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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

PowerPoint Presentations, the Filmstrips of Today

A sure fire way to get kids to put their heads on their desks used to be to say, “Heads down thumbs up. Now it’s time to play 7-Up.” It appears that catch phrase from elementary school has been replaced with “Take out your notebooks, I have a PowerPoint for us today.”

Let’s face it; PowerPoint presentations are the filmstrips of today. Remember filmstrips? The only kid that paid attention was the kid that got to advance the filmstrip. Sadly, PowerPoint presentations have done away with the one kid who did pay attention leaving a classroom full of lethargic zombies drooling on their desks. A typically teacher designed PowerPoint presentation is usually chuck full of bullet points and other “valuable” information.

If we listen we can probably hear the echo of another PowerPoint presentation gone awry: “Is everybody ready? Does everybody have the bullet points down in their notes?” Simply put, this is a lousy way to learn. Just think of how many times you sat through a PowerPoint at professional development sessions. You probably can’t recall much of the information contained on the slides; although, I’m sure, the presenter thought they were important. Yet, we have no problem doing the same thing to our students. In fact, we expect more from them than we do from ourselves. We expect them to LEARN from a PowerPoint presentation.

We need to use PowerPoint to visually enhance instruction not to be the instruction. Visuals are powerful learning tools, and using visuals can help us to “brand” our lessons. Visuals play off the right hemisphere of the brain. Remember that a picture is worth a thousand words. In place of bullet points use pictures. Google Image Search and Flickr are good places to start looking for those visuals. Hopefully, the heads will stop hitting the desks, the next time the projector is turned on.

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