While I can’t take credit for the title here, I think it encapsulates the dangers that the use of PowerPoint can create. When I think back to my career as an educator within chiropractic, now nearly 3 decades old, I can fondly remember the smell of the mimeograph machine when I used it to make copies of material for classroom use. When copiers became part of my life, I used the copy machine for that same purpose. I remember making overheads for classroom use by first making a copy onto white paper, then making a second copy onto special clear overhead material. I would go to class carrying my teaching notes and my overheads, which I had to coordinate with my notes (I used to put little numbers in the text, which were keyed to the overheads). Then came PowerPoint, which allowed me to make slides on my computer and to easily bring them to class. And I did, in large number.
But I had a bit of a wake-up call this past weekend, and it is one that fits in to literature I have been reading. I made my final examination open book; students were free to bring in whatever material they wanted, including copies of classroom slides I make available on my website. One student came to me when the final had ended to ask about one answer on the test. I gave him the answer, to which he then stated “but that was not covered in the notes.” My response to him was that he was correct; it was not in the notes, but was something we had talked about in the course of the class. But after he left I felt bothered, and it occurred to me why: students brought those slides to the test thinking that the only material that mattered was the information contained in those slides. This is not and should never be the case. I am therefore rethinking my use of my PowerPoint.
And let me quote a harsh critic of PowerPoint, Edward Tufte (1), who is acknowledged as a leader in the visual display of information. He says” In a business setting, a PowerPoint slide typically shows 40 words, which is about eight seconds’ worth of silent reading material. With so little information per slide, many, many slides are needed. Audiences consequently endure a relentless sequentiality…” Matt Christian (2) says “Little did they know that they were creating a program that would cause more people to communicate less effectively and less efficiently.”
Okay, we’ll stop here for now, now that I’ve got you hooked. More to come on this…
1. Tufte E. PowerPoint is evil. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.09/ppt2.html, accessed June 2, 2008
2. Christian M. Death by PowerPoint of twelve steps to better e-presentations. http://www.marshall.edu/it/cit/Presentations/2002/WVNET/Preventing_Death_by_PowerPoint.pdf, accessed June 2, 2008