August 1st, 2012

Does PowerPoint Help or Hinder Learning?


I’ve had some nagging concerns about PowerPoint for some time now. I should be upfront and admit to not using it; when I taught or currently in my presentations. Perhaps that clouds my objectivity. But my worries resurfaced after reading an article in the current issue of Teaching Sociology. I’ll use this post to raise some questions and concerns about the role of PowerPoint both in the classroom and in student learning experiences.

Too often we forget how significantly teaching practices shape learning experiences and PowerPoint is a perfect example. It has redefined “what a lecture looks like, consists of, and how it’s experienced,” according to one source quoted in the article (p. 254). Add to that how regularly PowerPoint is used these days. Sixty-seven percent of the 384 students surveyed in this study reported that all or most of their instructors used PowerPoint, another 23% said that at least half their instructors used it and 95% said that their instructors who used PowerPoint did so in all or most class sessions.

The article reviews studies that have looked at the influence of PowerPoint on performance in the course and course grades. Most studies find that PowerPoint has “no measurable influence on course performance and minimal effect on grades.” (p. 243) Yet students often report a favorable view of PowerPoint, saying it helps them with learning, content organization and note taking. The students in this cohort confirmed these positive effects.

What students in this study said they liked about PowerPoint is part of my concern. When asked to identify those features of PowerPoint they found most helpful, about 80% said the software organized lecture content and indicated which points were most important. Eighty-two percent said they “always,” “almost always,” or “usually” copy the information on the slides. Does copying down content word-for-word develop the skills needed to organize material on your own? Does it expedite understanding the relationships between ideas? Does it set students up to master the material or to simply memorize it?

And then there’s the potential of PowerPoint to oversimplify the material. What students need to know is reduced to a bulleted list of five items described in five words or less. (I know, not always.) That does make complicated material more manageable for students and perhaps that’s beneficial, but does it fairly and accurately represent the nature of the material we are asking students to learn? Do the lists convey any sense of context? Do they hint at the complex relationships that exist between and among items on the list?

I also worry that using PowerPoint encourages passivity. Well-designed PowerPoint presentations can be graphically impressive. They do add a great deal of interest and without question make it easier to listen and follow along. But do they encourage interaction? Do they promote critical thinking? Possibly, but often they make having discussions more difficult. The lights are partially dimmed and the seats arranged so that everyone focuses on the screen. Those aren’t features that foster the vibrant exchange of ideas.

Finally, faculty in this survey and other studies report that using PowerPoint improves their teaching. It certainly does help with organization and with keeping teachers on track, but PowerPoint does not easily accommodate those digressions that are necessary to respond to what’s happening at the moment. I do know that some of us digress too much, but there’s a spontaneity to good discussion that fits uncomfortably with a predetermined sequence of slides.

Like so many instructional practices, PowerPoint is not inherently good or bad. It’s all about how we use it and that’s not something about which we can afford to be complacent. Please consider this post an invitation to revisit the role of PowerPoint in teaching and learning. Yours might be an individual assessment, or it might be a conversation that explores assets, limitations and how to make the most of PowerPoint’s potential to improve teaching and promote learning.

Reference: Hill, A., Arford, T., Lubitow, A., and Smollin, L. (2012). “I’m ambivalent about it”: The dilemmas of PowerPoint. Teaching Sociology, 40 (3), 242-256.

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  • Mary Beth Doyle

    You share interesting thoughts and perspectives. My experience is that whether it is PowerPoint, graphs, pictures, transparencies etc., it is the teach and teaching that makes the difference. Any, all, or none can enhance the experience if a master is teaching.

    • meverhart

      I agree! It's what the teacher does with the PowerPoints or any other tool. PowerPoint can be used as an interactive tool as well as a critical thinking tool. It's dependent on the experience and ability of the user.

