideration!


Advanced PowerPoint Tutorials
If you wish to learn more on your own, there are plenty of resources available to you on the web. Here are a couple listings to get you started.

 

So there you have a variety of resources that provide fun tips, techniques, and tools to help bring new life to your old PowerPoint presentations, and create new ones that go well beyond the static slides of yesterday.

As always, we love to hear your feedback and learn about your experiences with this topic, so please comment and weigh in with your favorite tools or ideas for spicing up old slides or creating new presentations that capture the interest of today’s tech-savvy students.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
8 Great Free Digital Presentation Tools For Teachers To Try …
Comparing 12 Free Screencasting Tools
2 Great Online Presentation Tools for E-Learning

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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