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Give the viewer something interesting to look at, but pack
your punch with the content in your message. Don't write that entire
message on the slide
Recently I was asked to produce some PowerPoint slides. They were
intended as a "teacher resource" to accompany a textbook
that's due for release in a couple of months. I wasn't the author of
the text, but was being asked to develop "standard teaching
resources" that was based on it". So that prompted me to
have a look at other recent texts and their accompanying teacher
resources and find out what was considered the "standard".
I found PowerPoint was the main tool being used for this kind of
textbook accompaniment, either compressed to a CD or uploaded to a
secure website of the publishing house. There were a few variations
but they usually followed the same formula – each chapter had eight to
10 slides of text chunked into bullet points. In other words, they
were all just full of writing.
Who teaches like that? Imagine being a student and sitting there as
teacher after teacher shows slides full of writing! I hope this
version of torture certainly isn't the standard.
So, while these are merely my personal opinions, I offer the
following list for the most effective ways of using PowerPoint to
accompany a textbook:
1. PowerPoint is not meant to be a rehash of the text. If it's in
print somewhere else, don't repeat it for those who were too lazy to
read it. That's what a chapter summary is for.
2. Good facilitators will use PowerPoint to invoke higher thought and
deeper meaning. The questions posed by a good facilitator may not even
appear in a book. Questions should draw relevance to the here and now
and seek context of understanding – not just be a comprehension
exercise. More importantly, an answer may be complex or layered -
perhaps not a simple "text book answer".
3. When using PowerPoint, the most important aspect the viewers see
is the diagram. The most important thing they hear is you (the
facilitator). Give the viewer something interesting to look at, but
pack your punch with the content in your message. Don't write that
entire message on the slide – the message should be personal and speak
to the recipient. For sure, you might ask each person to write down
what is relevant for them in their own words. If teachers constantly
shape the thoughts of their students, we leave little room for
creativity and close the door on challenges to didactic thinking.
4. Consider when and how your PowerPoint display is going to be used.
Is it for a face-to-face group? Is it for distance students? Will the
students access it before the class (in preparation), during the class
(as a follow-along-with-me), or after the class (as a summary)? Or is
it primarily for students who can't attend? For me, each of these
intentions requires a different approach. I don't think one PowerPoint
display should be used for all.
5. Good facilitation will always draw on multiple viewpoints and
sources. Seek a wide range of tools and opinions. Good research is
critical and visual variety goes a long way.
6. (and possibly most importantly) don't be afraid to limit yourself
to PowerPoint. There are plenty of engaging presentation and sharing
tools out there. My personal favourites include Prezi, Slideshare, Empressr, and most recently the
Australian Start-up Canva.
Unless of course, you'd rather stick with the ‘text book standard'.