As teachers we present a lot of information to students. In order to diversify and enrich our instructional tools, we often resort to technology. Presentation applications can enhance our teaching, and although there is quite a lot out there that criticizes such applications as PowerPoint, it is important to keep in mind the ways in which this and other presentations can enhance our teaching. More importantly, we need to remember that when we decide to present content using technology, we should follow certain guidelines to ensure they appeal to, and effectively educate, our audience.
Why have presentation applications, such as PowerPoint, been criticized so much? That’s because many of these presentations were created without their designer giving proper attention to some basic presentation rules. Don McMillan, a “Technically funny corporate comedian” (McMillan, 2008), points out several elements of such poorly designed presentations. Through a humorous PowerPoint Presentation, he demonstrates how a presentation can turn ineffective due to the designer’s attempt to impress the audience by cramming too many words, slides, labels, bullet points, animations, and data. Lastly, he showed how the wrong use of color schemes could completely distract the audience (McMillan, 2008).
Such examples may lead some to a serious aversion for PowerPoint presentations. However, we should keep things in perspective. Presentation applications can be very useful. They are usually quite simple to create, and allow us to incorporate many essential elements in them, such as charts, videos, pictures, drawings, screenshots, etc. (Shank, 2011). So next time we create a presentation, we should keep in mind some basic rules.
Through an interesting presentation, Alex Kapterev, an advertising and marketing consultant, explains that presentations should help the audience to visualize ideas, to create key points, and basically, to impress them. He continues by arguing that designers should create their presentations while keeping in mind the significance of the presentation, ensure that it is convincing, memorable, and scalable, and try to keep it as simple as possible (Kapterev, 2007).
So how do we do it? On his website, Garr Raynolds offers excellent tips for PowerPoint creators. Among them, he explains that presentations should be kept simple, with limited bullet points, text, and transitions and animations. He urges designers to use an original visual theme (not from a template), to use high quality graphics, and in order to evoke the appropriate emotions in the audience, to appropriately use color schemes and fonts. Lastly, he recommends to incorporate audio or video, and to review slides in Slide Sorter view, to ensure the ideas flow well (Raynolds, 2005).
Keeping these Dos and Don’ts in mind can greatly improve any presentation, and would allow designers to pass on their message to the audience effectively and efficiently. And for the audience, the experience of sitting through another presentation would become a positive and enriching experience.
For illustrative purposes, below is an example of a PowerPoint presentation I created for my students as an introduction to one of the most important units in their primary school experience:
(Here is the PowerPoint Presentation file with working hyperlinks)
McMillan, Don. (2008). Life After Death by PowerPoint. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lpvgfmEU2Ck
Kapterev, Alex. (2008). Death by PowerPoint (and how to fight it). Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/thecroaker/death-by-powerpoint?ref=http://edtech.mrooms.org/mod/page/view.php?id=49020
Kapterev, Alex. (2008). Technically Funny. Retrieved from http://www.technicallyfunny.com/
Raynolds, Garr. (2005). Top Ten Slide Tips. Retrieved from http://www.garrreynolds.com/Presentation/slides.html
Shank, Patti. (2011). Using PowerPoint Effectively in Your Courses. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/instructional-design/using-powerpoint-effectively-in-your-courses/