Presenting Information vs. Guiding Cognitive Processing

People learn better when multimedia messages are designed in ways that are consistent with how the human mind works and with research-based principles.                –Dr. Richard Mayer

According to Dr. Richard Mayer’s research, the implications of the way humans process information on multimedia instructional presentation creation include:

  1. Presentations should use both visual and verbal forms.
  2. Filling the slides with information will easily overload people’s cognitive systems.
  3. Presentations should help learners to select, organize, and integrate presented information.

Do the presentations you use in your classroom present information or guide cognitive processing? Do your student’s slideshows serve as a teleprompter during their presentations? To make your presentations learner friendly, consider these design principles:

  1. People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. Include images to create an emotional connection, visualize, explain, or reinforce the concept; not for decoration. Use only 1 image per slide, preferably a photo and not clipart.
  2. Exclude extraneous material. Avoid embellishments such as cliparts, busy backgrounds, and sound effects. Keep it simple. Use colors to set the tone/mood and limit fonts.
  3. Corresponding words and pictures should be presented at the same time or next to each other on the screen. Try to limit your text to no more than 6 words on a slide, no sentences. If you don’t want your audience taking notes, publish a text-based document or graphic organizer to distribute.
  4. Animation and narration work well together, but not animation and text. Don’t apply animation effects to your text.
  5. Organize materials in clear outlines and headings. Break down relevant information into smaller parts, one point per slide. If it takes longer than 10 seconds for the audience to comprehend a slide, it’s too complex.
  6. With text use a conversational style as opposed to formal. For narration use a human voice, not a computer generated voice.

You can use Nancy Duarte‘s Glance Test rate your presentation for signal and noise, or look at some of her work for inspiration. To learn more about design basics (whitespace, color, balance, etc.) see Garr Reynold’s Graphic Design Fundamentals.


If your ready to move beyond PowerPoint and implement these design principles, check out SlideRocket. It is an online presentation creation tool with Creative Commons licensed images, viewer engagement features, collaboration options, and a robust toolbox to rival PowerPoint. Now there are free accounts available through Google Apps Education Accounts.

Why I like SlideRocket

Direct Access to Creative Commons Images

Once of the best features is the direct access to a search for images licensed with Creative Commons on Flickr. These are free pictures licensed in a way that allows others to use them. (Copyleft is what I call it when explaining it to the students.) Typically I send students to FlickrCC to search for Creative Commons licensed images to use in their projects, but now when making slideshows they will have one click access to these images. Here’s the icing on the cake, it automatically includes the image credit, which displays when you move your mouse over the image while viewing the slide. Our students will love that. No more copying and pasting web addresses onto a sources slide.

Viewer Engagement

  • If you choose to allow it, viewers can leave comments on slides, dragging to place them in strategic locations on the slide. As a part of an assignment to view a slideshow, you could also ask students to insert a comment on a particular slide to demonstrate their understanding, contribute additional examples of the concept, post their answer for the equation, etc.
  • You can easily include polls/forms (text, multiple choices, check boxes, sliders, yes/no) on your slides. Just another way to gather feedback from students or check for comprehension, changing the passive activity of viewing a slideshow into an active activity requiring interaction.
  • Using the Analytics tab you can see information about your viewers such as: how long they viewed particular slides, their responses to polls, their names or email addresses (if you required them to view), and more.
  • Viewers have options to view full screen, jump to different slides, download/print the presentation as a PDF, etc.


You can use the collaborate feature to share access to presentations, certain slides, assets (videos, audio, images) and themes with other SlideRocket users, choosing edit or read-only access. This is a great feature for projects in which students or teachers are working in groups to collaboratively create one presentation.

When collaborating, you should enter their * email address to add other users. If you try to add someone who hasn’t yet signed into SlideRocket through their Google Account you will not be able to add them, as SlideRocket won’t recognize them as a current user.

Editing Access from any Computer

I like being able to access my stuff anywhere and on various devices. With SlideRocket, I can edit my slideshows from my PC at work or my MacBook at home, with no software installs required.

