Powerpoint in the Classroom

February 20, 2009

Following on frm yesterday’s post, I found an intersting video of a talk by Vera Polyakova-Norwood of the University of South Carolina on “Waking up from Powerpoint Induced Sleep”.

One key point she makes is that students these days have an expectation that their teachers will use Powerpoint to deliver, what Vera calls a”Readers Digest” education, avoiding the need to read more detailed accounts in text books. In other words the use of Powerpoint can lead to a dumbing down of teaching if we aren’t careful.

Students also expect their teachers to hand out copies of their slides (so they can avoid taking notes) and the pros and cons of this and alternative approaches are discussed.

The strengths of Powerpoint (and other slideware) covered in her talk include

  • ease of use
  • it can be a good organising tool
  • it makes it easy to provide handouts
  • students like it
  • it can organise student note taking

The main weaknesses she identifies include

  • learning should be active – slideware is passive
  • it isn’t good at distributing large amounts of information
  • it inhibits spontaneous feedback
  • it is not good in conveying information using non-linear paths
  • it is not good at recording input from the audience

Her conclusion is that Powerpoint should be used judiciously in the classroom, and that teaching strategies and learning activities should be varied. I’d agree with her on both of these points. Sldeware has a role to play, but it is only one tool that sometimes aids teaching. But there are other tools and approaches that we can use and may be better suited to effective teaching in many situations.

Overall I thought it was a good talk. She made a lot of valid points and raised some interesting issues. However, I thought that she could have applied the principles to her own visuals, though. She used some slides that were quite heavy with bullet points and there was some poor use of colour (I was not entirely convinced when she tried to pass this off as due to the projector)

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One Response to “Powerpoint in the Classroom”


  1. […] one of the first posts on this blog I reflected on the problems inherent in using  “slideware”, like Powerpoint, in […]


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