The Lost Point of PowerPoint

A good PowerPoint is the ideal way to teach something to a group. But do it wrong and the results go beyond having created a bad presentation.

It’s popular for teachers preface presentations with, “The only reason these slides have so many words is because they contain definitions, you should never create a presentation like this.”

Even worse, when a teacher demonstrates he doesn’t know how to operate PowerPoint, do you really think students will listen any more than they need to? Does this guy, who uses this program every single day, but will never realize that left clicking is an alternative to hitting the left arrow 74 times really know what he’s talking about?

And don’t use that lame excuse that not everyone can adjust to technology; PowerPoint has been around since before most of us students were born. Not to say all student presentations are better, we are learning from our teachers after all.

Slide by Alexei Kapterev.

Any visual aid is only as good as it is presented. I would rather watch Walter Lewin write on a chalkboard accompanied by his demonstrations for three hours—and would be more engaged in the lesson—than sit through a slideshow that sucks. It might take longer, but Lewin knows how to utilize visual aids extremely well.

Also realize that it is an aid. Too many people treat it as the main event. A lot of teachers proceed through the presentation along with the class—it usually feels like the first time they are experiencing the presentation as well. The most significant things should come out of your mouth, not be written on the screen.

The reason the teachers are using PowerPoint in the first place is because whoever wrote the textbook also sent along a presentation outlining each chapter. That should be the first hint, no wonder there are blocks of text when it comes from the author of a textbook.

Most teachers do come up with their own tests, which cover what they’ve said in class. There’s nothing out of the book on the test that they haven’t said—and that’s how it should be. Why should I pay for an overpriced teacher to ask me questions when I could’ve bought the overpriced book on my own?

When teachers give you a PowerPoint based on the book and only test you on the things they highlight anyway it’s just wasting everybody’s time. The teachers who have figured this out cut down on what they cover and emphasize what actually matters. As a result, these good teachers are better liked and students might actually learn something rather than memorizing it for a test.

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