Teaching with Powerpoint

February 19, 2009


There’s been a lot of discussion by bloggers interested in presentation on the role of slideware such as Powerpoint and the design of slides for presentations. In particular write a post on the theme “What I’d like to see in PowerPoint slide design in 2009″. She got a good response and published a summary of the comments in a number of posts in her own blog.

The general trend is that most contributors to the discussion were supportive of the ideas on slide design popularised in two books published last year; Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds and Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte. They advocate paying careful attention to slide design:

  • making them clean, simple and uncluttered,
  • using pictures
  • avoiding bullet points
  • minimising the amount of text on any one slide

This approach works well for keynote presentations at conferences and business meetings, and can help to avoid the “death by Powerpoint” which is too often a feaure of presentations using slideware.

Most of the discussion, however, has concentrated on business presentations. There has been very little consideration of the role and use of slideware for teaching.

I think that the most important thing to remember is that teaching isn’t about making presentations. Its about getting people to learn and that can involve different approaches. Sometimes talking at people is necessary – and Powerpoint can make presentations more interesting (or at least help keep people’s attention), providing it’s used effectively. Even then the best presenters / lecturers will try to involve ther audience and not simply lecture at them. But the most effective way of getting people to learn is to involve them – active rather than passive learning – and throwing up a load of slides, no matter how well designed they are, isn’t always an effective way of doing this.

Slideware, such as Powerpoint, does have a role to play in teaching. It can be a useful tool in lectures to larger audiences and when getting a lot of information across to smaller groups. But sometime other techniques are more appropiate. When using slideware , careful thought needs to be given to how it can be used effectively for the different types of situation.

I need to give more thought to this and expect I’ll blog on about it in in future posts.


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