Adobe Spark for Education: How to Wow Your Students and Yourself

By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

If you haven’t already heard of Adobe Spark, it’s an amazing free tool for designing visually stunning presentations, social media posts, and videos. I first stumbled upon Spark when I was trying to find something to use to create a really awesome looking web page. Well, it didn’t quite fit the bill there, but I did realize that Adobe Spark is perfect for education. So I created this:

Welcome to ENG 102 Click the image to view my creation

This Adobe Spark page was my alternative to the usual welcome message that I post in Blackboard. I thought, why not start the year off with something fun and visually stunning that shows students that this writing class ain’t gonna be what they’re expecting.

The best part of all: this was a cinch to create. If I were to make something like this using PowerPoint or Google Slides, it would take me all day and the final product wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful (or mobile responsive (you heard me: mobile responsive!)).* I probably spent two hours on this, which might seem like a long time, but it’s something that I can use for years to come.

Adobe Spark isn’t just great for welcome messages though. You can use it for your presentations too. Even better, students can use it for theirs. No more boring bullet points.

Check it out and create a free account today at

*Yeah, I just parenthesized my parentheses. Sue me.

Avoiding PowerPoint Abuse

By Jerry Pearson
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Terry Campus

As a media specialist on our campus, I intro_ladyquite often get asked to help instructors and administration with PowerPoint presentations. Often, I see presentations that inhibit the message rather than highlight it.

The delivery method should not overshadow the message, it should enhance it  without drawing attention to itself. Designing a presentation that accentuates the message is easy, as long as you follow some simple guidelines. These guidelines promote clarity in text and graphics as well as the layout of the slide itself.

Let’s start with the message itself. After the title slide, have a slide that outlines the content of what you will cover in the presentation. Keep it short and simple, no more than seven bullets. If you have more topics to cover, you may want to chunk it into two or more presentations to avoid overwhelming your audience. When designing the slides for your topic, be sure to keep the slide titles relevant and in sequence to the outline you gave at the beginning.

bulletsAs for the content for each slide, use bullet format. Using bullet format for your text keeps your audience focused on what you are saying and not reading the slide. It also help the audience remember what you said by associating it with the short statements to help recall it later.

Lastly, don’t overwhelm your audience by putting too many bullets on a slide. As a rule, I normally recommend no more than seven bullets. If you can break the information up into two or more slides, do it and take advantage of chunking the information into smaller and more digestible bits of content.

Another guideline to help emphasize your content is to standardize the presentation’s appearance. The first step here is to pick a font that is easy to read and professional in appearance. The font must be large enough for the person in the back of the room to read, but also viewable on a mobile device.


Try to stick with one font if possible and avoid using more than three font colors. To go along with the font color, I want to emphasize the contrast between the font and the background. Text size, font, color, and contrast play an important role making your presentation readable to everyone, including those that don’t see very well or are color blind.

This brings me to the next point of standardizing your presentation, backgrounds and graphics. Backgrounds should be low key, complement your message, and provide a good contrast to your text. Avoid backgrounds that are busy or draw attention and don’t change the background unless it is absolutely necessary to avoid an anticipation of background changes.

When done correctly, the background will help draw the audience into the message. Graphics are another vital key to a successful presentation. Use them only when you need to help explain, complement, or emphasize something. Graphics also set and vary the tone of your presentation. Using them to fill an empty space or just because they look cool to you only serve to distract your audience.

Another distraction can be the overuse or inappropriate use of animation, actions and highlights. PowerPoint is packed with animation effects that are very tempting. Animation, like any other element in your presentation, should only be use to emphasize a key point or keep your audience focused on what you are talking about. Overuse tends to de-emphasize everything and inappropriate use is a quick way to turn your audience off.

Generally, I keep my entrances and exits limited to fade, appear, or disappear. This keeps the message more important but still lets me control what the audience sees and when they see it, thus helping them stay focused on the message. I will sparingly use animation or motion paths to emphasize key words and phrases or to help conceptualization, but only the very important ones. This also helps vary the pace and tone of the presentation as well.

A well-made and successful presentation is not difficult if you just remember that your goal is getting the message across to your audience. Use your slides to control the amount of information you give your audience into digestible chunks. Keep your text readable and only use graphics that complement or enhance your message. Use animation to help pace your presentation as well as highlight key points or concepts. success

Remember, your delivery tools should enrich–not overshadow or distract from–your message. Following a few simple guidelines, planning, and stepping back to evaluate can take you a long way to creating an impactful and successful presentation.