  • Grant Trudel

    In the right context and used correctly, PowerPoint can be an effective and powerful communication tool. The main strength is that it can visually represents concepts in an orderly fashion. You can use it to present material, then have a slide that has discussion questions and break the class into groups. Also, I recommend no longer than a 20 minute lecture; minds tend to wander after that. Always prefer visuals over text, when possible (clip art, pictures, videos, etc.). For quotes, have a student read it aloud. Be creative and you will find PowerPoint can enhance the teaching and learning experience. But do not use it as a crutch, rather as an aid.

    Some creative ways I have used PowerPoint: set up a Jeopardy quiz with it or multiple choice quiz, with teams or individuals in a competition (that will get their attention!), well-placed short (approx 2 min) videos by popular figures or recent events. Use cases and debates encourage critical thinking. Interactive slides using add-ons such as immediate polls can also be effective.

    • Susan Timm

      I too have used Jeopardy-type quizzes. I also have used PowerPoint to count down the minutes when students are given an individual or group assignment to complete within a given amount of time. It's perfect to put the numbers in descending order on the slides and then set up a timed slideshow. You can also add sound if you want. Sometimes, we get so engrossed in the project that we forget to keep a close eye on the time. This method helps keep us on track! 🙂

  • ann kerlin

    I like PP because it organizes my presentation, and I can easily insert videos, pictures, graphs, etc. and even games for reviewing material. I do rely heavily on it and after reading this article, perhaps I will think about having the class answer questions before the "bullets" show the answers.

    • Karen

      I agree. PowerPoint is an organizational tool for me. It's an easy way for me to organize content, insert videos links (either to YouTube, NBC Learn, or a video on CD/DVD), include graphic representations of content for discussion, pose a provocative question, etc. I tell students upfront the the PP handout they receive is just a tool for them to use, and that the lecture and discussion in which they participate will contain a great deal of important information that isn't in the PowerPoint.

      As with any technology, it's how you use it that makes it effective.

    • raquel

      Wow you probably had a large number of students with lower grades. Not many people can learn by listening and looking messy ppt. The class becomes so boring……….. absolute HATE powerpoints. Powerpoints are for lazy professors that doesn't know how to teach.

  • Melanie Fleming

    I find that Powerpoints help to direct the student's attention. I teach accounting and the real learning experience is actually doing class exercises and student participation. I consider Powerpoints a tool but they do not constitute the learning experience. I agree with Mary Beth Doyle's comment that it's the teaching and learning experience that makes a difference. Encouraging critical thinking, classroom discussion and student participation are some of the key ingredients and Powerpoint or any methodologies should be used only as they contribute to the learning experience.

    • raquel

      Seriosly , is this a joke!!!!

  • Elizabeth

    Copping to not using Power Point in your opening is pretty bold. Here's the thing — most instructors and perhaps a majority of students suck at presentations. It's true. We need to learn how to present. We need to become professionals. We need to embrace technology, such as Power Point or Keynote or Prezi. The genie is not going back into the bottle. Good presentations enhance any subject. Employers are looking for those who can "knock their socks off" with an excellent presentation. We owe it to our students to exemplify the best in presentation and expect them to do the same. Watch TED Talks. Take a course in presentation skills. Read a book. In fact, read RESONATE, by Nancy Duarte and PRESENTATION ZEN by Garr Reynolds. Go to Nancy Duarte's site and watch her presentations. She is one of the tops in the presentation field. If you watch current presentation technology, you will find that it is not static nor is it unable to "change in the moment" or any of the other preconceptions. Experiencing "death by power point" would certainly cause anyone to dislike the medium, but that's why we need to learn and teach GREAT presentation skills. After all, communication is, arguable, the most important skill professor will teach to his or her students. AND… by the way… research Pecha Kucha. You will LOVE it and the ideas you'll get from the concept will keep you up at night — at least for awhile.

    • Susan Timm

      Thanks, Elizabeth. My thoughts exactly!

      • Susan Timm

        Oh I forgot to say that I also believe that communication is most vital–the subgroup of listening, however, is THE most important communication skill that faculty can teach students. By not putting every word on our PowerPoint, we are encouraging students to listen to what we say as opposed to simply reading it off the slides. When we use PowerPoint with our lectures, the slides are suppose to supplement NOT BE the presentation. Otherwise, students could simply read the slides themselves. And in most cases, that would make the lecture more interesting! Listening to someone read word for word what is on a slide in front of you is torture to me!

