The most common use of PowerPoint in college is as a supplement to spoken lecture. This video explores the opportunities and pitfalls of PowerPoint teaching, including blending slides with spoken word, slide design, and using the classroom environment.
- [Presenter] Even though pure lecture has fallen out of fashion a bit in teaching, it's still the most common use of PowerPoint in education; according to a study by Dan Berrett, published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, 67% of faculty in the hard sciences report heavy lecturing, this includes disciplines like technology, mathematics and engineering. Outside of the stem disciplines, 37% of liberal arts faculty report heavy lecturing with PowerPoint, as well. The use of PowerPoint as a supplement to lecture, though, is one of the most challenging uses out there; this is especially true if you just read lecture content off of the slide, turning PowerPoint into a teleprompter means that students in a classroom waste precious mental energy reconciling gaps between your spoken lecture and your slide texts, which gives them less energy to focus on you.
This is a further problem because students' mental energy in a classroom will already be limited by other distractions classroom-wise; the ever-present cell phones and text, even smells. I've had several classrooms where turning off the lights plunged the room into almost total darkness, so no one can take notes, and I've even had other classes where an excess of windows meant that shutting off the lights didn't create enough contrast to be able to really see a screen. Even in an ideal environment, though, your class' attention will be split between two areas; you and your slides, so your primary challenge is to direct a student's attention between those two points of stimulus.
Here are some ways that you can do that; first, in terms of slide design, simple slides are effective slides, PowerPoint in a traditional lecture environment benefits from simplicity; minimize text, using it only to draw attention to global concepts or critical details, and try not to leave text onscreen, past the point where it's relevant to the moment in your lecture. If you must use a text-heavy slide, like with a quote, for example, make sure and give students time to read it, getting them up to speed with the content before moving on; the best way to do this is to read it silently to yourself, and just have patience.
If your anything like me, those moments when you're up there by yourself not talking feel like an eternity. Similarly, relevant images in lecture are going to be the most effective, so be sure to choose images that can compliment the spoken word, rather than compete with it; by the way, students can absorb a visual image much faster than spoken text, particularly when the image is an active part of lecture content. In terms of delivery, recognize your classroom environment, and work within it, beginning with where you position yourself relative to your students; PowerPoint lecture already puts the greatest divide between you and your students, since you're up in front of a class talking while they're out there listening.
This division is amplified if you're standing behind a podium, which to me, sometimes feels like this literal barricade between you and the people you're trying to reach; it's also limited by the bad presentation habit of turning your back on students for the purposes of reading slides. To minimize these frustrations, run your slides in PowerPoint Presenter Mode, which allows you to put lecture notes in a secondary display on your podium monitor, and therefore, look in the direction of the students; though mostly memorizing your lecture is preferable, of course.
You might also consider investing in a wireless remote control; these plug into a USB port, and let you advance slides without even going to the podium, you can therefore move around the room, using motion to recapture an audience's attention, and increase your presence as an instructor. As bonus, many remotes come with a built-in laser pointer, which can further help you control students' attention. Finally, make slide decks available to students at strategic times; many instructors withhold slide decks until after a lecture, if they're ever released at all; one of the only true constants in impeccable use of PowerPoint, though, is that students retain more information when decks are made available ahead of time, ideally posted in a course management system.
By viewing decks ahead of time, students can hold the whole lecture in their heads, and then embellish their global understanding with meaningful details during the class. Some students even print out decks and notes view, taking additional notes on the printouts, which keeps their lecture content organized, and associated with a specific moment in the lecture. And most studies haven't found any link between releasing slides decks ahead of time and increased student absences; if anything, releasing decks beforehand actually makes students more likely to attend.
In short, when you incorporate PowerPoint slides into your lecture, it needs to be more than just an aid for you; if you calibrate your deck appropriately, it can be an aid for all of your students, as well.
- Theories about slideware
- PowerPoint for archiving
- PowerPoint for live webinars
- PowerPoint for screencasting
- Avoiding distracting elements
- Selecting meaningful images and charts
- Animating with purpose
- PowerPoint in math, liberal arts, and science classes