Prepping for Presentations


By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

It’s about halfway through the semester, which means many instructors will soon be making their lesson plans to prepare students for the most dreaded part of the semester: presentations.

Every semester around this time, I like to dig through the Forward Thinking archives and compile old posts that are worth revisiting as we start prepping ourselves to prep our students to prep for presentations.

So, without further ado, here we go…

Presentation Problems offers resources that I use with my own students: a 3-minute on effective presentations, an article about overcoming presentation anxiety, and a blog post about what NOT to do in a presentation by marketing guru Seth Godin.

This TED Talk by Julian Treasure offers advice for “How to Talk So That People Will Want to Listen”. Of the many interesting facts that Treasure shares is that “we vote for politicians with lower voices”.

PowToon to the Rescue!, written by Dr. Kim Bates, discusses an alternative to PowerPoint. PowToon allows users to create animated movies and slideshows.

In Visualizing Instruction, Stacey Pounsberry shares three pieces of ed tech for creating visual aids.

Strike a (Power) Pose! offers commentary on Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about how our body language shapes our attitudes. This is some powerful scientific data, and I show my students a clip from this talk to give them real, science-based steps they can take to increase their confidence.

And finally, The Right Tool For the Right Job discusses the strengths and weaknesses of PowerPoint in different contexts.

More PowToon Awesomeness

By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

Back in October, Kim Bates wrote about PowToon, a browser-based application that let’s users create animated cartoons and presentations. PowToons are a great way to engage students, and their ready-to-go templates make them simple to create. If PowToon intrigues you, but you are wondering how it could be useful for your class, click the links below and check out these awesome PowToons created by faculty from the Owens Campus:

8 Steps for writing the perfect interview questions by Jennifer Platek

Instructions for students on how to submit a SafeAssignment in Blackboard by Nicole Truitt

To get started creating your own PowToons, create a free account at


From the archives: “Presentation Problems” and more

Ish Stabosz - archive

By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

Last May, I posted this article about common problems with student presentations and some resources for overcoming them.  By the time the post was published, though, a lot of classes were already in the midst of their final presentations for the semester, so it was a bit untimely.

Since we are nearing the home stretch of the semester, I thought it might be a good time to dig this one up from the archives as you start planning how to handle final presentations. So, if you are tired of ineffective visuals, boring PowerPoints, and overly anxious students, check out Presentation Problems.

I’ve also dug up a few other oldies that you might find helpful as you prepare students for successful presentations:

PowToon to the Rescue!

Visualizing Instruction: Three Pieces of Ed Tech for Creating Visual Aids

PowerPoint and the Big Glass Barrier

The Right Tool for the Right Job: A Closer Look at Powerpoint

Enjoy! And feel free to share your own resources in the comments.

PowToon to the Rescue! A Cure for the Boring Announcement Blues

Bored Student

By Kim Bates
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Terry Campus

There’s nothing more engaging than explaining an assignment! What? No, really!

You’ve spent considerable time and energy planning the perfect learning opportunity. You’ve considered the learning goals and the skill level of the students (Boye, n.d.). You’ve had success with the assignment in past semesters. It’s clearly linked to the course objectives. It’s going to provide insight into students’ learning. It’s a thoughtful, intentional and brilliant assessment.

You begin to tell students about the assignment, and you hear a heavy sigh from one part of the classroom. A disgruntled groan comes from someone in the back row. You worry about one student who looks despondent, then puts his head down on the desk. Another student rolls her eyes; the look on her face clearly communicates that you have ruined her life (or at least her weekend plans). Finally, at the end of class, another student approaches you and asks you to explain the assignment again.

Does any of this sound familiar? What reactions do you get when you tell students about a new assignment? Maybe there’s another way. Continue reading

4 Presentation Tools Worth Trying

The web is teeming with web tools that teachers can use to create visually attractive slideshows and presentations. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning has previously published the popular Top Presentation Tools for Teachers, but since the posting of this article several other web tools have seen the light and this is why we deem it important to release an update or better call it addition to this list.

Te following tools will enable you to create slideshows, and video presentations to use with your students in the classroom. They all have user friendly interfaces but I would not recommend that you let your students work on them alone, an adult supervision will be highly warranted.

To read more, visit: