De Florio-Hansen, Inez (2018). Teaching and Learning English in the Digital Age, chap. 11.2: Review, Reflect, Practice, activity 12
A PPT Presentation worthy of criticism
Two university students are about to leave the presentation of a famous guest-professor.
Sarah: What is your impression? Was it worthwhile?
David: Phew! Powerpointlessness at its best!
Sarah: What does that mean? I never heard this expression.
David: Powerpointlessness is a coinage of PowerPoint and pointlessness. It means a senseless use of PowerPoint, too much text, animated by transitions between the slides, and very little substance.
Sarah: Oh, I see. But …
David: In fact, his presentation was lacking in meaning.
Sarah: But he is one of the world experts in his field.
David: I know, I read some of his articles and excerpts from his newest book.
Sarah: So, why do you complain about the presentation?
David: The slides were full of quotes from his publications, and he read them out to the audience as though we aren’t able to read by ourselves.
Sarah: Nevertheless, he seems very competent.
David: That’s not the point. I came to the presentation in order to know some facets about his personality… the scholar behind the books.
Sarah: I think I got your point. The speaker should be at the center of the presentation, not a huge amount of slides.
David: That’s it! He quite often turned his back to the audience and very seldom tried to keep eye contact with us. And then the awful bullet points …
Sarah: But the two diagrams were informative, weren’t they??
David: You’re right. It seems as if he created them especially for the presentation.
Sarah: Perhaps he should have given us a hand-out with the slides at the end of his presentation.
Some days later, Sarah made a list of the most important dos of PPT Presentations on the basis of the multiple websites dealing with their effective use in the classroom. Sarah herself up to now did not often recur to PPT, but she wanted to have her future students to create their own presentations. She remembered that in school they presented the results of group work with the help of PPT or another presentation program but without paying much attention to dos and don’ts
- The speaker has to be at the center of the presentation, not the slides.
- The slides should only show basic issues in a concise form so that the audience takes a short look at them and then turns back to the speaker.
- Slides should contain only essential details clearly expressed especially when transmitting complex content.
- As an exception there might be storytelling or story presenting.
- Even if there is much information to impart, every slide should include no more than six words per line and no more than six lines per slide (6 x 6 rule).
- The preferable font is Times New Roman in sufficient type size, so that also the audience in the back can read the slides without difficulty.
- It’s a no-go to read out the text on the slides to the audience.
- For a presentation of 30 minutes 10 to 12 slides are more than sufficient. Presentations of students in classrooms taking 10 minutes should be based on a maximum of 2 to 3 slides.
- Instead of showing useless images, it is often more interesting to insert one’s own photographs, i.e. photographs showing oneself at an earlier age or pictures taken by oneself.
- Useless sound effects should be avoided.
- In any case: less is more.
Some days later Sarah shows her list to David after the lecture they attended.
Sarah: Is there any important point missing, David?
David: No, it seems more or less complete. Wait, the guys in Silicon Valley temporarily darken the screen to attract more attention on the presenter.
Sarah: David, we are not in Silicon Valley! At best, we will teach in a grammar school.
David: Also in a school class it’s sometimes necessary to darken the screen. Try it out during the next internship.
Sarah: In general I think technology should not take the place of well-polished traditional methods of teaching and learning.
David: I agree. Even good PPT Presentations bring some challenges with them.
Sarah: That’s why up to now I’m personally not very fond of teacher PPTs in the classroom. I think, they are too teacher-centered.
David: Yes, that’s right. Furthermore, there is a lack of feedback.
Sarah: And there is not very much interaction between the students, they are too passive.
David: You can equilibrate this challenge by asking questions or by fixing special tasks in advance. What bothers me more is the fact that following the dos of your list content is oversimplified.
Sarah: Yes, I imagine that the students tend to copy the content of the slides. But they have to take their own notes.
David: In my view a PPT Presentation may be sort of a starter to introduce complex content, but afterwards it’s all up to reliable methods enriched with digital media and other technological tools.
Sarah: There is a lot to do in order to create a purposeful PPT Presentation. For me, other modes of presenting knowledge and skills are at least as effective.
David: A good means to overcome the difficulties is taking an educational model as a basis.
Sarah: An educational model?
David: Yes, a theory. I will send you a link for a website that proposes to use Gagné’s events of instruction as a basis for a PPT Presentation.
Sarah: You mean Robert Gagné?
Sarah: And what has Gagné to do with PPT Presentations?
David: You will see …
(https://warwick.ac.uk/services/ldc/resource/eguides/usingppt/ ; last accessed Febr. 2018)