Triggers: Advanced PowerPoint AT

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Remember when you were a kid, setting dominos up on end in long winding paths? When you knocked down the first domino, the others toppled over, one after another, in a seamless chain of events...

When everything worked as planned, you sucked in your breath with excitement!

Triggers in PowerPoint are much like that path of dominos. When the first event is activated, it sets off a chain of other animation events.

Just as with the dominos, you can get that same rush of wonder watching a chain of trigger events unfold in PowerPoint. It feels like magic!

This feature of PowerPoint gives you a tremendous amount of control over the events on a slide. It is available on version XP/2002 or higher.

At its very simplest, you can use a single trigger command to make one object carry out the animation you have assigned it. It’s like standing just one domino on end; when you push it, only that domino will topple.

The beauty is that the student has to click that object to start the animation.

No longer will a general mouse click begin the animation. You can’t simply shake the table to get the domino to fall; you have to flick the domino itself. In your PowerPoint activity, you must click the object itself to make it animate. We are asking the student to make specific choices here...

When would you use these simple triggers?

·        Bev Evans has an awesome attendance activity featuring triggers that you can download here. In this activity, the name of every student in class is written on a balloon. When the student clicks on their name, the balloon soars into the sky. A quick glance tells you who is present and who is either absent or tardy.

·        We’ve used triggers in the 4-choice sample  to cause the error responses, or foils, to disappear if clicked. This gives the student feedback that their choice wasn’t correct and it removes it as an option to click again.

·        You could apply simple triggers to sorting activities, where all of one kind of thing (mammals in a group of animals, objects that are red, even numbers, words that rhyme with “at,” you name it!) collect in a box. The activity would be errorless if only the correct choices travel in a motion path to the collection area. You can use the activity to assess understanding by having all prompts animated and having the student stop when they have selected all the correct objects.

Creating simple triggers is easy.

When you are assigning animations to an object in the Custom Animation pane (for a review on how to do this, look here), highlight the object’s tag. A small arrow will appear; click this to open a menu that allows you to select “timings.” In the dialog box that appears, click the “triggers” button. Select the option to “start the effect on the click of...” From the menu that appears, click the name of the object.

In the Custom Animation pane (1), highlight the tag for the object you want (2). 
 A small arrow will appear (see red arrow); click this to open a menu that
allows you to select “timings.” In the dialog box that appears, click the
“triggers” button (3). Select the option to “start the effect on the click of...” (4).
From the menu that appears, click the name of the object.

The hardest part is knowing the name of the object, since the names PowerPoint assigns are sometimes obscure. Just look back at the highlighted tag and match that name to the ones in the list.

These simple triggers are very powerful. But like the kid with dominos, once you get good at setting up one, you’ll want to expand your skill into making long chains of events.

You can click one object to make another object animate. You can even use Magic Invisible Boxes to launch a trigger sequence! You can assign the second object to trigger a third, and so on.

It’s just like that path of dominos...push one, it falls into another, which falls into the next, and so on until all the dominos along the path have fallen over.

Let’s look at ways you might use these complex triggers to create activities.

·        Maybe you have offered the student a set of choice buttons below a math problem. When he chooses the correct answer from the set, you want it to move the answer to the answer field under the problem and reward his effort by setting off a series of flashy fireworks. (see math sample or the macro-enabled version here)

·        Check out this sample activity for practicing prepositions. In it, the student clicks a character to hear the instructions for that single character. When they touch the place the character needs to go, and then come back to touch the character again, the little guy will travel right to the spot they told it to go! If they touch anywhere else on the page, the character just sits.

·        Or maybe you want to set up a sorting activity. You might want students to match clothing to the correct season.  Perhaps you want students to put words in one of two categories depending on the sound in the words. The easiest method would be dragging and dropping (a future lesson), but if students can only click, you can use triggers to set this up accessible activity. Click here for a sample you can use to create activities like this.

(Just a warning: this is pretty complicated! Play with the sample activity until the process makes sense. I won’t even confess to how many hours it took me to work out the bugs on this...).

·        Did you know that an individual object can trigger itself to loop through a series of animations? This means you can create buttons that change through a series of colors, making it easy to collect data in an opinion poll or with hot/cold lunch count. See the Attendance Sample here. There’s a great tutorial from PPT Alchemy on how to do just this here.

Creating complex triggers is obviously more complicated than making simple ones. You have to have a clear idea of the order of events and how one trigger will lead to the next. But you CAN do it!

a)      Plan the sequence of events in the order they will occur (this is the hardest part)

b)      Insert the object that will act as the trigger

c)      Insert objects in the trigger sequence

d)      Save

e)      Assign the trigger event to the trigger object to launch the sequence. Be sure this is listed first in the Custom Animation tag list.

f)       Assign actions and timings to the remaining objects

g)      Save

h)      Test slide and correct anything that doesn’t play nice

i)        Format any Magic Invisible Boxes to 100% transparency and remove borders

j)        Save, making sure slide show is saved to “Browse at Kiosk”

Here are some important things to remember about triggers:

·        Triggers only apply to animations. Action buttons are already clickable, provided the slide show is set up to run in kiosk mode (see instructions here). If you need a review on the difference between animations and actions, that is covered here 

The unfortunate thing is that animations can’t trigger actions. Rats. Microsoft, are you listening? Can you fix this?

·        Triggers run only in Kiosk mode. Be sure to set your slide show to “browse at kiosk.”

·        Save your work OFTEN. Trust me on this one!!!

If you want some more practice with triggers, check out these helpful outside tutorials:

1)      labeling shapes

As always, please feel free to email me with questions. I’m eager to hear how it’s going for you!

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For information on all the techniques we’ve used in PowerPoint to get to this advanced lesson, check out these posts:

1. PowerPoint as Assistive Technology--REALLY! (Intro)

AT Considerations for Creating Activities in PowerPoint (making sure the activities you design support the needs of your students)

Adapting Books for Computer Access (utilizes PowerPoint)

4. Shortcuts for Making PowerPoint Activities (easy steps for bringing elements from other activities into your new ones)

Transitions: Basic PowerPoint AT (increasing engagement through cues between pages)

Actions and Hyperlinks: Basic PowerPoint AT (moving around within the activity)

Animations: Basic PowerPoint AT (controlling the behavior of objects on a single page)

Magic Invisible Boxes: Advanced PowerPoint AT (using invisible boxes to control actions and animations)