Back in BCM311 I wound up offhandedly suggesting this was a reason that we shouldn’t use Powerpoint to make our points. After that point was made, the Professor eschewed it for our presentations in that class, but I did still start this little piece and considered it worth polishing up and finishing. As I start another semester of work, the specter of Powerpoint looms and I felt it best to elaborate.
Why Does It Suck?
- Presentations should not simply be reading aloud the text on a slide
- Slides should be useful for illuminating the spoken text
- But that means the bulk of the presentation is in the spoken text…
- … and that means there’s not as much text to put in the slides!
- So if your marking rubric requires a word count or slide count, it encourages text dumps!
- Slides are good for images and graphs and video – which are not graded as words!
- Good Powerpoint presentations are best handled with some theatre –
- and those skills aren’t part of any of the courses!
- So giving a good presentation isn’t something we teach –
- it’s something we expect you to already be able to do!
- And that means the skills Powerpoint give you are just skills for making more Powerpoint!
- Skills for making Powerpoint aren’t good skills because Powerpoint sucks!
Why Do Teachers Want It?
I think the big reason teachers want us to use powerpoint is because it’s a deliverable. It’s a thing that we can put our references onto, that shows we put some work in and did something other than read enough to give an impression we’re faking our way through the course. One of the ways we can represent that we’re doing the work is to show our ability to recontextualise it – one thing to put text on a page, but if we talk about it, even for a few minutes at a time, we can show that we’ve been able to recontextualise that information.
We then waste all that time just reiterating a written report!
What Can We Do To Fix It?
Well here’s the bad news. Students need to get engaged.
We need to have the leeway to treat our deliverable in terms of references. Word counts on Powerpoint presentations need to just go – they’re awful, they’re useless. Powerpoint isn’t a bad skill to have but it’s not a skill fundamental to everything we do. Unless the uni is going to offer a course on Using Powerpoint Well, then we need to make sure our involvement, our skill with the program itself is a minimal factor.
We need to be able to do things like record the presentation, and then, after the fact annotate our own recorded audio, such as on Soundcloud. We need to be able to do things like record a presentation ahead of time and playback the video or the audio with images.
If the challenge is the recontextualisation, then let us recontextualise in a way that doesn’t benefit people who are good at fooling people, and instead tries to give as many people a platform to show that they have recontextualised the information.