Wednesday, November 11, 2009

PowerPoint -- criticism and reflection

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.
Here are some things I find myself doing:
  • 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.
Here are some of the things I found online after reading Carolyn's post:


Jamel said...

A PowerPoint presentation is a recognized tool for producing important and effective information. It is an influential office software that allows you to create individual slides containing any text or graphical information such as charts, graphs, tables, pictures, illustrations, etc. PowerPoint presentations have become an indication of professionalism in both academic and business worlds. Whether you are a university professor getting ready for a valuable lecture to your class, a student working on a project, or a professional who is expected to report to a company management; using a PowerPoint presentation will certainly make your ideas look professional and convincing.
According to the blog posted by Dr. Press, there are many that oppose the usage of PowerPoint. Many students like Carolyn find that it is hard to take notes and that the material that is being lectured is rushed. However, having experience with PowerPoint for several years now, it is very useful and beneficial to both the students and professor. It makes it easier for the professor to construct a valuable lecture by illustrating the main points of what needs to be taught on each slide, rather than just lecturing to the class with no visuals. Many love visuals because it helps them put an image to an idea. If a professor is standing in front of a class lecturing, showing a picture or photo with highlighted points helps get his/her point across and the class is likely to sit up and take notice.
In contrast, long speeches tend to become boring and people tune out, but when utilizing a tool such as PowerPoint, you can effectively capture your audience's attention if done properly. There are many students that gather information and study better through visuals, and thanks to Microsoft for inventing PowerPoint it gives students like myself the opportunity to have another alternative to learn by using the professors PowerPoint lecture.
PowerPoint provides a terrific way to make your presentation memorable if used properly. So when it is time to create your very own PowerPoint presentation, the tools provided within the application are very user friendly and easy to follow step-by-step. The application provides you with a variety of layouts to choose from and it's easy to select what kinds of features you want to integrate into your slides which help you create an amazing, yet helpful presentation.
While surfing through YouTube on how to use PowerPoint effectively, I came across Comedian Tim Lee who developed his science humor while working for his Ph.D. While using stand-up comedy, Tim Lee also uses PowerPoint to effectively convey his lecture to his audience.

Larry said...

The video was funny -- I watched all three.

I see there are other PowerPoint parody and "how to" videos on YouTube.

Hepp Daddy said...

This is the digital age and with it come new teaching tools. In the past teachers wrote on blackboards and handed out mimeographed assignments. We should be grateful for the PowerPoint presentation, a very useful tool with which to deliver lectures. However, as individuals we all learn and process information differently. We believe strongly that PowerPoint presentation should be one method, but not the only method a professor uses to teach a course. There are benefits with this tool. To begin with it provides reference points for relevant note taking. As a result fewer notes are needed therefore a student can focus on the lecture. If designed correctly PowerPoint can be very entertaining. Herein lies the crux of the issue, textbook delivered or self-designed presentations. We agree with this particular posting in that a well designed PowerPoint presentation, as described by Dr. Press, creates a stronger focal point for students than a textbook delivered PowerPoint adapted by a lecturer. Unfortunately far too many professors rely on the delivered, often uninteresting, PowerPoint to teach their material. Is it easier and they use it as a crutch?
This post mirrors our sentiments exactly:
"Jon B Says: on November 10th, 2009 at 9:26 am
Well, here’s a point of view from the other side of the table… I’m a CS professor, and I have a horrible memory, so to make sure I don’t forget anything, I use power point presentations on a regular basis. Now, I create all the PPT slides that I use, so I do have an actual mastery of the material. I also can’t stand the instructors that use the PPT provided by the book publishers…
A good professor should create a well balanced curriculum, combining PowerPoint with other tools to educate their students. The PowerPoint tool is here to stay. We should leverage this tool to our advantage and rather than an excuse not to pay attention in class.
Yves Hepperle & Jeanet Reid

Jorge Inestroza said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jorge Inestroza said...

After reading the post on PowerPoint-criticism and reflection, I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with the original post posted in Carolyn Blog “Why Learning from PowerPoint Lectures is Frustrating.”
I think that many Professors tend to get lazy when they use canned material that comes with new versions of textbooks. PowerPoint is a great tool when it is used properly and can be of a great value in the classroom. The problem that I have seen is that many Professors tend to read the PowerPoint presentation rather than explaining the content of the presentation. Another problem is that students in many instances are mislead about the importance of topics presented in a PowerPoint. I personally believe that the information presented in the classroom should be the most important of a particular chapter. Therefore, I tend to concentrate on the information highlighted in the PowerPoint presentation, where in many instances this information is not considered important by the Professor. However, placing all the blame in a particular Professor because he or she uses PowerPoint it is unfair. We students tend to believe that PowerPoint presentations are substitutes for textbooks, or because of a PowerPoint we do not need to read the chapters in our textbook.
Finally, I have had classes in which a Professor never used a PowerPoint presentation, and I did not get anything from the class. On the other hand, I have had Professors who used PowerPoint as a learning tool, and the classes have been fun and memorable. PowerPoint is a tool that when used skillfully enhances the classroom experience.


I think that power points are very inportan in the lectures bacause it gives you a visual reference to what the teacher is talking about.
Also if the teacher makes the power point presentation available the student can access it at anytime. I have had some good and bad experinces with power points.The good power points had videos and funny pictures. While the bad ones lack subtance had too many spelling errors and fail to capture the audince.

Nyeshia Lewis/ Tim Mullaney said...

The IT Blog is more tailored, in our opinion to the topics covered in class (as compared to the class blog). We are able to better relate the topics that we cover, to actual posts and real, up-to-date information. The posts that are put up by the professor are thorough, yet leave room for opposing views.
One of the posts we found to be particularly intriguing, is the post about the power point presentations. It is clear by Professor Press’ post that he is an adamant user of Power Point Presentations. We believe that Carol’s grave disinterest may be due to her major. Though she never states her major on the blog post, if she is a math major or history, or even majoring in foreign languages (Japanese), she would probably better grasp knowledge for her subject by being taught in a more hands- on approach. It is also a matter of what kind of learner she is. She may do well with visuals and interaction as opposed to strictly visuals. We think that the reason the Power point presentations work well for Professor press is because we are dealing directly with technology and computer