    • tccdnpshrink

      Any effective instructor will use a variety of teaching tools — powerpoint is only one such tool. We do live in the "electronics" age and students are often "electronics" driven; there is value in using tools that our students use (heaven help us, it might make us more "relavent". However, it is incumbent upon us to weave lecture, visual, role-plays, discussions, Socratic questioning, etc. into our classes. To learn you must attend — not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and socially.

      Use the tools, evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness — and teach!

  • Elizabeth Scott

    I use PowerPoints in class as a stepping off point for discussion and questions. Not all students are "reading/writing" learners, so I make .pdfs available *after* the class since my experience is that students following a .pdf during the lecture do not participate in the discussion as easily.

  • Jim Orlin

    According to the article "Most studies find that PowerPoint has "no measurable influence on course performance and minimal effect on grades." It seems to me that the use of PowerPoint is not a cause of worry, especially when faculty do not put a lot of energy into their PowerPoint slides.

    As for myself, I put enormous energies into using PowerPoint for algorithm animation and for creating figures that help to explain the underlying content. I am very careful to use PowerPoint carefully so that it helps with pacing of lectures. (For slides that have a lot of detail, one has to be careful not to go too fast.)

    I also try to use PowerPoint in an interactive manner. Microsoft seems to have gone out of its way to make this use of PowerPoint overly challenging, especially if you use a Mac like I do. (Microsoft seems to have disdain for Mac users, even though they still support Office on the Mac). Nevertheless, there are some ways to have some interactive aspects of lectures on PowerPoint.

    Here are examples of the way I have used it in a doctoral course on algorithms within Operations Research called "Network optimization."

    I agree with most others that the use of PowerPoint for bullet points is not very useful and tends to be highly overused.

  • Tim Hadley

    Any statement you can make about PPT, good or bad, can also be made about any other presentation method–chalkboard, overhead projector, etc. PPT is only a tool. It is not good or bad, except in how well, or how poorly, it is used.

    • Tammara Dias

      I completely agree — and this is true for whether you are using it in a face-to-face class, or for presenting lecture content online. It is just a tool and if it is misused, poorly constructed, or used ineffectively, it will have as much impact as any other tool used that way in the classroom. It is up to the teacher to determine how to effectively use and incorporate Powerpoint — and that relies on some understanding of your students, their learning needs, your objectives, and your own approach to teaching (and learning). I've seen PPT used effectively and ineffectively, just as I've seen books be adopted and never used, or articles/handouts given as almost irrelevant busywork, lectures that went off on tangents and never came back, transparencies that did not look good or made no sense, etc. Students have grown used to the imposed structure of Powerpoint, but how well and effectively we (educators) and they (students) use it is still a matter of choice.

    • Susan Timm

      I agree 100 percent! I love PowerPoint but am conscious of "death by PowerPoint." Thus, we do need to be intentional in our use of it as we should be with every method of instruction.

    • Jerry Henkel-Johnson

      I agree. Powerpoint, chalkboard, and overhead are often basically the same tool. i.e. a visual display of information. It's just that powerpoint is "prettier" and is a better way to have things organized ahead of time. The topic should not be whether PowerPoint helps or hinders learning, but rather whether visual displays of information help or hinder learning, and how can these displays be used effectively.

  • dave porter


    Learning does not occur by osmosis; memory is the residue of thinking. Preparing powerpoint slides may be a useful exercise for faculty members because it forces them to think about, organize, and prioritize the material to be covered in a particular lesson. In fact, if one feels compelled to use powerpoints, it would be far better to have some students prepare them and then challenge the rest of the class to make sense of them. However, relying on teacher-generated power point slides as a primary class activitiy should be considered pedagogical malpractice. As Maryellen indicates in this excellent article, the dimly lit, passive classrooms power points engender are antithetical to learning.

