The problem with powerpoint

The problem is that some people are offended when I explain that good powerpoint presentations are….well good! and represent a completely different presentation design to 20th century versions. Our understanding of how to promote thinking, engage audiences, and use powerpoint as a visual communication medium has matured. So also has our understanding of how we can teach kids to engage with knowledge, and provide a visual synthesis of their ‘take on a topic’ via a powerpoint and an actual talk about a topic, rather than read of a topic! has ‘come of age’.

The presentation Dodging Bullets in Presentations explains the design and function developments beautifully. Now I urge you to apply that reasoning to the next ‘powerpoint project’ that you give your students. They may be a little surprised at how much work and how much understanding is required to produce an assessment without all those bullet points. Their supporting ‘talk’ just may need them to know and understand their topic for their talk – especially if no notes are allowed 🙂

15 thoughts on “The problem with powerpoint

  1. I teach 9th grade Biology. I find that it is a very narrow choice between too little and too much information, color, action, sound etc. These kids are so stimulated by everything they do. If the slides I use are too simple, they fall asleep. If they are too busy, they are overwhelmed and confused. And I ‘ll hear about it either way. As I continue to present the content of my curriculum through power point, I continue too learn what my students can handle in terms of amount of content on a slide with some stimulating color, sound, motion, while still being there in the moment and not tuned out. Because I am delivering content I find bullet points effective, but I try not to put more then three per slide.

  2. Pingback: Dodging Bullets in Presentations « Electric Archaeology: Digital Media for Learning and Research

  3. Hi Judy,

    I’m glad you liked my humble offering. I find it extraordinary that the majority of presentations still fall into the


    mode, alleviated only by the occasional table or chart, or if you are really lucky, by a grainy image grabbed off the web and blown up for the slide.

    Considering the body of knowledge that exists out there on the optimal way to get ideas across to audiences, along with the hard scientific data as to those approaches which categorically do not work, it’s more than a little surprising that the proven, effective methods have not been embraced to … well to ANY extent really!

    I have just finished a conversation with an academic who has just returned from a conference. Every speaker – bullet points. Every speaker – ran over time. Every speaker – zero concern for the learning outcome of a peer audience. It would appear that myopia and self-centredness rule in this world and I find it amazing how entrenched academics are in their ill-advised, ineffective ways.

    It’s down to people like yourself to spread the word on the better ways that can be employed both in the classroom and in the boardroom. Thank you so much for your ongoing efforts. Glad I could help in some small way.


    Rowan Manahan

  4. Pingback: Laurie the Librarian » It’s true, there’s a BIG difference between any old presentation in PowerPoint… and a GOOD presentation in PPT

  5. I too have tired of pointless powerpoints. The ppts encourage more “sit and get” style learning, and learners of the 21st century learn the LEAST in this style. I find our kids bored to death even with their own PPTs that are assigned. Due to boredom they spend useless hours decorating or animating unnecessarily. I am making a special effort to model better PPTs and am striving to informally and formally encourage all to reassess their work, and strive to make it not just another PPT, but instead something memorable, stimulating, and engaging. Great post. I wrote another reaction over at my blog. But I felt yours deserved a more personal response too. Thanks for motivating me.

  6. My typical issue with “death by PowerPoint” goes beyond just the visual presentation (bullets or images or audio or otherwise) to transmission of knowledge versus constructivist learning. Transmission is transmission no matter how pretty, provocative or nonwordy and clever it is. To me the more needed conversation is how to use PowerPoint in a contructivist manner that serves pedagogy WHILE also being visually stimulating without bulleted lists. If we learn by doing, what do we gain from a typical presentation anyway? Shouldn’t we practice what we preach? Is the conversation bullets vs. images or transmission vs. constructivism? I think most people know how to use PowerPoint to deliver the monthly budget report, but I haven’t seen too many educators use it in a truly pedagogical way. Did I mention that I don’t even like the word presentation?

  7. Hi Judy,

    If you go to my blog you will see my “The first five slides” presentation.

    The problem with the way most people use PowerPoint originated from the pre-PowerPoint days. In those days, we had to physically make slides and they were expensive. So we jammed as much information and data into a single slide in order to minimize costs.

    Now people don’t realize that they can have as many PowerPoint slides as they want and need at no costs. So instead of a single slide with 10 bullets, you can have 10 slides with one idea per slide. That eliminates the sensory overload and keeps the audience from lapsing into a coma.



  8. I currently am ‘re-educating’ by going after a long-delayed degree. Even in my basic, 101 Speech class, it is required that at least one Powerpoint presentation be given during the course of the semester by students.

    Powerpoint provides a lot of media savvy and access to people who normally would not even consider delivering content in that manner. I see it as a great ‘gateway’ software for many people who are intimidated by computers and modern communication.

  9. Fantastic Judy – really enjoyed Rohan’s slideshare presentation. I’ve been thinking a lot about this kind of thing with the upcoming SLAV conference in mind. Thanks for sharing this. Have you taken a tour of SlideRocket Looks like it will give PowerPoint some competition.
    Jenny Luca.

  10. Amen Judy!
    It’s amazing given how many years we’ve been talking visual literacy, that a tool that really can be used well in this area is simply used to display loads of text.

    Add to this the common desire to “play” (at least in primary classrooms) with every font, slide background and animation imaginable.

    I tried to promote this with my Year 4 class last year. I think, now teaching Year One, that our younger students are where we need to start with the skill of speaking, rather than reading off, a slide. One of my best users of PowerPoint last year was someone who really had to persevere with their reading and writing. In their spoken presentation to the class, they simply put the images they wanted up on the slides and spoke of what they knew, rather than getting themselves bogged down in loads of text that would cause them to disengage in the actual purpose of the task, which was public speaking.

    I don’t know how I stumbled upon it last year (maybe I found it via one of your great posts or resources), but there’s another very funny assessment call “How NOT to use PowerPoint” that is up on YouTube. I must use it one day with my staff. I’ve just posted the video up on my blog

  11. Pingback: The Problem With PowerPoint | Learning Curve

  12. Great presentation. Thanks for this Judy – I totally agree with the points made. There are so many different and creative ways you can use powerpoint – as Jane suggests through the addition of audio, animated features, integrating video etc.. We should as you say also be teaching our students how to use powerpoint to “Give their take” on a topic and to avoid the bullet point listing. Have you seen author stream as another way of sharing powerpoints online – but with lots of added bonus – such as being able to download to ipods / youtube etc..?

  13. I must agree with you. I heart powerpoint. I am in the minority. I have heard presenters decry death by powerpoint too often. It can be used badly, it is often used badly, but so is a pen. I tell teachers I could teach my whole programme with no other tool but powerpoint if I needed to. I can make animations with it, I can record audio and make podcasts with it, I can support a presentation (without bullet points) with it, I can make pick a path stories and games, and I can use it to compile a portfolio of my work.

    Powerpoint is a tool and an innovative person will make it do what they want it to do in a creative way.

  14. Pingback: The problem with powerpoint « HeyJude Video

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s