PowerPoint Paralysis

The risk of using PowerPoint as a tool for enhancing learning in a classroom is to fall into the trap of PowerPoint Paralysis. ‘‘Triple “P” can be defined as the overzealous concentration on the utilization of PowerPoint, while concurrently disregarding the content being exhibited’’ (http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/powerpoint/). In fact, this tool is overused by teachers and they sometimes forget that content must be the priority of their PowerPoint, not delivery. Triple P comes from the business world, in which data and statistics are presented with point form on a huge quantity of slides. This technique is to be avoided by teachers, because static content and facts presented without any opportunity to interact will discourage students. Deepening students’ thinking process regarding content is essential in education. For instance, teachers must use PowerPoint to gain students’ attention, to communicate objectives and to stimulate prior knowledge. Including controversial or philosophical questions is an adequate strategy to have students use their mental processes to reflect on a particular issue related to the classroom. The best timing to ask those questions is to write them on the screen as students enter the classroom. This way, the teacher gains students’ attention because they feel that they are concretely involved in the material that they will explore in class. Questions must flow regularly in the PowerPoint so that students can hypothesize or try to predict where the teacher is heading at and why. PowerPoint is therefore a tool that must be used intelligently by teachers if they want to enhance learning and they must always be careful of not only reading what is written on the slides. Otherwise, students will see no purpose to come to the classroom or will only focus on note-taking without listening. In other words, an important tip for teachers is: ‘‘Use PowerPoint to prompt, not to tell. Limit the number of slides and the text on each slide.’’ (http://www.georgianc.on.ca/staff/ctl/wp-content/uploads/Powerpoint_2_8.pdf)


To focus on content is one important step, but to have interesting content is another one. Even if the PowerPoint is well structured to encourage interactivity and students’ critical thinking, it is completely useless if the content is not meaningful to students. ‘‘Presentations largely stand or fall on the quality, relevance, and integrity of the content. If your numbers are boring, then you’ve got the wrong numbers. Audience boredom is usually a content failure, not a decoration failure’’ (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.09/ppt2.html).  Since PowerPoint is more a passive tool than an interactive one, interaction comes from the interest that students will have to engage in the class material. For instance, using PowerPoint as a tool to convert uninteresting material into more meaningful one will fail. Teachers must never forget that PowerPoint is a tool to support their content, not the center of learning used as an end in itself. In addition, professionals recommend only writing key words and sentences no longer than 6 words, so only relying on PowerPoint to convey academic material will fail to put information in context and to establish relationships. Teachers are the ones who must create links and explain them through the use of key words to facilitate remembering when students will study on their own.

Previous teaching methods have always been teacher-centered and regarded students as passive recipients of information. One of the main challenges of a teacher in today’s modern education is to improve the audience focus as well as students’ interactivity and spontaneity. If the PowerPoint is not designed to concretely involve students, it will only decrease their talking time and the teacher-talking time will stay predominant. This is considered negative because the new aim of ESL education is to provide opportunities for students to improve their communicative competence in the second language. For instance, student-response clickers are a great interactive function of PowerPoint in which the teacher asks multiple-choice questions and students each have their computer and must answer anonymously. Teachers must install the Turning Point 2008 software. The way it works is that once installed, ‘‘A Turning Point icon will appear on your desktop when you install the software. Open Turning Point to create your clicker presentation, not PowerPoint. Turning Point uses PowerPoint and adds a Turning Point tab. If you have created a PowerPoint presentation and want to add clicker slides, open the file in Turning Point and insert the graphic slides.’’ (http://minerva.stkate.edu/internal/docroom_helpguide.nsf/files/clickers_create_slides/$file/Clickers_create_slides.pdf). This is a very effective strategy that can be used to practice for tests because results are then gathered and placed on a diagram. Clickers keep students motivated and engage them in the material while the teacher can evaluate his students’ understanding, which can be very easily illustrated with the diagram as a visual tool. The advantage for students is also anonymity, because more insecure learners tend to avoid opportunities to try out their answers in front of the whole class by fear of judgement. Therefore, clickers eliminate their barriers regarding their lack of self-confidence and enhance their opportunities to take risks and to benefit from the confirmation or the correction of the answers that they selected.

Moreover, PowerPoint requires no assistance or experience and even teachers who are not very acquainted with technology can easily use it on their own. Clearly,‘‘PowerPoint makes it easy to build slides. And the content in slides and the slides themselves are easily editable or copied into other PowerPoint slide decks, which makes revisions and reuse of content simple’’ (http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/instructional-design/using-powerpoint-effectively-in-your-courses/).  The main advantage of PowerPoint is to be straightforward and to be easy for users to modify, copy or delete slides. Teachers always have plenty of liberty regarding background or writing colors, and can add any image or video that is on the web by copying and pasting it. PowerPoint thus organizes ideas effectively and increases visual impact on an audience by incorporating multimedia.

All in all, teachers must be very careful with PowerPoint and try to avoid the PowerPoint Paralysis influenced by the business world and its endless listed facts. Relying on this tool only to turn uninteresting content into interactive and meaningful is not a good strategy, because PowerPoint is dependent upon the content to be effective.


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