Stimulating Your Students with Powerpoint. Learning and Leading with Technology by pab38554


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									                                                            PowerPoint Pedagogy 1


                           PowerPoint Pedagogy:

                    PowerPoint and Effective Lesson Plans

                              Lori B. Johnson

                              Lesley University
                                                                          PowerPoint Pedagogy 2


Teachers are struggling with how to integrate technology into the classroom. Many have chosen

to use PowerPoint presentations as the way to do it. Although PowerPoint can be an effective

tool for communication, teachers need to be cautious in their use and overuse of it. A heavy

reliance on PowerPoint presentations can lead students to disengage from the class in both note

taking and class discussion. On the other hand, PowerPoint used thoughtfully can become an

effective tool, engaging students in a deeper understanding of the topic. Teachers need to see

beyond PowerPoint to fully utilize what technology has to offer the teacher and students, but if

they choose to implement the use of PowerPoint, they need to do it with creativity, focusing

more on thought-provoking images than just on text.
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                  PowerPoint Pedagogy: PowerPoint and Effective Lesson Plans

       Around the middle of the 1990s, technology started making its way into teacher training

and contemporary classrooms. Now, a decade later, teachers still struggle with how to integrate

that technology into their classes, making their lectures and class discussions more effective.

Scott Cormode (as cited in Pauw, 2002, p. 39) gives sage advice when he says that for the use of

technology in teaching “computers should be used to teach in ways that would be impossible

without computers.” Although many teachers believe that they are successfully integrating

technology into their classrooms by using PowerPoint presentations, the use of PowerPoint does

not mean that teaching is more effective.

       Twenty-first century teachers feel pressure to integrate technology with their lesson

plans. Technology has exploded in the world around them and they seek to use the real-life tool

of computer technology with their students. Teachers realize that computers are the pens and

pencils of the past and that the students coming into their classrooms already speak the language

of technology fluently. How then do teachers effective integrate technology into the classroom?

For many the answer is to put their lecture notes on PowerPoint slideshows. Linda Reinhardt

(1999, p. 48), an associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, used

PowerPoint for years as a glorified overhead projector and now looks to use it to create “new

forms of instruction.” Although this is a very limited view of technology in the classroom,

teachers using PowerPoint need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of PowerPoint so

that they can use the tool effectively.

       There are many reasons why teachers use PowerPoint to present material to their

students. Some teachers view it as a way to avoid writing on whiteboards with illegible
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handwriting. John Winn (2003, p. 113), an attorney and assistant professor at West Point, sees

using PowerPoint in the classroom as a way to “temporarily publish embellished teaching notes.”

Other teachers see it as a way to better organize themselves to lecture more clearly to students

while helping them write accurate notes (Reinhardt, 1999). There are, however, many

disadvantages to using PowerPoint in this narrow sense.

       PowerPoint presentations are not always the most effective way of teaching the

curriculum. Winn (2003, p. 115) quotes students who refer to their classes taught primarily

through PowerPoint as “death by PowerPoint.” Any method of teaching gets stale when used

exclusively and PowerPoint is no exception. The fact that it uses computers and graphics to

present material does not make it less subject to becoming another “boring” lecture delivery

system. Students do not necessarily find bulleted slides more stimulating (Reinhardt, 1999).

Boredom is not the only downside to PowerPoint.

       Students attending lectures primarily presented in bulleted PowerPoint slides become

passive receivers of information. Students rely on the outlines provided by teachers instead of

actively taking notes in class (Reinhardt, 1999). When considering the importance of information

that they will be responsible for, students may assume that the information on the slides covers

all of what is important and fail to do reading assignments or take notes on other important

information (Winn, 2003). Unfortunately removing the responsibility of note taking is the least

of the potential disadvantages of exclusively using text-heavy PowerPoint presentations in


       PowerPoint-driven lectures can be detrimental to classroom participation and the teaching

goal of students engaging with information and using critical thinking skills. Amy Plantinga
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Pauw (2002), a professor at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, fears that using

PowerPoint in the classroom might replace the interaction among students during class

discussion, making teaching class much like leading a business meeting. She is concerned that a

thoughtless use of slide presentations may make students “passive consumers of visual

entertainment” with the possibility of having limited interaction with other students and the

teacher (2002, p. 40). Reinhardt (1999, p. 48) echoes these concerns when she says, “some

students become spectators rather than participants in a classroom where the professor

‘orchestrates’ a multimedia presentation.” Rather than considering other viewpoints than those

presented in the lecture, students take what they read at face value and fail to intellectually

engage in the subject matter. Children growing up in a society where television and

computer/video games are the main source of recreation are also being taught in an environment

that continues to encourage them to sit back and watch. Teachers must determine how much

PowerPoint is effective in the classroom and how it can be used to create a more interactive and

creative learning environment.

       In as much as any technology has the potential for effective or ineffective use,

PowerPoint, when used creatively, can be an extremely engaging technology in teaching

students. When teachers are considering converting lesson plans to PowerPoint, the process

forces the teacher to take a fresh look at his content and presentation of information (Reinhardt,

1999). “Perhaps the greatest single benefit to using PowerPoint imagery in the classroom is that

it requires us to thoughtfully examine and reexamine how we teach” (Winn, 2003, p. 118).

Rather than presenting the same tired lecture, teachers should look for lessons that can be

refreshed by a new look and the integration of animation, video clips, or imagery.
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       Effective PowerPoint slides will improve teaching and foster better interaction in the

class, creating more in-depth learning. When creating presentations, teachers need to be sure to

create effective slides that are relevant, interesting, and encourage class discussion (Winn, 2003).

Merely placing lecture notes on text-heavy slides with pretty graphics will not create a more

lively and engaged class. Winn (2003) asserts that slides should use thought-provoking images

that emphasize the main points of the lecture, not bulleted lists. He states “imagery forces you to

synthesize the textual component of your presentation” (Winn, 2003, p. 115). Choosing

photographs, clip art, simulations, or video-clips as the main component of the presentation will

actively involve students in considering the topics of the lecture and engaging them in

worthwhile interaction with the teacher and each other. Even less-than-perfect images on a slide

will be more effective that text, evoking a response from students (Winn, 2003). The Internet is

filled with searchable images that can be downloaded and placed in a presentation to jump-start

those discussions.

       Although PowerPoint presentations can be an effective teaching tool, teachers should

consider more seriously how they use that tool to engage students with the curriculum. Teachers

need to use a variety of teaching methods to keep students interested in learning. PowerPoint is

only one of those tools. When using it, teachers should consider putting aside the text-heavy

slides and using more imagery to make students critically think about the topic of the lesson.

Finally, the use of PowerPoint in the classroom should not be considered an end unto itself.

Integrating technology in the classroom goes way beyond the border of putting words or images

on slides. Thoughtfully creating opportunities for technologically savvy students to speak in the

language in which they are immersed, will engage students in more authentic learning.
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Pauw, A. (2002). Discoveries and Dangers of Teaching Theology with PowerPoint. Teaching

       Theology & Religion, 5(1), 39. Retrieved Tuesday, October 31, 2006 from the Academic

       Search Premier database.

Reinhardt, L. (1999). Confessions of a ‘Techno-Teacher’. College Teaching, 47(2). 48. Retrieved

       Tuesday, October 31, 2006 from the Academic Search Premier database.

Winn, J (2003). Avoiding Death by PowerPoint. Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering

       Education & Practice, 129(3), 115. Retrieved Tuesday, October 31, 2006 from the

       Academic Search Premier database.

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