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When I started teaching in the early 90s chalkboards were in, so were overhead projectors, VHS players and tapes; and, more importantly, computer labs were cutting edge. I even remember the day we hooked up our teacher desktop computer to a television monitor—all of this so we could present our very first PowerPoint lesson. The early technology adapters were overjoyed, and the students were infatuated with the newness of it all.

Boy have we come a long way! Today many teachers utilize whiteboards, computers, SMARTboards, projectors, digital media and presentation software to deliver information and ideas.  Despite the naysayers or PowerPoint haters, many educators still use presentation applications today. And so they should! If used effectively, presentation applications are still one of the best ways to communicate.

Here is why:

User-Friendly / Easy to Learn: Both teachers and students can master the software in a session or two. However, it’s important to read or view what to do and what not to do tips before presenting. Here are some excellent examples: http://bit.ly/QI5Anh and http://bit.ly/U3uota

Easy Access:  Thanks to the internet, and the “cloud”, these applications are virtually accessible everywhere and anywhere. If you have internet access, you can complete your presentation on-line and store it there as well

Narrows Focus: Because of the slide format, only so much information can be presented at once. In fact, less is more! The format really requires the presenter to narrow the content down to the meat and potatoes! (Forget the veggies.)  The 20 words per slide rule is a no brainer!

Organized: The linear structure encourages the user to stay on topic too. Speaker notes are an option too.

Adaptive / Flexible Use: The real beauty is its flexibility.  Some material works better as an interactive presentation that is student directed; the student accesses the presentation from his or her own computer terminal and works independently.  Both peer reviews (of student work) and writing tutorials benefit from this format as well. More importantly, presenting one powerful image or concept at a time will be more effective than a series of images and information! Remember this: presentations don’t have to be a full on show!

Visual Appeal: Obviously visual imagery is appealing to learners. According to the Visual Teaching Alliance, approximately 65% of the population are visual learners and when using visual aids  learning improves by 400%! An eye-catching image certainly works well as a hook or starter to a lesson.

Multimedia: Embedding video and audio files adds an entirely new dimension to presentations. Having access to YouTube is invaluable; however, the other clips posted alongside the chosen video are inappropriate. An embedded video filters that nonsense out! Also you don’t have to worry about load times or bandwidth use.

Dramatic Effects:  Many applications let presenters reveal important information at specific moments (eg. with certain animations, or reveal effects in SMART Notebook). Likewise the remote enables presenters to black out the screen for effect, or during class discussions and reflective moments.

Handouts Available: Both PowerPoint and Google Docs Presentations are printable as handouts.

As you can see, presentation applications have several benefits. Presentation software is not the be all and end all but, if used effectively, it is advantageous. Certain design rules are a must though. According to Edelman and Harring, based on research at Muhlenberg, students learn more when: 1) information is displayed in short chunks that are easily read and comprehended; 2) relevant pictures are used—irrelevant pictures decrease learning; and 3) they are given the PowerPoint handout before class begins.

References:

Reynolds, G. (2005). Garr Reynolds/Presentations. Garr Reynolds Official Site. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from http://www.garrreynolds.com/presentation/s

THE VISUAL TEACHING NETWORK – Visual Teaching Alliance. (n.d.). THE VISUAL TEACHING NETWORK – Visual Teaching Alliance. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from http://visualteaching.ning.com/

Making Better PowerPoint Presentations | Center for Teaching | Vanderbilt University. (2012) Center for Teaching | Vanderbilt University. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/teaching-guides/technology/making-better-powerpoint-presentations/#research

My interactive presentation can be found here.

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