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Powerpoint Presentations - Integrating Technology Is A Skill Which Needs To Be Practised
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Powerpoint Presentations - Integrating Technology is A Skill Which Needs to Be Practised

Powerpoint is not a panacea for poor pedagogy.

I want it written 50 times before you go for your break!

Powerpoint is one of the blessings and curses of technology integration. It is a blessing because it is simple to use and most teachers will at least try developing a powerpoint presentation for their lessons. They may also set it as an assessment item for their students.

However powerpoint in education is also a curse. It is often modelled badly, contains too much text, too many bells and whistles and ultimately has too little impact on the learners.

Powerpoint has enabled many teachers to tick the 'integrating technology box'. By transferring their lessons into a powerpoint format, they can bore their classes twice as quickly as they used to, with twice the information. You don't have to turn your back to write on a board, with powerpoint you just throw it up, set a time limit and watch your students scribble away madly before the next one goes up. Poor teaching methods are not disguised by using technology. In fact, they are highlighted. Students need time to interact with the material. I used to believe the old adage "at least they've read it once" if they manage to copy it down. That was until I watched a student I kept in after class on one occasion copying notes from the board (yep, it was a while ago) one letter at a time. He was in Year 9. This student hadn't even read it once, even though it was in his book.

With Powerpoint, less is more. If you sat down and said "in the next 40 minutes I want my students just to remember . . .", the . . . is what should appear on the powerpoint slide. This is my approach when integrating this type of technology into my Science teaching now. In the early days, my poor, patients students suffered through death by Powerpoint on more occasions than was fair. But I was learning too. Students may get impatient and bored at times and we can either take it personally, blame them for having low motivation, or try to up our game. Oh, and the theory doesn't change either if it's an interactive whiteboard I happen to be using. The key ideas or concepts are the ones which I want the students to focus on. We can discuss the peripheral stuff it doesn't all need to be on the slide. I want my students to understand what they are learning. I teach people not parrots. I don't care if they can memorise the first 20 elements of the Periodic Table. I would rather give them one and let them show me how they use it.

Perhaps you can use one slide with a provocative question for students to discuss, then reveal the answer at the end of the lesson following the student discussion. Better still, construct the answer 'live' as the students explore the issue and involve them in their own note creation. This is where technology in science education is at its best. Ideas can be typed in directly on to the slide and the students feel like they are a key component in the learning process.

Once you develop some confidence and don't need to use Powerpoint as a note-storing device, you can select a few images for maximum impact. Imagine starting a lesson on static electricity with the image accompanying this article. The students remember these kinds of images, provided there are not too many of them. This sort of lightning display set against the use of dynamic electricity in a city is spectacular, as long as it isn't cracking over your head!

Find an animation that demonstrate a concept, eg ionisation, that will move while you discuss it and embed it into your slide show.

Black or white the screen (using the 'B' or 'W' keys) to refocus attention on yourself, or to make notes, then hit the same key to return to your presentation.

Software applications are not dissimilar to brains. We often use a mere fraction of their full capacity. Learning to improve your presentations and involve your students in the learning and presentation processes just might add to the quality of your teaching. Who knows. Your students next presentations may be better too.


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