Death by PowerPoint or can PowerPoint bring a class to life?

It’s around this time of the semester that I get feedback from student evaluations from the previous semester. I always like to read the comments that students have written about my classes. The questions on the evaluation form are not 100% relevant to my classes because they are written for lecture classes and I teach mostly communication classes, but nonetheless, it is a good chance to see what students thought about class, the materials, how they were delivered, and my actions in class. In the last few sets of evaluations, I have had a surprisingly large amount of positive feedback on how the materials are presented, and in particular, positive remarks about the PowerPoints that I make and use in class.

Why PowerPoint?

Nowadays, I use PowerPoint in almost every class, but I know colleagues who almost never use it and are actually quite against using it. To be honest, I prefer Keynote on my Mac, but 99% of the classrooms at the university I work at have PCs, so PowerPoint is much more convenient. I’ve also experimented with Slides, Prezi, and Slide Rocket, but I’m used to PowerPoint, so I can save a great deal of time when preparing for class. It’s far from perfect, but it is the most convenient for me.

Death by PowerPoint

I have to admit I have endured some terrible PowerPoint presentations at some conferences I have attended. In these presentations, the speaker either has a wall of text, or a confusing graphic, a cheesy or unnecessary photo, or the worst of the worst, some horrendous clipart! These kinds of presentations have driven me to boredom, then frustration, followed by despair knowing that I will never get those minutes of my life back! I therefore see why some teachers prefer to stay clear!

Benefits of using PowerPoint – Preparing and reviewing a class

There are several benefits of using PowerPoint. For me personally, making a PowerPoint is a great way of preparing for a class and also reviewing the previous class. I feel it helps me to plan my lesson and think more carefully about how I am going to present information. For example, choosing the right image to match the mood of a discussion, altering the background to portray a certain feeling, or selecting the right font and size to show the significance of a point I want to get across. It is very easy to review past lessons too. The visuals act as a reminder of how a particular activity went and I can quickly add a note during the class within PowerPoint rather than scribbling it down on paper.

Benefits of using PowerPoint – Saving time

More than anything else, what I like most about PowerPoint is that it saves me time in class. In turn, this allows me to spend more time interacting with the learners. An example of this would be, not having to write on the board too much during class. My handwriting is pretty awful, so if I write on the board, I need to print everything or the class wouldn’t be able to read what I have written! This means I waste time with back to class. PowerPoint allows me to prepare all the information I need and present it in a legible manner. I also like how you can embed videos and audio into the slides. This also saves me time. I don’t have to waste time locating the file or the webpage that I want to play. I do think PowerPoint could do with a makeover and it certainly isn’t perfect, but for me, it works well. I have seen it used poorly, but by following some basic guidelines I think it can help to bring a class to life, help prepping and reviewing classes, and save time in class.

Seven simple guidelines I follow when making and using PowerPoints

I’ll finish with seven simple guidelines I follow when making and using PowerPoints.

1. Keep text to a minimum.

2. Don’t use the fancy animations! Keep it simple.

3. Don’t always use photos in a literal sense. Try using some in a metaphorical or conceptual sense.

4. Tell stories with images and try to keep the images unique or different.

5. No clipart!

6. Use a remote “clicker” that allows you get away from the computer.

7. Use the “B” or “W” key to blank the screen to bring back attention when you want the class to listen.

Your turn! What do you think? It would be great to hear your feedback in the comments section below.

Comments

  • Vinanti – Voices of Women Worldwide Inc.
    Reply

    This is indeed enlightening news … and as the founder of Voices of Women Worldwide Inc. I would like to share this with my registered members spread across 151+ countries …. You have given me much insensitive to work with Power Point …
    Thank you,

    • admin

      Thank you Vianti,

      That is very kind of you. I hope your members find it useful.

      Best wishes,

      Neil

  • anna
    Reply

    Thank you for you post! I also use PP rather often, especially with Upper sts to explain some complex grammar with many examples. Well, it’s time-consuming to be well prepared, but, yes, time saving for speaking activities during the lesson 🙂

    • admin

      I couldn’t agree more. Also, once you have made the PowerPoint you can use it again in the future!

  • Shannon Mason
    Reply

    I remember the first time I got my own dedicated language classroom, after spending a few years being mobile and moving from primary school classroom to classroom, carrying a CD player, posters, etc. and then having to write on the board the same thing again, wasting time with my back to the class.

    With Powerpoint, many of those struggles are gone, even though now that I am back to being a mobile teacher. I can organise the sequence of my lesson, have pre-written explanations and examples so I don’t have to waste time writing (and students can take a photo so that they can review later), I can include images and embed videos and audios to show instantly, if students work from a textbook I can include the page/exercise numbers without having to flick through my notes because I, like many teachers, am thinking of a hundred things and can’t always remember where we are up to.

    I think ppt had a bad name in the beginning because it was often used poorly, but really ppt is nothing more than a series of blank pages. But used well it can be an excellent way to help communicate your lesson sequence, goals, content, assessment, etc, and a tool that by your students’ response (and my students) that can also help them in their understanding of the content and expectations of the lesson.

    Thanks for a great post.