    • Susan Timm

      I really like the idea of having students prepare the PowerPoint slides for a particular chapter. I have previously used the approach that students present concepts from different chapters to the class. The only issue for me is that not all of my students know how to create and then effectively use presentation software. They have to use PowerPoint for one of their group projects, and the class textbook provides information about effective use. I had to add an interactive lecture where I have them create a couple of slides to teach them how to use the program and also provided much information about how to avoid "death by PowerPoint." Still, I get some who just don't seem to get it in the limited time we spend on this subject. We have to decide how much of our class time we want to spend teaching them this concept. I encourage my students to take PowerPoint courses that our college offers, at least the beginning class, as this program is one that they will have the chance to use in their professional and personal lives. Some do so. Indeed, knowing how to create and then use effectively creative slides can really impress a boss, audience, and even guests at some function like a wedding or funeral.

  • Natalie Sarrazin

    I believe a "one size fits all approach" to using PPT is not a wise use of the technology. For me, it absolutely depends on the class. For some classes, PPT is not appropriate, and I don't use it at all. For large lower division classes, I'm more likely to use it, primarily to keep everyone on track and focused. When I have class discussions and small group activities, I raise the lights, and we proceed from there. For upper division classes, I use it far less frequently, since these classes are heavily based on readings and discussion of those readings.

  • Sheila M. Mullaney

    The use of PowerPoint in a learning environment has its pros and cons. The better prepared presentations are great for the macro overview of a subject. It is excellent when it leads to detailed conversationa and transfer of learning. The danger is that individuals who are not familiar with the subject (or maybe even not well prepared), have the tendency to use the presentation as the entire content of a learning situation. Many texts come with pre-made PowerPoints. I tend to edit and sometimes eliminate extraneous slides to move the transfer of learning faster.

  • David Loshin

    PowerPoint is used by many instructors, not as just a tool for presentation like a standard printed outline in which students can take notes. I believe that use of PowerPoint allows for many enhancements in presentations that go beyond what this author even discussed or considered. For example, video clips, websites or blogs can be incorporated into a presentation through PowerPoint (and other software) providing a continuity in the lecture. I teach a course where I use animation (which I developed through PowerPoint) to demonstration many concepts . PowerPoint ( or KeyNote) used as more than a projector for "words" or "organization" promotes interest and should assist learning. The author missed how many of us use PowerPoint and this is a critical deficiency in the article.

    • John Ross

      I agree with you. Turning PowerPoint presentations into successive slides of bullet points is an abuse of a valuable tool. We have all been subjected to Death by PowerPoint at conferences, and using it that way has the same negative effect in class. Like you, I use it illustrate my lecture. The old saw that a picture is worth a thousand words is very true. In history class, I should pictures of what I am talking about.and maps that can clarify concepts in ways that are not possible with words alone. In political science classes, graphs and charts stimulate class discussion. I expect my students to learn to take notes and organize their material. PowerPoint illustrations bring the subject to life and stimulate discussion and learning.

  • Christopher T. Hill

    Intended or not, PowerPoint is an instrument of faculty control in the classroom. It inhibits interaction, squashes student creativity and inquisitiveness, interferes with faculty responsiveness, and reduces students to passive consumers of knowledge from the "sage on the stage." No wonder there is such growing enthusiasm for on-line instruction–if the classroom is reduced to a series of PowerPoint presentations, it is undoubtedly better to have those presentations be professionally prepared and delivered by a master presenter half a world away. As an academic, on and off, for more than forty years, I use PowerPoint extensively in my consulting practice and in presenting research and analysis results to expert audiences, where it is a wonderful tool for communicating complex information quickly. At the same time, I had been worried that I was somehow failing in my job by not adopting PowerPoint in my teaching. Then, I began to get feedback from my classes of twenty-five masters students in public policy that one of the strong points as a teacher is that I don't use PowerPoint. So, each semester when the classroom technology support staff inquired about whether they were meeting my needs, my standard response was, "Please be sure that the whiteboards are clean, that the classroom is well-stocked with erasable markers, and that the ubiquitous computer monitor can be moved out of the way so my students can see what we together create on the board."

