Ah, yes. Power point presentations. Teachers love to use and assign power point presentations. With other cool digital formats out there, like Prezi, it's a wonder that power points are still used today. But nevertheless, power points are still present in today's classroom so let me offer a tip that can help legitimize yours and your students' power point projects. If nothing else, it'll help eliminate the number of dull and bland presentations that we're used to seeing.
I've found it extremely helpful to show them a NON-example of a power point presentation. Here is what I show my students prior to assigning a powerpoint project. It basically calls out all the bad habits that ruin what could be an entertaining and informational presentation.
We'll go slide by slide (there is only 7) and see these sneaky tactics that students (and sometimes teachers) employ. What I clearly explain to my students is that the power point is a VISUAL aid that compliments what they are explaining. Students that clearly know their content don't really have to look at their slides up on the wall during their presentation. So, let's see what we have here....
Slide #1 - The topic of this ppt is "Dirt." Now granted, it's a silly topic (for history class), but it will help demonstrate our issues with power points. Here, we have the timeless use of the word "Title" that precedes the actual name of the title. And the title is simply the assigned topic. C'mon!!! Talk about a real attention getter. Sheesh. Be creative, cute, funny, or whatever. In .5 sec I just came up with, as you see underneath, "Dirt don't hurt." At least half of the class would crack a smile at that. And sometimes an attempted joke that bombs is so much better than a joke that succeeds! It just takes effort.
Slide #2 - Whoa! That's a lot of info in one slide. Lot's of stuff wrong here. Clearly it's copied and pasted straight from the internet (the vile Wikipedia in this case). There's no attempt at design - fonts, colors, graphic, picture to the side, etc. I can see the whole scene now in my head: Student(s) are up there in front of the class with their bodies turned towards the slides and begin reading away. We're not stupid! We, the audience, can look up and read it ourselves! You don't have to read it for us. And my god, can we put a little pep into our voices?
Slide #3 - You got to be kidding me! Another slide doing exactly the same thing!? We just listened to you drone on reading to us for 5 minutes on the other previous slide. We have to endure more?
Slide #4 - Ah, a picture! Finally! Hmm......yeah, that's dirt alright. Ok. So what's the point? What does it do for us? If the assignment calls for a minimum count of pictures as part of the presentation, at least do your due diligence and find us some stimulating pics.
Slide #5 - Ha! Another picture. Better, I guess. At least there's a humorous element to it. But again, what's the point of including it? It's like when students/teachers always put portrait pics of Presidents and the Founding Fathers. Let's be honest here, they're all pasty, non-smiling, white dudes which more times than not are wearing wigs. Here's an example: Gouverneur Morris, that dashing American statesman. Which does more for you...
I don't know about you, but I definitely would love to hear the story about how he had a peg leg (it's a good story too)!
Slide #6 - Oh, so nice of you to put in a slide that informs us that it's the end. Unless it's an Oscar worthy epic film, let's leave out a "The End" slide.
Slide #7 - Awww. That's very courteous of you too. You said 'thanks.' Well, it's not like we had a choice in the matter. Anyway, what happened? Did the assignment call for 15 slides and you were coming up short? Yes, let's get an extra slide in there that says, "Thanks for watching!" No, better yet, let's include another one after it that says, "Hope you enjoyed it!" BOOM! Two more slides completed!
Listen, I'm not trying to come off as this smug, sarcastic, champion of power points. Classroom time is a precious thing and there's so many distractions today in which a lot of that time is wasted. If you or your students are going to give a presentation, it has to be useful. After all, power points are another method of instructional delivery. It's a worn out method, mind you, but the standard should be kept high anyway.