Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Misuse of PowerPoint?

PowerPoint has become one of the most popular software applications in the classroom. Too often, however, the use of 'slideware' is used to replace writing assignments/projects.
In an article published on WIRED.COM in September 2003, Edward Tufte addresses the negative impact of PowerPoint. The Article, "PowerPoint is Evil", attacks the tendency to focus on style over substance. This is especially true in education. Too many students and teachers get caught up in the WAY the information is presented; ie the colors, charts, graphs, animation, etc; vs the actual CONTENT.
Tufte states:
Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate clie nt pitches and infomercials.

Many teachers DO use PowerPoint in this way, which is clearly a misuse of a powerful tool. That does not mean, in my opinion, that PowerPoint and other presentation software should NOT be used at all in the classroom. Teaching effective presentation skills, speaking as well as presentation design, should be a part of any curriculum involving technology. There are many websites and publications that provide excellent information on effective presentation design for those who are unsure of what constitutes effective presentation design(s).

One area that Tufte fails to address in this article as well as his writings on his website is interactive capabilities of most presentation apps. Teachers and students can create true multimedia learning tools that are non-linear, allowing the user to explore content. In the past, programs like HyperStudio were used. As software suites like Microsoft Office have become the norm on school comuters, the included presentation software (ie PowerPoint) has taken on this role. In fact, Microsoft has added features like custom animation paths to recent versions of PowerPoint. Such features were originally found only on HyperStudio.

There are many excellent uses of PowerPoint in the classroom to be found out there. I will be presenting a workshop @ the 14th annual Teaching and Technology Conference (see post below) on using the custom animation features of PowerPoint XP/2003 to create animated stories.

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