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course dev-02

Avoid PowerPointlessness!


PowerPoint, Keynote , Prezi etc., when used meaningfully, can be an enhancement to a lecture. However, sometimes it is used in such a way that it essentially takes away from the educational purpose of coming to class. When does this occur? And, what can be done about it?

PowerPointlessness occurs when an instructor reads off of a PowerPoint presentation without giving the students any additional information. Another example is when the PowerPoint slides merely repeat what is in the textbook, so that coming to class is analogous to rereading the textbook or done instead of reading the textbook. PowerPointlessness can also occur if the PowerPoint is straight from the publisher’s website and doesn’t cover much beyond the textbook. In other instances, publishers’ PowerPoints may cover topics that are not even part of the course objectives. An extreme example of PowerPoint lectures gone wrong is when old slides are being reused year after year and no longer align to how the topics are currently situated. If PowerPoint slides are posted online, should they include everything you do in the classroom? If they do, what is the point of attending class?

You can avoid PowerPointlessness by using PowerPoint, Keynote , Prezi, etc. to your advantage. PowerPoint slides should not be the lecture, they should be instructional aides supplementing an exciting lecture which not only engages student curiosity but involves them in solving subject matter problems. The presentation should tell a story and include the instructor’s valuable knowledge and real-world experiences. The slides should have built-in interactive elements. PowerPoints should be used to provide visual aids and/or illustrate a key quote or formula. If you need to remind yourself of what to say along with the PowerPoint, use the Notes pages and practice your presentation prior to the lecture. You can also use 3-4 shortened key points to prompt yourself.

Find out more about PowerPointlessness. Rebecca Shuman says you should avoid using PowerPoint to simply create an outline of your lecture. You also shouldn’t be able to understand everything you need to about the lecture by reading the slides. If that’s the case – try cutting the extra fat by taking out 50% of your slides and 90% of your text. She recommends sticking to simple transitions such as revealing text when it’s needed instead of using other gimmicks that take away from student attention. She goes on to say that you shouldn’t worry about whether or not your PowerPoints make sense because they shouldn’t on their own. The most important part of the presentation is the instructor interaction and communication with students. You can check out her entire presentation here.

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