November 7, 2006

The PowerPoint Phenomenon

PowerPoint presentations have become an automatic feature attached to the newest learning model. PowerPoint users praise the software for enriching the learning content. Critics of the PowerPoint phenomenon argue students have become passively engaged rather than actively engaged in the learning process. Craig and Amernic (2006) state, “When we taught without PowerPoint or led a case discussion without PowerPoint or acted Socratic-like without PowerPoint, our relationship with students was unmediated and more human, more direct, less pre-meditated and less structured”. Are you a fan or a skeptic?

Read the article:
Craig, R. J. & Amernic, J.H. (2006). PowerPoint presentation technology and the dynamics of teaching. Click here for article

Share your opinion and experiences by leaving a comment below:
Has PowerPoint been an effective tool in enriching student learning in your classroom?


Paul Cesarini said...

PowerPoint, Keynote, Impress, or similar presentation software is only as effective as the person who developed the slides. If, as faculty, we fall back bombarding our students with a barrage of text-heavy, "visuals free" slides that we then read from word-for-word to them in class, we are doing them a tremendous disservice.

I typically keep the bullet point very brief, with no more than 3-4 bullet points per slide, and no more than 5-12 words per bullet point, if that. I also try to include images whenever possible (with accurate citation / attribution), and also try to have many slides be text-free and only contain images. I also make sure I'm doing little lecturing and more discussing, moving around the room and posing questions to the students.

It works for me.

Ross said...

I think that PowerPoint can be over used as presentation software. I agree that is important to include so much more than text on a slide. We need to remember that we have different learning styles in the classroom that need to addressed. it is possible to address these learning styles simply by using images and video in classroom powerpoints.

It is important for instructors to explore the many other options available in the use of PowerPoint. PowerPoint can be used for so much more than presentation software. I have used PowerPoint in my classroom to create interactive games, hyperlinked portfolios and interactive books.

Mark Earley said...

Teaching statistics, as I do, requires more "interactive" slides than I can do with Powerpoint ... I need to be able to fill in as we go, expand, draw multiple graphs to demonstrate a point, and other "on the spot" graphics I can't do ahead of time. I'm 100% devoted to the chalkboard for that course.

In my research methods courses I use Powerpoint sparingly, mainly to organize my thoughts and show connections among concepts we are discussing. I really cannot teach without a heavy emphasis on discussion in these courses, so Powerpoint isn't my "content transmitter" -- just the organizer. Plus it can look cool with colors and animation :)

Andrew Hershberger said...

As an art historian specializing in the history of photography, and as a photographer familiar with both traditional and digital media, generally speaking I am a fan of PowerPoint as compared with 35mm slides for teaching purposes. Indeed, I have argued as much in an article entitled "Art's Digital Database(s): On Flexibility and Other Potential Benefits," CAA News 29, 5 (September 2004), 14-15. See this URL for a .pdf file of the above issue and my article:

In that article I specifically pointed to what I considered to be some of the basic benefits of the use of PowerPoint in the art history classroom:

"There are image-presentation programs more sophisticated than PowerPoint, but even that generic program—which many of us already have and know how to use, or can learn easily-—has great advantages.
An art historian can paste digital images into a simple PowerPoint presentation with captions and can give lectures without paper notes. Such a presentation system, combined with an Internet connection and a wireless gyro-mouse, allows the lecturer
to step out from behind the podium, and that in turn allows for much greater freedom of interaction between students and teacher. I have found that students pay better
attention when I move around the
classroom while lecturing, when I answer questions from a variety of places, and when I search a live database in response to their inquiries, rather than refer to notes from behind a lectern. Having a work’s author, title, and date included on the screen right next to the reproduction raises the classroom discourse to a higher level. Students stop asking, “How do you spell that?” or “What was that date?” and instead talk about the ideas presented in an artwork and debate their own interpretations of the work with the textbook’s claims about it. Preparation for such lectures probably takes longer at first—we need to learn and apply new technologies, deal with snafus, and so on—but in the end it should benefit students and faculty alike (particularly tenure-track professors with large survey classes) in ways that we probably cannot fully assess yet."

If you're interested, please read the complete article and let me know what you think. :)

Montana said...

If only all professors could use PowerPoint in the effective way that Andrew describes! Unfortunately, mostly it becomes a way of putting audiences to sleep very efficiently. I am so sick of seeing one blue screen after another with words that lose their vitality and meaning because they are staring me in the face, distracting me from the human communication I could be getting from the speaker. I just spent 4 days at a national conference at which almost every single speaker relied on PowerPoint. I almost feel that as professors we are succumbing to peer pressure to use it, to the detriment of our performance as enthusiastic, persuasive role models for our students.
Take this with a grain of salt though--I actually have never yet learned to use PowerPoint, and maybe I'm just jealous.
Hey--am I entered in the Flash drive drawing now?

Melissa said...

PowerPoint can, like almost any technology, be used to enhance active learning or to detract from it.

I like a lot of the suggestions here, but I wanted to add one that sort of flipped the possibilities. This was not my idea-- I came across it in Dr. Kris Blair's Theory and Practice of Technology in Writing Grad class this semester.

What about having students take notes on a powerpoint slide, instead of the instructor always writing on the board? For appropriate activities (student centered discussions, student-taught activities, etc.) it de-centers the instructor and also offers the file itself as a record of what went on in class.

I tried it and most of my students loved it, at least compared to being asked to write on the board. I noticed it was a good way to force me to de-center my own voice too, since I have a hard time shutting up.

altmanm at

Mark Cruea said...

I think that, like any technology, it depends on how it used. In my classes, I attempt to use it as a supplement to the class activities, not a replacement. Like Paul mentioned, keep the text brief. There is nothing more boring than having a slide full of 18-point text that is impossible to read.

Instead, use of images as discussion starters has been productive for me. As an attention getter, PowerPoint can be very effective, but redirect the attention of the class back to what is important in that days' lesson.

Anonymous said...

I use PowerPoint a lot in my lectures. To avoid "death by PowerPoint," I too try to keep the slides short. I also try to keep my presentations to less than 10 slides. Like Montana, I am not a fan of the ad nauseam presentation, with the presenter reading the slides word for word.

I use my PowerPoints to state main points of my lecture and ask discussion questions. However, I find that students have a desire to write copy down the slide word for word. I could provide students with the PowerPoint slides, but then I feel students are not learning the important skills of listening and note taking. The Criminal Justice field requires attention to detail, good listening, and good note taking.

Am I still teaching good note taking and listening by providing the students with my PowerPoint presentations? I'd love to hear your opinions on the matter.

Steve Sarazin

Anonymous said...

Like anything else in life... moderation is the key. As with any tool, there are good (helpful) and bad (harmful or meaningless) uses. I try to mix it up a little bit, with pictures, questions, video or audio clips, and most importantly, not use it all the time. As a supplement to class discussion, active learning activities, etc. any presentation software can add to the experience for the learner.

Angela said...

I agree with Montana as well. Along with giving my students access to printed powerpoints, I let them read and respond to the slides before I give input. This means that I have to add a little more information and at times have more slides, but the students really love it. They feel like they are apart of teaching the class. However, I think it depends on the subject matter and context of the course, this may not work with all classes.