    • Robin

      Oh my God… thank you. I am an adult learner who has a high GPA. I changed my master again and am at UNM. The one instructor who is also an administrator, used powerpoints but would not give them to the class. I spent laborious time then writing down what was on these slides. When I respectfully asked for his powerpoint hardcopies or a link for them, he adamantly said NO! Why not? I couldn't spend any time listening to his lecture cause I was copying the ppts. Any ideas? He didn't even tell me his reasoning but told me I needed better study skills. He doesn't even know me. I am 50 years old and being treated like a child.

  • Ron Smallwood

    I use PowerPoint:
    1. Using the narrated show option to lecturer in "flipped" classroom situations.
    2. Using animation show "flow" through a system or process.
    3. Gather anonymous information using student response systems.
    4. Play games.
    5. Develop multimedia shows where the students select from options to view media or open hyperlinks.
    6. Show a general outline of where I'm going in a class.

  • Guest

    As a community college instructor, I find PPT crucial in providing information in an accessible format for students who either have a learning challenge, a physical challenge or where english in not their first language. This means that these students spend less time struggling to write notes and more time listening and participating.__I also use TurningPoint within PPT and "clickers" which permits students to "vote" on an anonymous basis. This makes for a fun, interactive review session when I am helping my students prepare for an exam. It also tells me which areas I need to focus my review before they write the test.__Lastly, I include links to videos / YouTube within my PPT slides which students can watch again at home. For ESL students, they can watch, pause and replay the videos using Closed Captioning which greatly assists their understanding.__Hands down, PPT makes the classroom far more accessible!

  • J Hardy

    Powerpoint is an effective tool for showcasing schematic models or diagrams or presenting pictures of key features to be considered and for bringing to class hotlinks or embedded video clips. For example, when comparing the difference of magnesium vs. iron deficiency in plants, most of my students have never studied a normal plant and thus cannot visualize 'interveinal chlorosis." To describe, or to draw on a board with three colors, is not as effective as showing the features. My powerpoints provide the outline for the day's activities, the features that cannot be created effectively on the whiteboard, and for the daily quiz questions. The discussion topic is presented through a combination of whiteboard, overhead/Elmo, and powerpoint. Students receive only those slides that have core knowledge organizational details or a better model than found in their book, and they have these prior to class so notes can be written with them. (This is a major shift from how I taught years ago, and is more productive in terms of student understanding and ability to apply the knowledge.)

  • Jill

    I have found that using PowerPoint (and similar methods) helps to reach out to the different learning styles in the audience. Not everyone can retain information from hearing a lecture. However, if you illustrate that lecture through PowerPoint (or a similar method), it helps to cement the concepts for the student. I think it's important to learn who our students are and try to balance our classes so each student is receiving what they need.

  • Keith Dewar

    Interesting comments from professors who are "good" teachers. What I find in my role as mentor is the depressing number of professors that have no idea how to use such programs. I have seen slides with up to 75 to 100 words on them. Hour and half lectures with 50 or 60 slides …l usually these are just copies of the lectures. I could go on but like any tool it needs to be used creatively and properly. The basics are that one should aim for no more than 25 or 30 words at at least 24 point type. Slides should not be cluttered and visuals and graphics are essential but not too many on one slide. Using the dissolve and overlay functions allows for all kinds of creative approaches.

    Using slide shows to "keep the Professor on track" is good but should be very secondary to presenting ideas to the students. Personal I make sure I don't "tell" I provoke. The shows provide basics, hints, and points of interest with connections to more material. Students are expected to follow the breadcrumbs.

    The tool is neutral to learning, it is the use that makes the different.

    • carol kubota

      The key to good presentations is short and to the point. I usually show the major points and a picture. I also teach my students how to make good presentations with power point. They are not allowed to put more than three words on a slide and 4 pictures on one slide. They are also limited to 5 slides plus an introduction and credit slide. Many of them end up becoming good presenters. My students are ESL students in an IEP program.

