Don’t Use Powerpoint As a Weapon!

I was reading some articles about PowerPoint today on Presentation Zen and stumbled on a few good things to remember. First was one I had heard before – the 10-20-30 rule. Ten slides, twenty minutes, thirty point font. Someone asked Guy Kawasaki at a presentation what to do if you have to use an hour for your presentation and he said not to worry – it would take forty minutes to get the projector to work with your Windows laptop. How true!

The second article had to do with design and the author described the rule of thirds. You divide your slide into vertical and horizontal thirds. Position text and images along these invisible lines for a more interesting design. Use the image to draw the eye to your text. He had some great examples.

I’d like to see our students better educated in the proper use of PowerPoint. When I see students attempting to put an entire term paper on a presentation I ask them to pretend they are driving down the highway reading billboards. Would they be able to read their slide do 50 miles an hour without causing a ten car pile-up? If not they probably have too much information.

Another problem some students have is getting past playing with the bells and whistles to gathering the actual research done and putting the information on their slides. I tell them to imagine they have been asked to bring a Birthday Cake to a party. You don’t frost and decorate a cake before you bake it so the same principle holds true with presentations. Make the cake and then using good design ideas – decorate it!

6 thoughts on “Don’t Use Powerpoint As a Weapon!

  1. Denise

    I’m sure it surprises you that I have said the same things myself. Do you think we could get teachers to let us know when they’re assigning PPT and get them to give one of us time in class to discuss these strategies with the kids BEFORE they go to the library or lab??? Back to staff development…these things are discussed in the PPT classes, or at least should be. If the teachers don’t do it themselves, how can we expect their kids to do it? They have to MODEL what they want the kids to do much more than they do. Think we can get that to happen???

  2. Dee Post author

    BJ – exactly – that is where the theory comes from. Some of the examples I saw were stillframes from travel ad videos. It was also called the “golden mean” and in photography the author actually referred to those lines as power points.

    Denise – I think we can up our percentages. We have some teachers who are doing this already. One idea would be to video some well done presentations – either done by students or make a teaching video. We could upload it and link it from a blog or start a wiki and include it there. I haven’t taken a PowerPoint Staff development class in years so I apologize if I am beating a dead horse here but I am going to try to incorporate more of these hints and tricks things in my blog to see how it would fit in with the idea of blogging as staff development.

  3. Dee Post author

    Yes – students are definitely not the only ones who overuse and incorrectly use PowerPoint but if we teach them now then the next generation won’t be sitting through meetings watching slide after slide. Most of the blogs I read about PowerPoint are actually in the business sphere rather than in education but if we are preparing our kids to succeed in that world then we need to start paying attention to what is being said in that realm about how technology should be used. We also need to be teaching them how to better utilize their time as far as productivity software usage and ethics. I know that we are working on the ethics thing but I hope we raise a better generation than the one that brought about Enron. I hope we can teach them to be a community of information sharers and collaborators colored by personal responsibility and awareness of the ease of public access to information and possible consequences of ignoring those things.

  4. Vicki A Davis

    I always stress the 5×5 rule — no more than 5 words across, no more than 5 down! I have found students write as they want to talk, they will always lose because people can read faster than you talk!

    I teach how to create effective presentations along with my PowerPoint module. With such a huge portion of a presentation the visuals and tonality of the voice, to ignore those things is to create students who do not know how to make a good presentation.

    I also LOVED the rule of thirds. I am going to start diving my screen into thirds with lines on the slide master as I work on the presentation. Then, before I give the presentation, I am going to delete the lines.

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