Robust Tool

  • In addition to creating new slideshows, you can import a PowerPoint or Google Docs Presentation file.
  • You can easily embed a Youtube video by just pasting in the web address on the Add Media>YouTube page, or upload a video to embed. There’s a 200 MB file size limit.
  • Beautifully designed themes include a set of layouts, backgrounds, and default styles that you can use as is or that you can edit. You can also create your own themes.
  • You can save slides in your Library so as to easily use them in several presentations. If you edit a Library slide, it will be updated in all the presentations in which it is used.
  • You can embed dynamic data that will update as the sources do (Twitter feed, Google Spreadsheet).
  • The formatting and editing features for all the elements in your slides is abundant. You have a lot more control and features than what you will find in Google Apps Presentations.
  • It includes the features you would expect in a presentation tool: charts, narration, animation (called builds), drawing tools, tables, presenter notes, and accepts a variety of media.

Anytime Anywhere Viewing

  • Sllideshows can be shared with a link or using embedding code. So you can easily embed your slideshow in a Moodle course or on your class website, or include a link to the slideshow in your homework posting on SISK12.
  • Viewing options include private, public, and password protected. For students who want to share their work with only a select audience (class or teacher) instead of the world, they can choose to password protect it.
  • You can also require viewers to enter an email address or name before viewing. This could prove helpful if you have assigned the viewing of a slideshow and want to verify which students have completed the assignment.
  • There are several export options that allow me to show my presentation without Internet Access or special software, open in MS PowerPoint, generate a PDF, etc.

Variety of Tutorials and Support

Free and in my Google Account

  • They are now offering free Educator Accounts through Google Apps. I don’t have to pay or register for an account.
  • I was not able to locate a description of the limitations for a free Google Apps Education Account. But it appears to be a Pro Account. It’s been my experience that sometimes the free services in the Google Apps Marketplace offer limited free trials to their pro features and then revert to a free account. If this is the case here, I’m guessing that the pro features will disappear in 14 days days. But I do not see anything to make me think this is the case.


  • SlideRocket does not automatically save. It will be important to explain this to students who are used to creating presentations in Google Docs which automatically saves their work.
  • On my MacBook, I got an error message when I attempt to record audio for a slide. The feature worked fine on my PC.
  • When I imported a Google Docs Presentation, the text box condensed into a small box with all the text overlapping. This weekend the site was undergoing maintenance for a short time as they rolled out new fonts, so maybe this is a result of that new feature. Hopefully the bug will be fixed soon. When I exported the Google Docs Presentation as a PowerPoint and then imported that PowerPoint into SlideRocket the textboxes were fine.
  • I wish I could choose a Creative Commons License for my presentation.
  • According to the site, I should be able to view my presentations on my iPad using the SlideRocker Player App. However, when I try to log into the app on my iPad with my Google Apps email and password, it says it can’t find my account. So disappointing. I’ve notified support. I was able to view my presentation on my iPad by emailing myself the link to the presentation and opening that link on my iPad in Safari.

Accessing SlideRocket via Your Google Account

To access SlideRocket just log in to your Willard Google Account and click More at the top, then choose SlideRocket.

The first time you access it you will have to agree to the terms. Then an interactive tutor demonstrating the basics.

For those readers who don’t teach at Willard R-II, see your District’s Google Apps Administrator about adding SlideRocket to your district’s Google Apps domain.

Take a learner centered approach to designing your presentations using SlideRocket. The provided themes will get you started quickly. The one click access to Creative Commons licensed images at Flickr will help you efficiently find appropriate photos to supplement your text or concept. Try out some of the audience engagement features to create an interactive presentation.

6 thoughts on “Presenting Information vs. Guiding Cognitive Processing

  1. Follow up: SlideRocket responded quickly to my request for help when logging into the SlideRocket app on my iPad:
    Thank you for emailing SlideRocket. I’ve reset your SlideRocket password to *******. Due to Google and their single sign on limitations, you are unable to change your password. If there is a password you prefer, please let me know and I will change it for you.
    Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
    Molly Zigovits | Customer Care Specialist

    It seems odd that I now have 2 different passwords for SlideRocket to access the same account, the password I use for my Willard Google Account and this new password from Molly to be used on the iPad. But it is working. On my iPad I can down download, play and view the analytics for presentations, as well as send invitations to others to view my shows.

  2. Hello,

    Thank you for this great introduction to SlideRocket. I am planning on using SlideRocket with 8th graders next week. I was wondering if you had any student created examples to share? I’ve searched and can’t find any.


  3. Pingback: Designing Aesthetically Pleasing Moodle Courses | Fusion Finds

  4. Pingback: Designing Moodle Courses vs Scroll of Death | Learn By Doing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s