Select Page

Looking back to education, there are many fond memories. Majority if asked to pick a bane of their time spent, would unanimously agree on the Presentations given during a lecture or in class.

Time and time again, we see educators committing Death by PowerPoint. Many would attribute this phenomenon to the stark contrast between a corporate presentation and a lecture. Common misconceptions amongst educators stifle any form of creativity or efforts to improve their presentations. This would then result in a spillover effect to the keen learners of tomorrow.

Here are some from local institutions that use PowerPoint to teach:

1. “Simple Pictures & Storytelling doesn’t work. We need to transfer more information.”

Pictures aid in info retention

Communication experts have proven time and again that images do aid (significantly) in info retention (or ‘transferring’ information). So if that is the aim, why shy away from simplicity and imagery? And yes, effective communication is important in teaching about communication as well. [It’s called the Picture Superiority Effect] Looking at the way presentations are done currently in institutions to encourage attendance and interest, it isn’t hard to imagine why students dread these lectures or classes.

Look Familiar?

Look Familiar?

They overload their slides with information meant to be read and digested at a students own pace ( slide-uments ) and expect high retention of that information. This however works contrary to it’s intended purpose and simply overwhelms the audience with too much information to absorb. Worse still, some educators fall victim to using their slides as a tele-prompter. Thus eliminating the need for them to be present in the first place. (Your students read faster than you)

Some subjects require different methods

There are some topics, which are better taught without PowerPoint (math or science) that would require a different approach as compared to less abstract ones like Buyer Behavior.  Mathematic teachers would utilize a Whiteboard for a natural flow of information and equations. In Philosophy and Law, professors utilize the Socratic method. For everything else, detailed notes can be provided for additional (and mandatory) reading instead of stuffing the slides with the information.

Side Note: I’ve personally found that Prezi is actually quite a good tool for educators as it allows them to ‘zoom out’ and give students an overview of said topic as well as illustrate interdependence in elements. Could work well in subjects where information flows continuously  (e.g. Science or History ). Just keep in mind to avoid the nauseating shift from point to point; make the elements closer together.

2. “I’m here to teach. Not to make things look pretty.”

Make it Simple.

Let’s first establish that good design is not about ‘making things look pretty’. Design is not decorative; rather, Design is about making things work better. Or in this case, making it easier for students to capture the essence of said topic and retain their interest.  No one expects you be a designer, but don’t go crazy on PowerPoint.

This does not make it better.

This does not make it better.

Why shroud your knowledge nuggets with excessive keywords and blanks to encourage interest in learning. (It is as counter-intuitive as it sounds). If bad design impairs your ability to educate your students effectively, you should care.

3. “I don’t have the time to do it.”

Make the time.

This concern is not unfounded; educators have tight schedules and tons of lectures to conduct.

In most instances however, slides are re-used to cover similar topics for the next batch of students. Educators can thus gradually simplify their presentations and retain those paragraphs of body text where they belong: in detailed notes/handouts. Remember, there’s no obligation to come up with more material, it’s all about removing stuff.

Nancy Duarte: 90% of the creative process is destructive.

If educators are really serious about inspiring students and are passionate in educating, they would make the time. Alex Rister & Chiara Ojeda are great example of super teachers.

4. “Students are doing fine with how things are.”

Students make bad slides.

Wrong. The first exposure of presentations for many students are these lectures and classes conducted. What’s more worrisome is that students try to emulate these presentations. As a result, these mistakes and beliefs carry over to them subconsciously throughout the course of their education. Repeated exposure to ineffective slides by educators sets the standard as such for students. [“So Presentations are meant to be wordy?”]

Attaining above average grades for those presentations (even in modules relating to communication) further spurs students to not seek a change in the way they create their slides. Students carry these beliefs and approaches when they move forward with their careers and only then would they realize their folly. (The corporate Death By PowerPoint)

Lectures become redundant

I’ve sat through one-too-many of such presentations where educators have had total disregard to whether students grasp anything from their lectures. Students end up depending on themselves to do self-study and lectures slowly become redundant. (which also leads to low attendance) I do recognize the challenges of being an educator , but it’s a career path that one chooses for passion to share and inspire.

” With great power, comes great responsibility”

– Uncle Ben ; Spiderman

Human-kind has grown accustomed to the use of multimedia technology to educate or influence the masses. We mustn’t however be a slave to technology. The essence of the presentation still lies with the presenter.

Take the first step to influence a generation of excellent presenters.

Do you see similar things happening in your institution?

About Eugene Cheng

Eugene Cheng is a self-taught Graphic Designer based in Singapore. He Co-Founded SlideComet to help rid the world of crappy slides.