In Defense of PowerPointPosted: June 14, 2012
Last night’s #edchat topic was:
What makes a bad PowerPoint presentation and how it hurts learning. Is it the fault of tech or teacher?
There are a few things that concern me about the topic itself:
The pursuit of shiny objects: I had a feeling a topic like this would show up one day, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. The topic’s bias against PowerPoint (and, by extension, Microsoft) reveals what I consider to be a growing problem in educational technology. Why are we after the website of the moment? Will we now begin thrashing about every six months, trying to import our Prezis into this website that does all the same things, but in 3D? I made several Prezis this year to try it out and I was extremely disappointed. It took me much, much longer to put together a presentation(the path!), and in the end the information was about the same. I fail to understand the educational value of explaining to students the fine art of drawing a path in Prezi. And the students who use PowerPoint are just as excited about their work.
What’s our role here?: Are we as teachers really preparing students for the future by making them prepare Prezis? The current worldwide standard for presentations is Microsoft PowerPoint. I know it’s not trendy or cool to be a PowerPoint person, because everyone can do PowerPoint, but isn’t that exactly the point? I don’t know why we’re not focusing on exposing our students to the software that is the current global enterprise standard.
Content: Is it all about the content? Shouldn’t we be focusing on creating great presentations anyway? PowerPoint 2020 may not look the same as the 2012 edition, but I’d be willing to bet the underlying principles and ideas are the exact same. Look at Office 95. Very similar in basic design to today’s product.
“Is it the tech or the teacher?”: This implies that there’s a possibility that the technology is to blame for poor decisions by users. It’s also the oldest trick in the book: you don’t want to learn how to do it right so blame it on the technology. It’s PowerPoint’s fault the templates are worn out (even though you keep using them). Something is wrong with your laptop (you forgot your password). I see plenty of it, enough to know that really the tech is only as good as the person behind it, and is not autonomous or really to blame for decisons made on it.
Where I’m going with all of this is that I’m afraid there’s been an element of groupthink in the chats I participate online, and it worries me. Everybody jump on the Prezi bandwagon because that’s the new, hot presentation thing. Everybody jump on iPads in schools because that sounds awesome. Let’s bust out e-textbooks as fast as we can because e-everything is absolutely what we want 100% of the time, no holds barred. I would like to talk a little more about this, but it’s 12:20AM where I am, and I have to be up in six hours for a conference, so I know what I’ll be writing about tomorrow!