Actions and Hyperlinks: Basic PowerPoint AT

Are you ready to tackle the next basic technique in PowerPoint to accommodate kids needing some extra technology support?  Let's detour off our usual weekly schedule to keep working on this.
But before we roll up our sleeves and get started, let’s take a minute to think about “transitions” from our last lesson. Transitions are the events that happen as one page moves into the next.
Transitions are like the vehicle that takes us from one place to another. They may serve as strong attention grabbers, like a flashy hotrod with flames painted in high-gloss and an ah-ooga horn. They may work better as a plain white delivery van, quietly and invisibly performing its much-needed utilitarian task. Or we may not need a vehicle to get where we are going at all; our activity may not need any special transitions.
But just where are these vehicles going?
“Actions” are like the roads connecting us to the places we want to go. “Actions” take us places within our activities. They can even detour outside activities to visit exterior programs.

Actions are like roads that take us places within an activity.

Why are actions important for students with learning or access needs?
You—or your student—can control where in the activity your student will go next.
·        You can provide positive feedback or a special reward, such a video clip or an animated clipart, by automatically sending a student to a reward page after responding correctly.
·        You can offer corrective feedback by sending students back to a page to reread information they missed on a comprehension question.
·        You can use actions to let students navigate through pages of a book.
·        You can create branching stories, similar to the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books popular years ago (a great small group writing activity, by the way).
·        You can avoid duplicating pages, thereby reducing your authoring work, by returning to a specific page.
·        You can also create a page for launching adapted books stored on your computer, providing students with choice and easy access.
·        You can also create a launch page for websites specific to the unit you are teaching.

Here are links to some sample activities that utilize transitions to support kids’ learning:
·        4-choice sample (large multiple choice format with reward animations for correct responses)
·        Book template (allows students to navigate through pages and narration of books)
·        Web launcher sample, which connects students directly to websites you have chosen (also use as a template for creating a book launcher for books on your computer)
·        Sample page-based AAC file from Boston Children’s Hospital, useful for assessing if this style of AAC is appropriate for a student (note: this is a large download; be patient!) ). For instructions to create your own, check out Amy Garrett’s “PowerPoint Features for AAC”  (demonstrated on a Mac, but applies to Windows too)
Another way to think of “actions” is as a hyperlink within and outside your activity. The two are closely related.  They are even next door neighbors on the Insert ribbon. Actions were added to PowerPoint in 2000 and do a little more than the Hyperlinks from version ‘97, however…

The Insert tab (1) opens the ribbon with Hyperlink and Action buttons (2)

Actions also allow you to play sound files. Just remember our earlier caveat when linking to a sound file—it MUST be saved within the same folder as your activity to insure that everything works together.
The Action and Hyperlink pop-up menus also offer slightly different features.
The Action menu allows you to define some behaviors when a shape or picture is selected. You can connect sound files to your objects. You can have the shape “highlight” by appearing to push-in like a physical button. It also lets you assign the “mouse over” feature, which means students can activate buttons by simply hovering the cursor over them.
From the Insert tab (1), the Action button (2) will open a menu
of Action Settings (3)
For assigning hyperlinks, I think the pop-up menu associated with the Hyperlink Button on the ribbon is easier to navigate than the one for the Action Button. Just my personal preference.
Clicking the Hyperlink button (2) on the Insert tab (1) will open the Hyperlink menu (3)
The easiest way to assign standard actions to your pages is with a pre-defined Action button. You will find these listed in the INSERT menu under the SHAPES button. Clicking this will call up a pop-up menu with button shapes; the ACTION buttons are the last set in the menu.
The Insert tab (1) offers the ribbon with the Shapes (2) option.
The bottom row of shapes (3) gives you pre-set action buttons.
Each of these buttons is marked with generally-recognized image of the function it performs. If you need a reminder, hover your mouse over the buttons in the list for a descriptive label.

Do most of these symbols look a little familiar?
Simply click the button you need and then click your open page. The button will be inserted and its settings will automatically display a drop-down menu (pictured earlier in the post). You can leave the settings as is or customize them from the menu.
You can customize the look of the button if you want by adjusting its size and color. You can also add sound or make the button appear to push-in with the “highlight” feature. You might also want to make the button activate with a mouse over.
For more creative freedom, you can insert any shape or picture and assign custom actions. Pretty cool, eh? Just select the preferred shape from the INSERT > SHAPES menu or choose a picture or clipart, also from the INSERT menu. As long as the Actions or Hyperlinks buttons in the ribbon are not greyed out, the objects can be assigned actions.
Here are some quirks and tips related to Actions that you should know about:
1.      Grouped objects cannot be assigned Actions or Hyperlinks. You’ll notice the buttons in the ribbon are greyed out when you select grouped objects; this means they cannot be selected. If you want to assign a link to a shape with a picture on top (the Web launcher is an example of this), you cannot simply group them and assign the action setting to the group. Instead, you have to assign it to both the button shape and to the picture sitting on it. Don’t forget to assign the setting to both or the button will have unresponsive areas that don’t click.

2.      Additionally, to prevent this same quirky feature from making text on top of shapes goofy, type directly onto a shape without using the text tool. Once your text is on the button, then you can adjust size and color. It should be clickable along with the rest of the shape, without displaying a hyperlink underline.

3.      The cleanest way to display video clips is to play movies on a page within your activity rather than linking to the video elsewhere on your computer. If you link, it’s tricky to navigate back to your activity. Keep things simple instead using this method:
a.      Create a blank page.
b.      From the INSERT tab, choose the MOVIE button at the end of the ribbon.
c.       Select the file or animated clip and click onto your page to paste it.
d.      A box will pop up asking if you want the movie to play automatically or when clicked; check the box that best meets your student’s needs. You can also access the options menu from the “Movie tools” tab on toolbar when the movie is selected.
e.      Drag the handles on the movie to locate and size it as you want.
f.        Go to the page you want to contain the launch button for your movie.
g.      Insert an action button, either pre-made or custom, that links you to your new movie page.
h.      Save your work!

When your students use an activity that incorporates actions, set the slideshow to run in kiosk mode.
Kiosk mode limits mouse clicks to objects that can be activated by a click (or dwell or switch hit). This means the student cannot leave the page just by clicking the mouse or hitting the space bar. Instead, they must activate a specific button with an assigned action that allows them to leave. This is a great way of making sure students don’t whip through a task before selecting the correct answer or reading the text on a page.
To select kiosk mode, go to the SLIDE SHOW tab. Click the SET UP SLIDE SHOW button to open the settings. In the SHOW TYPE choices, check BROWSED AT KIOSK.
From the Slide Show tab (1), click the Set Up Slide Show button (2) on the ribbon.
This opens the Slide Show settings menu. The "Browsed at Kiosk" bullet in the
upper left corner (3) is marked with an arrow. Check this bullet.
If you save the activity as a “Show” file, be sure to check kiosk mode before you save. You can grab a quick refresher on file types from our lesson on shortcuts, taking a look back at the different file options for saving your work. We’ll wait for you...
Is that enough to get you started on actions? I’m happy to walk you through an activity from start to finish in a post, if you want some guided practice. Just let me know!
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Earlier lessons on using PowerPoint to create activities to support students needing Assitive Technology supports:
1. PowerPoint as Assistive Technology--REALLY! (Intro)

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

3. 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)

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

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