PowerPoint. Love it? Hate it? Hate it but use it anyway?

The topic today is PowerPoint. Love it? Hate it? Hate it but use it anyway?  I’ve heard students disparage both that rare instructor who “doesn’t even have a PowerPoint,” as well as the one who “does nothing but read from the PowerPoint.” I won’t weigh in for or against, but will share a few quick highlights from the growing body of literature (who knew?) around uses and abuses of PowerPoint that I poked around in recently. I discovered many Haiku-style rules vying for our allegiance: for instance, the 7/7/25 rule (7 lines max, 7 words per line max, 25 total words per slide max), the 1/1/5 rule (one image per slide, use each image only once in the deck, 5 words per slide max), and the 10/20/30 rule (10 slides max, 20 minutes max, 30-point font).

There’s a common theme here and in most of what I read. PowerPoint is most effective when we arresting with words and when we take advantage of its visual potential. While some students say they like a class in which all the information they need is bullet-pointed on the slides, there’s research that suggests that they don’t actually learn best that way. A text-heavy PowerPoint encourages students to copy all that text, which means they are transcribing, not listening or otherwise engaging. It also makes that giant slide—not the professor or the other students, or what might be happening between and among them—the focus of attention and the source of authority. When, instead, the slide features a single phrase, or a provocative image or graph, or a quote or a simple question, then students have to engage to get the payoff.  And you get to be the teacher again.

Some instructors opt for alternatives to PowerPoint that add additional dimensions to the presentation (Prezi, PowToon) or radically simplify it (Haiku Deck); you may find these tools useful for student presentation assignments as well. But whatever presentation tools we use, it’s good to remember to include a variety of content—embedding quick-write prompts, break-out discussion assignments, video clips, etc.—and to give students time to engage it.  And a final tip I wish I’d learned years ago? Be careful not to stand in front of the projector—you look better without text on your face, even if it’s only 5 words.

Using Video to Enhance Learning and Teaching: A Hands-On Workshop.

Wednesday, October 22, 12:00-1:30 PM

MLIB 002 TLP Training Lab

Description: The current generation coming through Chico State are visual learners, used to turning to YouTube videos and Video Blogs for entertainment, personal edification, and self-expression. Come and hear how one faculty member has successfully incorporated video introductions as well as video assignments into her class, then start learning how to use our free tools to enhance your own courses with video.

*Authored by Dr. Katherine McCarthy.

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