  • Chitra Nagaraj

    I use ppt sparingly
    When I use ppt. I put less effort and for repeating the same topic for the next batch, it means only updating.
    Without ppt, I will think more about sequencing and get more involved.
    Also in a country like India, uninterrupted power supply can never be guaranteed
    Chitra Nagaraj

  • Barry Render

    Maryellen, Great posting. Could I ask you to do a shorter version (300 words) for my blog for Operations Management professors? The site is and my email is Thanks!

  • Laurel

    Lecturers can often forget to emphasize the "four most important points" as they teach, and all of us learners want to know what those are and why. Creating a good powerpoint reinforces that information for everyone. Powerpoints that have blanks for students to fill in (since they are printing them out and studying from them) likely help students learn, and they can discuss what should go into that blank for more interaction. Creating "dueling" powerpoints that present the same information in different ways and with different emphases can help students better understand the complexities of the material–what would they be learning if it had been presented in X way instead of Y? Asking students to create powerpoints and comparing how each group/person has organized information to present to classmates also highlights how differently we learn and interpret. Powerpoint is a tool, and like any tool it needs to be used effectively.

  • Guest

    As a speech teacher at a technical college, I teach my students how to use PowerPoint, require it for one speech. But as a teacher who is trying to teach listening skills, I do not typically use it in my lectures. I want the students to learn to think and evaluate, to be able to decide what is important enough to write down. I do not want them to simply copy what I have put on the screen. The screen can actually be a distraction from what is being discussed.

    • Carol


  • Bill R

    I teach technology and use PPT to demonstrate complex technology that would be impractical to do in the classroom (factory floor settings, 3-D models of the universe, complex computer circuits, weather patterns, etc.) The more years I use it, the fewer words appear on each slide. It is never the sole teaching tool in a session, and I break out from the topic/sequence at will to digress when needed. I also skip slides freely when we have already covered material in a digression or when I determine on the spot that a slide will not add learning value to the present class session.

  • Michael Palmer

    Expeerts decry the practice of populating populate PPT slides with dense collections of bullet points and other textual material. Following the advice of Cliff Atkinson (Beyond Bullet Points), Nancy Duarte (Resonate), Andrew Abela (Advanced Presentations by Design), and others, I confine text to headlines and call outs and use 90% of slide real estate for pictures and drawings and short videos. After the presentation, I make a copy of the lecture notes available in a pdf with small pictures of the slides next to the text. The approach makes use of multiple learning styles and enables participants to access the content again and again whenever and wherever they like.
    Mike Palmer
    Ethics By Design

  • George Corliss

    I try to avoid PPT, but I often use web pages I prepare (not restricted to screen size or to sequential navigation), and I sometimes use Prezi (screams "I'm NOT ppt."). I find computer-based presentations good when I want to give the impression this work is all completed, and no thought is required. Perhaps that is why PPT is THE medium of choice for business presentations? However, nothing beats chalk on a blackboard for pseudo-spontanious "Let's discover this together" discussions.

    I have had a little opportunity to teach in a room with whiteboard painted walls, and I recently had two walls in my office painted with whiteboard paint. That seems to be a WONDERFUL promoter of creativity. Last time I wrote on the wall, I was being naughty. If that tabu does not apply, perhaps some other tabus can be ignored, too. The tall and the short students can contribute in special ways, too, writing above and below usual whiteboard levels.

    • Meripa Toso

      I use a muiltimodal system to present information to students. I do use PPT but try and pose questions throughout the session. PPT is useful for communicating important concepts, however I am finding that with a range of mediums – video via web sites, students are more likely to be interested in the content knowledge as they engage in groups to research some of the questions posed. In some assignment work students are also asked to present required assessment tasks. Some use PPT and other use a multmodal systems.

  • Brian

    One issue I think needs to be raised about PowerPoint is some instructors tendency to use the presentations that come with course texts, rather than preparing their own lectures.

