The evils of Powerpoint

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

Don’t:

  • 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.
I’m sure this list could be added to and I’d love to hear about other examples of Powerpoint abuses.
Here are some of the points I could’ve made, made much more amusingly by Don McMillan:

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5 Responses to The evils of Powerpoint

  1. […] now accepts PPT Having read David Didaus  ‘The evils of powerpoint‘ here is a timely reminder that visual impact counts. Prezi has taken the presentation arena […]

  2. MM says:

    I’ve recently discovered your blog and spent weeks pouring over your musings; all of which have put in excuisite prose what I have been trying with increasing difficulty to get across in our school in much more frustrated and inarticulate ramblings (which probably explains why I haven’t been successful as yet!). In particular, the curse of the PowerPoint has been the death of teaching in our experience and led to many staff missing the real point of what strong teaching and learning is all about; staff have become deskilled and disillusioned about how to plan and teach lessons as a result. Thank you for putting words to our issues that will really help us to continue to drive this cultural change and exorcise the ‘demon’.

  3. […] of wonderful new information that students need to learn and don’t fancy subjecting them to death by Power Point or perpetrating some other passive, teach lead thought crime, the Home/Expert method may be for […]

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