For some time now I’ve found myself becoming increasingly convinced of the evils of PowerPoint. What’s that you say? It’s just a tool? Isn’t there some old cliché about bad workmen blaming their tools? Fair point, and perhaps you’re right. There’s no doubt that the advent of data projectors in classrooms has resulted in teachers being able to do things unimaginable in the days of the OHP. Maybe teachers moaning about Powerpoint presentations is like farmers moaning about combine harvesters?
But I can’t shake the nagging feeling that planning and delivering every lesson via Powerpoint (as many teachers do) is akin to popping Sauron’s precious ring on. The problem is, as I see it, that the Powerpoint possesses us; it becomes a script from which we must not deviate. There are other issues: the desire to circle, vulture-like, around your computer’s space bar; the almost overwhelming desire to turn your back on the class and read your lovingly constructed bullet points. But the main problem, for me anyway, is the tendency to follow one’s lesson plan robotically from slide to slide regardless of how students respond. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been as guilty of this as anyone and it’s taken a determined effort and spell of anguished cold turkey to break the habit.
Last week at Teachmeet Clevedon, I had the privilege of watching Andy the Hutt (no relation to Jabba) deliver his presentation Powerpointless to Powerful Point
He has lots of great tips and tricks for turning your presentation from something dull and dreadful to a thing of grace and beauty. Following these suggestion will, no doubt, improve the turgid presentations that abound in our schools and maybe, just maybe, we might be persuaded that less is more.
There are, of course many marvellous things that can be accomplished with your data projector and I’m not for a moment suggesting that we should abandon Powerpoint altogether. One of my favourite uses is so set students a writing task and as they’re working I type up mine onto a PPT slide so that they can see the thought processes that go into producing an effective piece of writing or an analytical reading response. But that said, I’m invigorated by the belt-and-braces, back-to-basics approach to teaching of just bringing a white board pen to lessons.
Here is my manifesto for effective, judicious use of Powerpoint. Do:
- Have a task (or something inspirational) displayed on the board to focus the attention of students as soon as they arrive in your lesson
- Know what you want to say about each slide you use without having it written on the slide and then boring your students by reading out a list of bullet points
- Do feel free to add to and adapt sides as the lesson progresses – Powerpoints, like lessons, should evolve and change to match your students’ progress and understanding
- Use more than 3 sides per lesson
- Use slides which fail to make a visual or emotional impact
- Use someone else’s Powerpoint. This is always a dreadful error – even reusing a presentation that worked wonderfully with a class you designed it for least year is unlikely to be successful. The most awful Powerpoint crime is to download something from a resource sharing site and palm it off on the poor suckers you’re pretending to teach. We’ve all done it and hopefully we’re all rightly ashamed, but there really is no excuse to keep doing.