Saturday, 9 May 2015

Poor Old PowerPoint

Image courtesy of Microsoft

Like so many things on Twitter, the use of PowerPoint has become a little polarised of late. Is it the worst tool used in school or is the best? Much of the recent discussion has been about the former. I've heard "Death by PowerPoint" many times, and to some degree absolutely accept it as a problem. Does that mean we ban it though? 

An article by Bent Meier Sørensen from the university of Copenhagen was tweeted LOTS in the last few weeks, Let’s ban PowerPoint in lectures – it makes students more stupid and professors more boring (see <here>) which argued that universities should not be using in lectures at all. Ross McGill aka TeacherToolkit also suggested in order to test resilience we should abandon PowerPoint for a day (see <here>). Yet it is important to state, that I too have written blogs about 'No Tech Day' (see <here> )

PowerPoint began life as a presentation tool for the world of business. Since then it has been adopted by all. Schools, with the adoption of IWBs and projectors have particularly taken to it's easy to use format. Lessons can easily be put together with far less hassle than the previous tools of OHTs/OHPs and even the chalkboard. Why would they not use PowerPoint?

I think personally, the big problem with PowerPoint is that it is often used badly. The five things that I think make a BAD PowerPoint that has no place in the modern classroom:
  1. Too Long - A lesson PowerPoint should have 6/7 slides maximum.
  2. Too Much Text - If you have a lot of text, use a textbook or print it out. It gets too small and too hard to read.
  3. Bad Colours - I am colourblind (green/yellow) but this is only a small part of the issue of garish colours too frequently seen on PPTs. Did you drop some acid before making it?
  4. Image / Text / Layout - Think carefully about what needs to go where. Review it. Look at it in Slide view.
  5. Unnecessary Animation - PowerPoint has many features, you don't need to use them all.

 However the 5 reasons that I still use PowerPoint very frequently in my lessons:
  1. It saves time - It is a lot quicker and easier to find a PowerPoint in my ordered user area that dig out worksheets, OHTs. It saves me writing things on my white board repeatedly (which is in a very poor condition anyway). I can also get it up quickly when I arrive in the room. 
  2. It saves on scarce resources - Photocopying is expensive if done regularly and we can always purchase all the resources we want. PowerPoint 
  3. It allows me to devise my own tasks based on existing resources - I often don't like the tasks in textbooks, even if the content is good. I used that as my source material and then devise my own tasks which appear on the board.
  4. It's quickly and easily adaptable - When I review lessons, it is very easy to change my tasks, information so that my lessons as the best they possibly can be. 
  5. It can incorporate audio / visual - A image or a video can really help enrich a lesson and embedding or linking to these in a PowerPoint can help improve a lesson.  

I feel this 'ban PowerPoint' rhetoric is misleading. It can be a really useful tool for lesson planning and delivery. Bad PowerPoint is obviously detrimental to these very same things. Perhaps it is a wider pedagogical question... good teaching will not be boring nor make students more stupid, bad teaching may well do! 

Other presentation software is available: Apple's Keynote, Google's Slides, Prezzi 
They all have the same advantages and disadvantages... although special mention to Prezzi which does sometimes make me feel a little seasick!

1 comment:

  1. I agree...until they come out with something better, PowerPoint (or other equivalent) is still the way to go.