Wednesday, April 25, 2012

When Wombats Attack.

Teaching and learning basic software applications can be extremely dull.
When I learned how to do Excel spreadsheets, we had to use a database full of cute Disney and cartoon character names and facts.
 It was supposed to be fun.
I hated it.
 Snow White is not pulling down 8.25 an hour in payroll, people.
 I had to do a PowerPoint once on how to order a hamburger. This was an actual, real, for-true assignment from an accredited institution. I wanted to stab my eyes out with a spork. And I promised myself that I would never, ever inflict this sort of thing on my students.
If you teach Excel, you need to be able to do Jazz Hands. *does Jazz Hands*
 When I demo how to do a PowerPoint, I take the opportunity to teach the kids about The Dangers of Wombats.
 "You may go to Australia someday," I tell them. "You need to stay safe."
 Kids are dubious. "They look so cute," they say.
"That's what they want you to think. It's part of how Nature works with predators."
I  sound dark and grim.
 I demonstrate how to insert pictures by inserting a picture of a smiling woman who is holding a wombat.
"This was taken about five seconds before that cute little thing went for her jugular vein." <br>
Horror in the classroom.
 "It happens all the time." I change the text to fly in, red, warning, forbidding. "You want your text to be professional, yet illustrate your message."
I have their complete attention.
We animate and create transitions.I have them stand up and practice how to shoo a wombat away. "You have to make your hand like a claw, and do kind of a Cat-Daddy thing."
Seeing my students earnestly shooing imaginary wombats away is one of the best things in the world.
I love graphic editing.
I made many official wombat warning signs for parks and put them in the PowerPoint.
I show them the wonders of AutoShapes by making warning banners and inserting text like
"'Ware the Wombats! 'Ware!" because that is how you talk if you are in Australia.<br>
The last slide is, of course, a demo on inserting video.
I have a video of wombats gamboling--insofar as they can summon up the energy to gambol--across a field while people coo and appear completely calm about being in the presence of such fierce and dangerous creatures.
I can scarcely contain my glee at their reactions.
They laugh. Some are laughing and outraged.
"You taught us WRONG," some say.
"But it was FUN," I say.
Besides, all the PowerPoint stuff is correct.
And then I read Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French out loud, because it is a great book and tells them true things about wombats.
My students are awesome, and their PowerPoints will not put you into PowerPoint comas.
Mission accomplished.


  1. What? A wombat isn't the end result of the infernal cross-breeding of a woman and a vampire bat, creating a blood-sucking succubus? My teacher must have forgotten that final video.

    Tell your APs hi.

    1. Oooh...imagine the parent phone calls if I taught about infernal cross-breeding. Yes, that final video is crucial.
      And the APs will say hi right back. *does Jazz Hand wave*

  2. I'd love to have you as a teacher! :)

  3. You are an amazing technology teacher. Thank you for making life so lovely for your Angel Potatoes. And thank you for the image of wombat-shooing children. You are making the world better all over the place.

  4. That approach sounds amazing! Way to go!

  5. To this day noone has been able to teach me how to use Excel - or rather my non mathematical brain has never been able to absorb excel's many intricacies. Now I know why! :-) Take care

  6. I love powerpoint and I wish I'd been taught how to use it by you. Perhaps I'd have more wombatness available in my attacks and defense. Besides, wombats are very cool creatures.