Beyond PowerPoint: Creative Tools for Social Work Student Projects


Many courses require students to create something - and often that thing, is a set of PowerPoint slides. These are useful, helpful to tell a story, and pretty easy to make and distribute. But what if your learning goals include creation of other types of media, that tell different stories, in different ways? Here is a list of some tools that are typically freely available (up to a point) that can be useful for creating learning/portfolio artifacts beyond slides. Just keep in mind that these are not supported by UMB or SSW helpdesks, but these sites typically have their own support documentation, tutorials, videos all over YouTube on how to use them, and their own help/support systems. 


Some folks think you have to have training as a graphic designer to make a good looking infographic. No more! Online browser-based apps like and make it very easy to search for images, drag and drop, use templates, and create eye popping good infographics, posters and flyers. You can log in using an already existing Google or Facebook account, and the free version itself has a lot of options for both of these. 

Organizational Charts/Conceptual Maps

There are many of these out there - and one of my favorites is and I know some folks who swear by It literally takes a few minutes to start figuring out how to drag and drop, move things around, resize, type text in, connect everything, and create effective charts, conceptual maps and 

Interactive Maps

While National Geographic has a very nice and free tool for making interactive maps, also does this. But let's not forget that most people don't even realize all the cool things you can do with good ole Google Maps! You have to get to "Your Places" on the Maps tab, where you can create maps, add spots on them with various icons, put in links, images, and even collaborate with others on your interactive maps.

Google Maps - Places View

Here's an example from a little trip to Tuscany that has places to stay, eat, drink, visit farms, hot springs, and ghost towns. But imagine you could create very detailed maps of neighborhood social services, libraries, help centers or anything you can dream up!

Map of Florence, Italy


If you search google for timeline software, you'll see many many options. Each is a little different, so think about what you'd like to accomplish and what your needs are. Do you want to collaborate with others? Do you want to link out to web sites and articles? Embed media? Typically the various sites will have at least a limited free version - with x many points on the timeline and y many timelines on a free account, so observe and see what works. One we have used and like is ( that is easy to use, creates a nice looking and functional timeline (including 3-D) and allows links and embedded media. Here's a blog post with 6 other timeline apps that have some amount of free use. 


There are so many ways you can do this - but Zencastr makes it so easy - especially for interviewing guests. Most any cell phone and any computer can now record audio files. It's all about creating your recordings, editing them, and posting them. Here's a great post about creating podcasts that includes many tools and tips for all platforms. Or how about this article from the New York Times, on Teaching Students How to Produce Their Own Podcasts


Loom is a fantastic and super easy to use extension for Chrome to record your screen while you describe what is on it. This can be used for lecture recordings, tutorials and step-by-step how-tos, guest speaker recordings, weekly announcements, student projects, and so on. 

Your smart phone is most likely also now a powerful video recording camera and editing device. Many folks are using that capability to record announcements, lectures, case vignettes, spontaneous interviews or other types of learning artifacts. 

Of course, the tools don't come first! Thinking about your course learning objectives and how to best accomplish them is of first and foremost importance. The tools we use may vary according to those goals, and what's important is to match the tool to those objectives and assess whether it does a good job of doing so. 

Speaking of tools, it must be time for an obligatory almost related music video:

Date Last Updated/Reviewed: 10/31/2023