Thing #5: Online Presentation Sharing

Slideshare Basics
Slideshare is one of those ubiquitous networks that has permeated social media. It seems that every time I turn around I see that the slides from a presentation I attended will be posted there, or a web resource like Mashable or Smashing Magazine is reviewing the next big feature Slideshare has added. It is widely lauded as an indispensable tool for business and academia alike. Despite all the hype, however, I realized I have never actually visited the website; this made Thing #5: Online Presentation Sharing, a perfect second step in the program. 

I started out with a quick review of the suggested resources, including a YouTube tutorial on using Slideshare, a video highlighting how it can be aligned with a LinkedIn account, and slideshows placed on Slideshare by the Smithsonian, New York Public Library, and Drexel University. The slideshows all covered some aspect of social media outreach, with the underlying message that simply putting files on the web and waiting for people to discover the fantastic treasure trove of resources is highly ineffective. I absolutely concur with this idea; the Smithsonian and NYPL, in particular, exhibited an in-depth knowledge of how to use social networking effectively as evidenced by the level and sophistication of use as well as the linking together of different tools. Inspired by the quality of the PowerPoint presentations they had shared, I signed up for a free account so I could try out some of the features.

For starters, I decided to test out the search feature. I typed information literacy just to get a baseline for how many presentations would be returned using very basic terminology. At 12 results per page, it returned 1581 pages–information overload for sure. Fortunately, the information is ranked, so on page one the results are related to information literacy as a complete term. By the time you get to the last page the results are highlighting information and informant as keywords, which is obviously less relevant. The advanced search helps a little bit by narrowing by time frame, file type, exact phrase matching, and popularity settings. It is clear from the volume of results, however, that Slideshare is a widely-used product. I clicked through several presentations, including a pretty fantastic mind map, and found a lot of good information. Certainly a library could create an account to post all kinds of informational presentations, all linked to the organization. This would be a good addition to other social sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so forth; Slideshare accounts can be linked to these other resources so sharing the contents is much less cumbersome than having to manually embed a link to new content. Linking all these social networks is smart for two reasons: first, in an age when employees are already stretched thin, updating numerous social networks can seem like a huge chore. Consequently, it either goes undone or gets handled poorly. Linking the tools, however, makes the content do double, triple, or even quadruple duty. Second, sending the information out to multiple sources will ensure that it reaches different audiences. People may find a presentation on the Slideshare website, or they may visit it after their interest is peaked by a Facebook or Twitter update.

I also decided to upload a presentation, which was quite easy. Once logged in, you simply hit the large button at the top of the screen, select a file, and assign descriptions and tags. Upon uploading, embedding the file and sharing to social networks are options available right on the screen (see embedded presentation below):

If you invest in an upgrade (for $19, $49, or $249 per month) you can actually create a channel, similar to what you can do in YouTube; this might  be a good option for a library, budget allowing, because the files can be organized to a single page. Files can also be uploaded to a group, so it is possible to align a presentation with others that display similar topics. This could be a good way to network and attract individuals with similar interests to your organization’s online resources. Since I am just exploring right now, I chose the single upload option and a tag of museum outreach.    

One thing I did note was that it is possible to add audio to a presentation file. I did not, however, come across any of these in my search. This would be a great option for creating a webinar with this resource, or adding valuable information to the presentation without cluttering the slides with bullet points and text. In fact, the latter is sometimes a problem when presenters have been asked to make slides available later. They create the entire talk using horribly cluttered and distracting slides, with the excuse that the slides need to make sense on Slideshare later–not a good way to approach a presentation.

Beyond Slideshare
I also decided to check out Prezi, which was not part of the 23 Things description but seemed to fit the topic nicely. I saw a presentation using Prezi instead of PowerPoint, and it made the latter look absolutely antiquated. The beauty of Prezi, as I discovered, is that it can be stored online or downloaded (in case your presentation venue doesn’t have Internet access). You can zoom in and out and embed small images or words within larger sections of text. The zoom feature allows for focus on a particular item; it also allows the presenter to pull back and easily return to former topics without clicking through scores of slides, fumbling for the correct place. A slideshow on using Prezi as a teaching tools helps to illustrate that using a structure that can depart from linear motion helps people to see the bigger picture as well as focus on details.

Since this 23 Things module is focused not simply on creating, but also on sharing presentations, I took a look at the search feature on Prezi. I used the same search term, information literacy, expecting to find few if any Prezis, as compared with searching Slideshare. To my surprise, I got 100 pages of search results indicating that Prezi is indeed an excellent slide sharing tool as well.

Applications for Information Literacy Instruction
Sharing slides online has obvious benefits in an academic setting. Making presentations available after class can allow students to review concepts, can serve as notes for students that have missed class, and can provide information for students and faculty seeking information on a particular topic. An instructor looking to incorporate information literacy into a general class could benefit from resources provided by librarians and might very well look to a resource like Slideshare for information. The social aspects are significant as well, because that same instructor might find a good presentation and go on to contact the presenter, thus creating an even deeper information exchange.

For student projects, Slideshare and Prezi would be great places for students to upload assigned presentations. The benefit of using such a service over having students upload to a space like Blackboard is that the social interaction is greater. For example, if students were required to create a presentation on library and online resources related to their major, they could upload a presentation and then other students could leave comments. This would create an active discussion right at the site of the presentation. In fact, comments can be left on individual slides which would help further direct the discussion and remove uncertainty about what the comment was about. Slideshare also allows individual file uploads of up to 100 mb, a size that might exceed course environment limitations.             

An exploration of using social tagging to guide information searches could also be a good topic to explore with students. Many websites allow users to either perform initial searches or view similar results by clicking an assigned tag. Sometimes this leads to better resources while other times the tags seem inaccurate. An exercise in evaluating information resources discovered using a network of tags within Slideshare could be informative; this is particularly true as some digital libraries are now exploring incorporating user generated tags into the metadata they assign to resources.

The usefulness of online slide sharing is undeniable. It functions as yet another social networking tool that librarians can use for outreach and seems to have some quality applications in the classroom. Of the two slide sharing and presentation tools discussed, Prezi seems to have the greatest potential for creating resources that could engage students.