I just read a blog post by a third year college student on her frustration with PowerPoint lectures. (The comments are interesting too).
She finds that PowerPoint lectures are rushed and she does not have time to take notes. When her instructors use canned material that came with a textbook, she has the feeling they are ill prepared and seeing the material for the first time. Some of her instructors use PowerPoint exclusively, rather than switching to other media like a chalkboard lecture or video when that would be better. Others use the medium poorly, for example, by reading from text on a slide.
This is my first semester using PowerPoint, so I became a little defensive when I read her post, but she got me thinking. Here are some thoughts and questions that occurred to me:
- A good teacher will be good regardless of whether he or she uses PowerPoint.
- An active, engaged student will do well regardless of the presentation medium.
- Taking notes keeps students active and alert and improves retention. Even if they have printouts of the presentations, they should take notes.
- Students who thoughtfully review their notes after class will do well regardless of the presentation medium.
- A PowerPoint file does not stand on its own for self study -- it must be presented live or narrated and/or accompanied by a transcript.
- If a PowerPoint presentation is narrated, should the narration be scripted or recorded live during a classroom presentation?
- PowerPoint presentations may encourage a passive state in the students. It is important to keep the room lights on and engage the students while giving a PowerPoint presentation.
- I only use PowerPoint slides that I have prepared myself. That allows me to present what I think is relevant, and I essentially rehearse the presentation while creating the slides.
- The first slide in each presentation lists the skills and concepts to be presented.
- The second slide in each presentation shows where the presentation fits in the overall course outline.
- I pause when a new slide is displayed to give the students a chance to look it over.
- I use images in many of my slides.
- I add fat, red arrows or other call-outs to highlight material when appropriate.
- A presentations may contain a link to a video or demonstration which I show at the appropriate place.
- I talk about the slide on the screen, but never read more than one or two sentences from it. The slides are intended to enhance and illustrate the presentation and serve as a mnemonics (for me and the students), not to be the presentation.
- The Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students at Penn State contain a wealth of information that is applicable to any discipline. The page discussing PowerPoint stresses the use of images in presentations and has links to many relevant resources.
- A funny video How not to use PowerPoint (3 min. 55 sec.).
- Articles by Cliff Atkinson, author of a book on PowerPoint style
- There are several other books on PowerPoint style, see Amazon.