Monday, February 16, 2009

Problems with PowerPoint and Student Presentations

More from PETE & C!

Problems with PowerPoint and Student Presentations
Presenter: Ken Rodoff
Springfield Township High School

As teachers, we've sat through way too many presentations where students proudly display their PowerPoints complete with wild backgrounds, animated clip art, and the sound of screeching brakes and breaking glass. Then they proceed to read every word on every slide, bullet by bullet, word by word. . . . . . .SNORE!

But who can we blame but ourselves? We assign PowerPoints--not presentations! We get what we assign. "Really large, no cards."

Springfield Township High School has banned students from using the following when preparing presentations using PowerPoint:
  • bulleted lists
  • design templates
  • clip art
  • WordArt
  • slide layouts
What's left? The student! Students must start with blank templates and a white background. They may use as many slides as needed to tell their stories. Don't limit slides; they're free!

Simple is more difficult. The students are asked what they want their audience to remember. What's the take-away?

See actual slides designed by Springfield Township students and how they evolved from bulleted lists to effective, meaningful visuals. The slides are included in the slideshow on the presenter's wiki.

Students are encouraged to use an Inspiration template to organize their writing. The template is also included on the wiki.

Students are told not to give away their topics on the first slide. They need a "hook," as they do in all of their writing and sometimes use a story as their hook. They use strong, copyright-free images to hammer home their points. The images don't have to be literal representations of the message. They use very little, but very effective, text.

Sources of effective images include ImageChef, Creative Commons search on Flickr , and Flickrstorm. Try searching for images using adjectives instead of nouns. Students must be taught about copyright, ethics, and image appropriateness.

Students are told to rehearse their presentations to no one; they don't always have to practice in front of an audience.

To teach students how to create presentations instead of PowerPoints, give them this assignment: Have them create four slides, each demonstrating a skill that they bring to a job. They should use minimal text and effective images.


1 comment:

  1. You correctly state: "But who can we blame but ourselves? We assign PowerPoints--not presentations! We get what we assign. 'Really large, no cards.'"

    Your premise is correct, in that the focus should be on the presentation and not the PowerPoint slides. But I also believe, the techniques for presenting is missing, but not only here, but in most schools, both high school and colleges. I feel that you are still emphasizing the creation of a presentation, which is fine, but what you are emphasizing, IMHO, is not helping to develop the personal skills in developing and delivering a presentation. Regardless of the use or the non-use of PowerPoint, an effective presentation is based on proper organization of a presentation (you mentioned They need a "hook" and you are correct. But are you offering the guidelines for learning how to develop a hook? An inspirational photo will not be the proper hook. It is the spoken opening story, a rhetorical question, or something else that is spoken that will be the attention getter.

    Anyway, I'd be glad to send you a copy of my book, "31 Tips to Becoming an Effective Presenter," which is available in bookstores and campus bookstores, as long as you promise to read it and get back to me on your thoughts.

    You can view the endorsements and Tip highlights of my book at

    I would like to have the opportunity to talk with you about what teachers can do to develop effective presentation skills for their students.

    Frank S. Adamo


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