Make PowerPoint an experience for students

I just sat through a webinar with Tom Kuhlmann, the author of The Rapid E-Learning Blog. The particular name of this webinar was “Don’t let the experts tell you PowerPoint sucks.” There were some good ideas presented, but more than anything, it made me think of how we use PowerPoint in the classroom.

Granted, many, and maybe even most of the attendees of the webinar work in the professional sector outside of education. Many of these people are selling products and ideas to various audiences. Their presentations have to be flashy, and in the end, they have to sell.

Is the purpose of a PowerPoint any different in the classroom? The obvious fast answer is “Yes, of course. We aren’t selling anything. The purpose of a PowerPoint in education is to inform.”

But is it? Totally?

I don’t know, but when I am standing in front of group of students, I am pretty sure that they are not going to listen unless I do something other than just talk. I have to get them involved, at least mentally, in some manner. Showing a PowerPoint full of notes is most likely a sure way to kill whatever attention a student might have in the subject. A teacher that creates 20 slides of notes for the students to copy down is not helping the student to remember anything that is being taught. I am not sure that teaching and a PowerPoint like this can even go in the same sentence. All of the information given to the students in this manner goes into the their notebooks, not their brains.

We need to start thinking about PowerPoint (or any presentation) in a different way. PowerPoint presentations need to wake students up. They should be sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the next slide. Research has shown that the memory is not activated by what is written in a notebook but by experience. These experiences should be coming from a combination of the teacher and the presentation.

Ok, I can hear the grumbles: “This is going to take more work. I don’t have time. I don’t have the skills.”

Dynamic presentation can take a bunch of time. However, that doesn’t always have to be the case. There seems to be a popular mantra in certain circles at the moment. Maybe you have heard it: Less is more. This can certainly be the case with PowerPoint. Maybe a slide packed with notes can be replaced with a short video that shows the ideas presented. Maybe the fifteen bullet points could be replaced by three white words printed on a black background.

In short, we have to find ways to make our classes “experiences” for the students.

For some interesting ideas on how to make PowerPoint presentations more effective, check out Tom’s Blog.

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Tags: PowerPoint, education


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