Most People Miss the Point of PowerPoint

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.

Digital Citizenship

Something I would like to focus on in my future classrooms is showing students the many different ways that the internet can be used to further their learning. In grade ten I took a German studies class. My teacher was younger, and always excited about implementing different technological strategies to see what worked the best. Sometimes it was detrimental to our learning because simply learning how to operate the rather poorly organized platforms was such a pain that it made learning difficult rather than easy. We created a wiki space but I did not see the point of using the space because we essentially had no use for it. We used it to send in our audio clips of conversational German, but I always thought it strange that we couldn’t just email it to our teacher. It wasn’t like we had public settings so we could benefit from listening to each others’ clips, either. It was just a really backwards way for her to have all of our submissions going to a separate email and being organized on one site. It was useless to us, but useful for our teacher at the time. Now there are resources like Google Classroom (check out this video if you haven’t heard of it before) and other such platforms meant strictly for educational purposes. There is a website called Academia.edu  where scholars, students, professors, and passionate individuals can share their essays and articles on varying topics that are organized through tags.

Specifically, I think of our inquiry-based learning project that we are working on  throughout this course. I would like to do something of a similar nature with my students but in order to do that, I must first teach my students digital citizenship. I must show them how to narrow the entire internet down so that when they inquire about their topics, they use educational resources instead. No reddit threads, no wikipedia articles. Instead, I want them to learn from other people on the internet who have documented their growth and understandings on topics similar to my students’. The internet has such an abundance of resources and has become such an integral tool in the parts of the world that have access to it. It would be a disservice to my students to not teach them how to effectively utilize the internet in ways they’ve never imagined before. While I see the benefit of the “two lives” perspective mentioned in this article, I think it is unrealistic to ever consider separating digital citizenship from any form of education in communities who have access to such technology.

Another benefit to using the education for inquiry-based learning is that all forms of learning styles can be incorporated. Do you work better when you listen to instructions? Perfect, there’s audio clips for that. Do you work better when you see a visual example? Check out YouTube. Do you prefer step-by-step images that you don’t have to pause videos for? Perfect. Wiki-how has got your back. Do you require immediate feedback in order to feel comfortable in proceeding with your assignment? Join some online communities and forums in which the participants would gladly critique your work! There is something for everybody, and students deserve the chance to experiment with different digital styles of learning so that they can carry these skills forward into their lives.

In this article, the author (Mike Ribble) wrote, “Now everyone has the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with anyone from anywhere and anytime.” It would be a shame to ignore the possible implications of cultural diversity that is present in the online community. We could use this as a way to teach cultural diversity as well. Students would have the opportunity to see cultures and individuals from all over the world in a way that is much less dehumanizing than the typical news stories that typically misinform the masses anyways. For these reasons, I plan on teaching digital citizenship to my students as a means to create efficient internet-goers who can then use the internet to independently further their own education.