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10 best PowerPoint alternatives for EMS educators

Before changing presentation software, first change how you think about teaching EMT and paramedic students

Microsoft PowerPoint has been a core piece of presentation and educational software since the 1990’s. Yet while PowerPoint allowed educators to revolutionize the way they delivered information, many stuck with familiar lecture techniques, essentially just reading lists of facts from the screen. Death by PowerPoint is still dreaded in classrooms, lecture halls and conference venues across the globe more than 20 years later.

So with this list of alternatives to PowerPoint, I also issue a warning: Before you change your software, you must first change how you think about teaching. Consider what techniques may be best for a particular EMS education lesson then choose the program that fits that method. Any EMT or paramedic educator who expects new software to improve the same old lecture techniques is headed for disappointment — both for them and for their students.

1. Keynote
Probably the most frequently used alternative to PowerPoint is Apple’s Keynote. Developed for Steve Jobs to roll out new Apple products, Keynote shares many of the same functions and features as PowerPoint. Keynote can import and export PowerPoint files.

The primary difference is that Keynote uses a different process to create the slides themselves. This gives educators the potential to look at presenting their material in new and different ways.

Consider using Keynote the way Jobs did. Keynote helps you build simple, visually oriented slides with little text. This will help you use your slide deck to tell a relatable story rather than bombard your audience with bullet lists of facts.


2. Haiku (and Canva and eMaze and MS Sway)
If you like the idea of presenting striking slides with clear graphics and a straightforward message, then get ready for the next generation of slide deck software in Haiku, Canva Presentation Maker, eMaze and Microsoft Sway. These programs are geared for building presentations with graphics that illustrate your ideas and to help you create slides quickly, simply and elegantly with built in keyword-based image-search.


3. Prezi
If you want to show your class how different things are related to each other, Prezi is a fantastic program. Picture a gigantic sheet of paper or background photograph over which you can move a camera, zooming in and out to illustrate how things are connected like the three components of the circulatory system — the pump, the pipes and the fluid. While the fly and zoom effects can get nauseating if overused, Prezi is the go to tool to show students how to get from here to there.


4. Powtoon (and GoAnimate)
If you are looking for more animation features than Prezi can provide, consider Powtoon and GoAnimate. Just like Prezi and many other presentation apps on this list, they can be used for standalone presentations or to create a mini-presentation to illustrate a concept inside of a larger presentation.


5. Google Slides (and Zoho Show, and Slides)
If you are working with others to produce your slide deck, then you’ll definitely want to try Google Slides. Like Google docs, Slides is built from the ground up for collaboration. For example, educators in different locations or students in the same class work together on a presentation. Google Slides is great for co-presenters who aren’t together in the same room until the day they present together. With similar functionality, also check out Zoho Show and Slides.

6. SpicyNodes (and Mindmeister)
If you are looking to do more student-centered presentations, consider mind-mapping programs SpicyNodes and Mindmeister. White board and pen and paper mind maps have long been used by educators to diagram and visually organize information around a central concept. The educator usually provides the central concept and the students contribute the related information and everyone works together to make the connections. Programs like these will help you bring mind-mapping techniques to the big screen.

7. NearPod (and DisplayNote)
If you are looking to go fully interactive, consider using NearPod or DisplayNote to connect the presentation at the front of the room with the small screens that every student brings with them to class. These classroom collaboration programs allow students to keep your slides for themselves, make notes on your slides with their own devices, like tablets and smartphones, and even share their work with you and their classmates.

8. Flowvella (and Glogster and Good Labs)
If your goal is to create a tutorial or self-guided presentation for students, programs like Flowvella, Glogster or Good Labs are the way to go. More than just static documents, students can move through these presentations at their own pace, interacting with the sections of the presentation that interest them, all without the educator present.

9. Slide Dog (and Projeqt)
If mash-ups are your thing, SlideDog and Projeqt are the way to go. They let you combine a wide variety of media from video formats to PDFs to websites to PowerPoint and beyond into a single presentation. They can even incorporate up to the minute live information automatically streamed directly from the internet.

10. PowerPoint
Once you start thinking about presenting in new ways, you will start thinking about PowerPoint in a new light. With new and streamlined features, PowerPoint remains a potent presentation tool. Like any tool, what it does depends on how the educator chooses to use it. In the right hands it can be like an artist’s paint brush. Used incorrectly it can be like a wooden club.


Whatever you preference for presentations, you can now go into the world with more tools in your presentation tool box. All that remains is for you to choose and practice with available tools to better create student centered education in a digital world.

Rom Duckworth is a dedicated emergency responder, author and educator with more than 30 years of experience working in career and volunteer fire departments, hospital healthcare systems, and private EMS. He is a career fire captain and paramedic EMS coordinator for the Ridgefield (Connecticut) Fire Department and the founder of the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine. Duckworth is recipient of the American Red Cross Hero Award, Sepsis Alliance Sepsis Hero Award, and the EMS 10 Innovators Award in addition to numerous awards and citations for excellence in education and dedication to service. Duckworth is a member of numerous national education, advisory and editorial boards, as well as a contributing author to more than a dozen EMS, fire and rescue books, including the IFSTA Pumping Apparatus Driver/Operator textbook as well as over 100 published articles in fire and EMS journals, magazines and websites. Duckworth has a bachelor’s degree in public safety administration from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. Connect with Duckworth via or or on LinkedIn.