PowerPoint: Armed Forces Journal almost gets it

An essay by Marine Col. Thomas Hammes, author of The Sling and the Stone, in the Armed Forces Journal takes users of PowerPoint to task for making dumb PowerPoint presentations. If you are an educator, administrator, or otherwise have a need to use PowerPoint, please read it.

Typical PowerPoint presentations suck, and if you think yours doesn't because you attended a "class" on how to use PowerPoint, you're probably one of the offenders. At my SUNY campus the PowerPoint "class" for professors and instructors is run by the IT folks. It teaches you how to navigate the buttons on the PowerPoint presentations, but (regardless of, or perhaps because of, the class) all teachers subsequently use the pre-packaged backgrounds, clip art, layout, and conceptual schemes with which we are all too familiar.

Lectures have become an absolutely horrible experience of visual and mental assault, and it appears that some instructors simply trade their .ppt files around if they exchange lecture topics. They then need only review the slides and make sure they understand the material with enough depth to get through the slide. Not acceptable. When you lecture, you need to be able to discuss the material at a level deeper than what the students get in the lecture. That way, questions can allow you to explain and clarify points of confusion rather than simply being speed bumps on the road to the end of the PowerPoint.

The only criticism I would make of Col. Hammes' article is his arbitrary division between "bad" uses of PowerPoint for discussion meetings and "good" uses for instruction meetings. He talks about those sitting in lectures being able to read through the slide before the lecturer does. Remember, lectures are verbal events revolving around interpersonal experiences. Having students focused on reading slides is a failure to use slides well. A lecturer should be the focus of attention during a lecture, and slides should serve to give graphic (not stenographic) support to the lecturer. The lecturer should need to reference and interact with slides, and, when finished with a slide, attention should revert back to the lecturer.

Nursing instructors, please check out a book like The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint...

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