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PowerPoint is a widely used tool in the corporate world and has made significant inroads in education as a option for student projects and as an instructional tool. While Powerpoint can be a useful tool and a viable alternative for conveying information it has many drawbacks. We will look at a number of criticisms here and also some guidelines and options for using Powerpoint.
“One of the criticisms that's been raised about PowerPoint is that it can give the illusion of coherence and content when there really isn't very much coherence or content,” said Edward Miller, an education researcher and board member of the Alliance for Childhood, which advocates limited use of computer technology in early childhood education.
To critics, PowerPoint serves largely the same role in the classroom as pre-processed snack food does in the lunchroom: a conveniently packaged morsel that looks good but doesn't match the intellectual or corporeal nourishment of, say, a critical essay or a plate of steamed spinach.
Read the Full Story Glasner, Joanna. “Of PowerPoint and Pointlessness .” Wired Magazine Online. 03 2002. Wired Magazine. 01 Nov. 2005 >http://www.wired.com/news/school/0,1383,54675,00.html
Design your assignments so students do their research, thinking and organizing first, before any contact with PowerPoint. You may go so far as to require notes and an outline be done by hand. This will minimize the temptation to copy and paste and will protect students from the distractions of the software while they do the heavy mental lifting you expect.
Create a set of expectations or a rubric to provide a reference point for students. An underappreciated danger with guidelines and rubrics is that students get stuck on the “law” of the assignment rather than its “spirit”. To prevent this, emphasize quality (e.g. “Your presentation should skillfully integrate the various types of sources (text, image, audio) in order to communicate your ideas forcefully”) rather than emphasizing quantity (e.g. “Each slide needs one picture, two bullet points and one hyperlink”). Here are a few essential guidelines to give your students when using PowerPoint:
- The quality of your thinking, your conclusions and your research are the most important part of the assignment. (just like an essay or lab)
- Since your audience has a limited time to take in your entire presentation, limit text (whether quoted or your own) to what is essential.
- (If group work) Each student should share in the efforts of each stage of the assignment and be able to demonstrate this in his notes.
Create a Best Practices Library
Collect exemplary presentations. Place these on a network folder where future students can access them and show one to your class when you assign such a project.
Slide design can be a creative, worthwhile process. Determining the layout of each slide - making original choices about background and spatial relationships, for example - can teach students that how one visually presents material can profoundly affect how the material is (or is not) received. Slide design should be a graded, though secondary portion of a PowerPoint assignment and all “wizards” that walk users through options among pre-formatted slides, should be off-limits.
Raymond, John . “Avoiding PowerPointlessness.” The New Curriculum. The New Curriculum. 01 Nov. 2005 http://www.newcurriculum.com
"PowerPoint effective, but often misused"
Teachers can use storyboards as “in-process” assessment tools, to avoid disastrous final products that are not logically structured or don't deliver the message.
Make the slide show only one component of the student project
Ask students to develop their presentations after the persuasive essay or the position paper is completed. Ask students to consider their slides a summary, or an abstract, of a larger product. And remind them to consider essential questions rather than “everything they know about X.”
Encourage students to create original art.
Student drawings and digital photographs pack far more punch than screenbeans or Addy clips. Students may spend hours searching for an image of a flower when they could far more effectively draw one or shoot one with a digital camera. When they must use clip art, show students how to use it creatively, by combining it with other elements - for instance, incorporating clever thought bubbles.
Encourage minimal use of sounds and animations.
Reserve them for emphasizing important points.
PowerPoint is more powerful in the hands of a powerful presenter.
- Insist that students practice their presentations - that they engage the audience by making frequent eye contact, displaying enthusiasm, and by telling stories. Personal anecdotes and clever examples are far more compelling than bullets, no matter how they fly in.
- Insist that students respect copyright by citing every piece of media they use, other than copyright-free clip art.
- Unless items are cited throughout, the last slide should list works consulted, no matter how informal the presentation.
Teachers must be familiar with Fair
Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia
Fair Use FAQ, which sets limits for the amount of borrowed material acceptable for use in student and teacher products.
Leave words out; summarize rather than cram. Limit the number of points per slide, so the audience does not struggle to keep up. Unless students are quoting, paragraphs have no place in their presentations. All bullets should be readable from the back of the room. Combinations of upper- and lower-case letters are the most readable. Spelling errors look even worse when projected! Proofread like crazy.
The medium should match the message
Students should choose a consistent look that enhances rather than detracts from their theme. All slides and transitions should look as if they are part of the same presentation. Students should understand both the message and the audience, adjusting text and art accordingly. A presentation on the Holocaust would not be effective with a cute font and silly cartoons.
Videotape and show models of excellent student work as exemplars. Students may not intuitively know what an excellent presentation looks like.
Use rubrics to describe to students what you expect.
Develop those assessment tools with your students so they are more invested in the creation of good products or use some examples of multimedia rubrics listed below. If evidence of solid research is the most important component of the presentation, value it heavily in your rubric.
Kasman Valenza, Joyce . “PowerPoint effective, but often misused.” The Never Ending Search. 29 2001. 01 Nov. 2005 http://joycevalenza.com/powerptart.html
Here is an example of Powerpoint gone bad: Gettysburg Address PowerPoint
The actual Gettysburg Address
Scoring Powerpoints One of the leading critics of PP, coined the term “Powerpointlessness”. A must read!
- Now That I Know PowerPoint, How Can I Use It to Teach? PPT presentation
Effective Presentation PPT worth showing to the class.