PowerPoint Pedagogy 1 Running Head: POWERPOINT PEDAGOGY PowerPoint Pedagogy: PowerPoint and Effective Lesson Plans Lori B. Johnson Lesley University PowerPoint Pedagogy 2 Abstract 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. PowerPoint Pedagogy 3 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 PowerPoint Pedagogy 4 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 teaching. 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 PowerPoint Pedagogy 5 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. PowerPoint Pedagogy 6 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. PowerPoint Pedagogy 7 References 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.