When I was in elementary school, nobody ever used PowerPoint. What even was it, anyways? All presentations were done with poster boards, cue cards, and shaking hands gripping a piece of paper that had all of your presentation notes on it. When I entered high school, PPT presentations became more popular because teachers got sick of listening to the same report on the same topic when they knew we all copied the same information from the same site. The only saving grace for these teachers was a unique PPT presentation that had visuals for them to sadly stare at as yet another student cites Wikipedia as a source. PowerPoint Slides are not necessary to create a presentation, yet teachers so often expect their students to use this tool (or something similar) when they do. Why?
According to this document, which ironically is a slide-sharing tool as well, it lists some reasons as to why PPTs can be fantastic:
- It keeps the presenter organized
- They present the information in a neat and organized manner
- Slides can be printed out ahead of time
These seem like legitimate reasons to appreciate a PPT, but there is nothing saying that students can’t do those exact same things with a handout that they wrote out themselves. HELLO! Students can scan their notes and print off copies of it, too!
Teachers making their students dependent on PPT is my greatest pet peeve. There is a misconception that if students use PPT their presentations will become magically more organized and interesting, but this is not true. Students often copy and paste text, read the text off of the slides, and everybody watching the presentation will be furiously copying down the information off of the slides because they have nothing better to do. There is no point to a presentation of this style. There is no power. There is no point. You couldn’t even call it a PowerPoint at this point.
The essence of presenting is to display and dish out information in unique and amusing ways. Students will not touch Microsoft PowerPoint and magically know how to present.
Teachers, you still have to teach students how to present. PowerPoint will not do it for you.
You have to supplement the PPT with discussion and visuals. In my online class, we did an entire class period using PPT slides, but for every topic there was some form of discussion or train of thought that went with the slide. We would open up a web page to check out the subject, or we would watch a video, and so on. We did more than just sit and painfully absorb mountains of text that were blandly presented in bland ways. This is effective.
There is a reason there is a page full of PowerPoint Presentation memes, and that is because they can suck pretty hard when the presenter doesn’t know how to use it. Such as reading every single word from every single text-filled slide. This is not effective.
Teachers should still create a mini unit or lesson on effective presenting skills. Teach students how to keep their cool. Teach them how to summarize and narrow their topics down into easily consumed bullet points. Teach them how to upload images and gifs to the slides so that they can include some visuals to make the PowerPoint unique. One more thing– PowerPoint (Or prezi or google slides) can be incredibly fun to use. Teachers need to show students that and demonstrate the many effective uses of the tool so that students are not floundering around trying to make a presentation without actually knowing what they are doing.
Here is a Google Slides Presentation I did on one of my favourite artists. It was kooky and interesting, and had shocking photographs/memes in it to grab my classmates’ attention. I got a great mark on that assignment, because I did not read off of the slide. In fact, I hardly even looked at it, because I still knew my presentation and my content off by heart.
My point is that PowerPoint can be an excellent tool, but this does not mean it makes any presentation great. You, as the educator, still need to model, demonstrate and teach how to use the tool. Do not assume that because students are growing up in the digital age that they know how to use the tool perfectly. They may, but most likely they may not. They may know how to navigate YouTube better than you, but this does not mean they have foundational knowledge of presentation skills. Technology is not the teacher; you are.