Death by PowerPoint – A view from a guilty lapsed Catholic!

In Debates and Polemics by Alex Quigley1 Comment

Firstly I need to lift the mountain of guilt from my shoulders before I give my views on the potential evils of PowerPoint. I have two guilty confessions about this week:

1. I made three PowerPoints this week! I was making new schemes of learning for the department. Knowing most of the dept like using them I made some image based PowerPoints, despite wanting to phase them out of my teaching forever and encourage others to do the same! It was the easy thing to do. Hypocrisy you may rightly cry! To slightly mitigate this behaviour, I did make two ExplainEverything audio presentations as well, just to mix it up and give the students a different style of presentation.

2. My second guilty secret is that I took my small children to MacDonalds this weekend. It was lazy. It was wrong – I know, and I’m sorry. Please don’t judge me too harshly!

Glossing over my bad parenting hastily, I want to get back to PowerPoints! Now, I admit, they aren’t as evil as I may have initially suggested (English teachers are notorious for their use of hyperbole!), but they are over-used and often abused so I want to weigh in on the subject. There should be some simple rules for teachers in my view:

Rule 1. You should not make jokes about ‘death by PowerPoint’ and then go on to show a 50 slide PowerPoint! That is not irony – it is not big and it is not clever.  This particularly applies to training providers, especially exam board training sessions! STOP this please!

Rule 2. Don’t write what you are going to say anyway – I am not an idiot, nor are students. Say it with me: Do not patronise with PowerPoint!

Rule 3. Try hard to not exceed ten slides (when I have broken this rule, it has been only just over!) and if you do they should only be creative images.

Rule 4. Make the slides image based and/or with media clips – not crammed with writing. In fact, if possible, go wordless.

Rule 5.Try to use a variety of tools of teaching strategies instead of PowerPoint – variety is the spice of life! If you want to use technology you could mix it up with Prezi, Pinterest, make a movie, record a podcast etc. Be courageous and do away with them completely!

Rule 6. Experiment with ‘flipping’ the lesson, making the PowerPoint largely redundant.

Rule 7. Do not use pixelated images – these look awful when at full size!

Rule 8. Do not include garishly colourful backgrounds – these do nothing but make people feel slightly queasy!

Rule 9. Do not use other people’s PowerPoints without some serious editing – would you wear someone else’s ill fitting clothes? No.

Rule 10. I don’t have one, but I felt finishing on 9 rules would be odd!

Right, I feel so much better having confessed my sins. If you too were raised in a moralistic crucible like me you may want to add to my rules, or flagellate yourself for breaking them! Also, I recognise that by creating rules I thereby admit there is a place for PowerPoint, but as the saying goes ‘everything in moderation’.