Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Make Your Point, Not Your PowerPoint

The bane of any staff meeting is the ubiquitous PowerPoint presentation. I curse Bill Gates and his Apple predecessors for ever creating such mind-numbing crap.

Oh, slideshows don't have to be crap. They really don't. But honestly, what is the point with this slide? And who among us hasn't sat in a staff meeting at school while someone droned on and on about something (say, standardized testing procedures) while those of us who are polite enough to pretend to care diligently tried to follow along on the handouts of each slide?

The root word of "briefing" is "brief". PowerPoint slides should not be a fancy way to present a paragraph of information in bullet form. The primary form of communication should be the speaker's voice, with the slides merely augmenting or highlighting what the speaker is saying. My take: if I can get all the information I need by getting a handout of the slides, then there's no reason to have to sit through the presentation--just give me the slide handout and respect my time.

Technology should be a tool, not the goal.


Amerloc said...

Not that you really needed the answer, but the "point" of that slide was "I know more than you could possibly comprehend. But imma try to splain it tooya anyway."

Bilingual bastards...

Ellen K said...

I especially like the ones where each slide has just one word or phrase with appropriated clip art. Or graphs....OMG....the graphs....

Anonymous said...

Darren:"But honestly, what is the point with this slide?"

From the article itself, the slide "was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, ...

'When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,' General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter."

And yet, if the point was that the strategy was so complex that no one could understand it (which is suggested by Gen. McChrystal's comment), then I'd suggest that the slide did its job *PERFECTLY*.

Imagine if the speech that went with the slide was something like, "Now this slide, gentlemen, shows the major components of our current strategy and how they relate to each other. <pause> We have too many pieces to understand, and are unlikely to successfully implement a strategy no one understands." If that was the message, a simple powerpoint slide would totally miss the point.

I hate powerpoint, too, for what it is worth. But from the context provided, this slide may have actually been the correct slide for the message.

-Mark Roulo

Ellen K said...

Isn't this more of the same arguement I have been making about school districts and other such entities loving technology because they can inventory it. Most states and many politicians equate technology (gadgets) with education. Recently a box was installed in my room to allow my multimedia projector to show television on the screen. (yes, we are one of THOSE schools) Whereas before I could easily show pertinent movie clips, art films and biographical DVD's, now I can't show anything because the district decided that forcing everyone to do things the same would make things easier. So I asked the teacher who has the rep as Ms.HiTech to explain to me how the mysterious box worked. Her response was "Oh those things, they installed ours a month ago. It's never worked. So all of our equipment sits on a cart in the corner of the room. We use books instead." And this is a dept. head that teachers AcDec and other competitive academic teams. Note to politicians: Buying technology doesn't make students smarter if you don't have a teacher guiding their direction.

Anonymous said...

There is much bashing of PowerPoint presentations in the world. It's easy to do since most PPTs are awful. Poorly designed. Poorly implemented.

The problem lies somewhat with PowerPoint, itself. It steers you into bad design with its preference for bullet points and poor layout. Apple's Keynote, on the other hand, guides you toward better design from the get go.

But the user must know the role of the presentation, and must design the preso to fulfill that purpose. And the purpose cannot really be content delivery.

Content delivery is the role of the instructor. The preso can enhance the storytelling, but it cannot tell the story.

There should be "interactive" documents that students complete during the preso. But never, EVER, is an effective document the type with a mini print of the slide and space to take notes. Never. It's difficult to adequately emphasize that point.

The most effective accompanying documents are developed before the preso. The preso then navigates through the content of the document.

But the instructor delivers the answers. The preso, viewed without the instructor, should be fairly incomprehensible. Very few words. Graphics. Images. Animations. Video.

I allow students to evaluate my curriculum and they consistently rate my presos as among the most effective strategies in the course.

For anyone interested in good preso design in general, Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen is a good place to start. http://www.presentationzen.com.

Ultimately, the technology is not at fault. It is neutral--with the potential to be used effectively or ineffectively.

High School Tchr said...

Don't ya just also love the extra 20 minutes added to the meeting, because it takes that long to get the equipment working, or the presenter left the cord back in their office. LOL!

But, ya know.....it's all about "role modeling". Showing us how it should be done in the classroom.

PPT slides - for the visual learner
The speaker droning on - for the auditory learner
The handout - an "accomodation" for those learning disabilities who need note-taking assistance
The handout - for the tactile learner who needs to "touch or feel" to learn

See, how helpful they are??

Yeh.....me neither.