  • Susan Wigley

    It seems to me the purpose of powerpoint is really to keep the instructor on track and make sure we cover all of the material as well as to visually engage students. I use it as a springboard to discussion. My powerpoint slides are always available to students via their eclass website, so they do not need to write down every word. I agree that this should be no longer than 20 minutes at a time. I stop the presentation frequently to lead discussion and have students respond. I also like using it for games, stimulus, and to ask difficult questions. I then ask the students to spend 5 minutes writing their answers before they share them. Powerpoint is just a way of organizing material, and as such serves its function. To be totally dependent on powerpoint to teach is mindless and boring, but I find it useful for the reasons above. Prezi can do the same thing and is fresher, but not as user friendly, yet.

  • David Thompson

    I use PowerPoint as a supporting element only. I teach music classes, and I'll use PowerPoint to illustrate musical examples, or art or architecture that is cotnemporary to the period we're listening to, or texts of vocal compositions that we're hearing in class. But it's only as a supporting role. I have sat throught too many "presentations" in which the presenter simply typed out an outline and showed it as a PowerPoint slide, then essentially read the outline to the group (sometimes distributing hard copies of the slide as well). That certainly isn't teaching! I'm sorry, but that's an insult to my intelligence–I hate having people read things to me if I can read them myself!

    I must also agree with Brian, above. Some of the best teaching ideas come as one is preparing a PowerPoint presentation. To have it handed to you, in a box, with all the thinking done for you, is a real disservice to instructors who allow themselves to become too rushed to prepare a presentation by themselves.

  • Barbara Hunting

    What a thoroughly stimulating discussion– thanks to all. I too have had similar concerns about using PPT for lectures. I teach primarily first year students and find they have not developed good note-taking techniques therefore they need a bit of direction. I also do not lecture for more than 20 minutes at a time and encourage interaction throughout my PPT slides. Otherwise, you might hear crickets; students tend to busy themselves copying down 'every word on the slide'. This is an opportunity to help students organize themselves and to learn to take part in class discussions. I also use the whiteboard & blackboard (dependent on classroom) and appoint blackboard writers during groups discussions so I can be free to roam around the room and stimulate further discussion. PPT is an organizational tool and if properly used– it allows more visual representations to be shared in class & these can be posted on a blackboard system or web page. Teaching is still required and putting too much on PPT slides is not helpful. I lean towards an interactive approach and this is a HUGE mindshift for students who are just coming out of high school and into university. Students in the first year need to be encouraged to find their classroom voice– I spend a good deal of time talking about this and developing an interactive classroom & some don't get it. Yet many do take advantage of the interactive segments and ask plenty of questions–it's a learning process! thanks for the opportunity to chime in!

  • Karen Wright

    I use power points on a fairly frequent basis in both face-to-face classes and online. Why? I believe some students are visual learners. In addition to them viewing the power point, I ask them to summarize what the power said, what they learned, and how they will apply it to the readings and/or writing. I also have students develop a power point over the semester. I think power points re a valuable addition to the learning process.

  • Dr. Erasmus Chirume

    There is no doubt that PowerPoint is in vogue; but not just for style. Power Point ensures that all the planned content for the intended lecture is delivered. And yet, it is very intrusive into organic teaching and learning occurrences. For the preceding reason, I occasionally use Power Point for my teaching. I use it on the first day of class to introduce the course and its general and varied aspects, attendant information regarding the syllabus, assignments, expectations, rules of engagement and ground work for the installation of a viable working class relationship to enhance successful learning, as our major objective. For me and my graduate research students, PowerPoint remains as a tool of vital importance, which is available for use minimally.

  • Jana McCurdy

    I continually seek to improve in ways to engage students, communicate new information, and help students develop skills. Powerpoint can help us achieve these goals but a great powerpoint is not an end in itself. When students are engaged, they may ask tangential questions, debate, hypothesize, or bring in life experiences. When this happens we digress from the Powerpoint or skip ahead to another section. The preplanned organizational structure is not what is most important. However, having quick access to diagrams and videos is helpful.

  • Robina

    I use PPT as an interactive way of getting the learners to speak & think for themselves. As others have said it's a great way of structuring your content & you can stop at any point to do activities etc. One method I use to keep them from switching off is to give out 'gapped handouts' – the learner gets a copy of the slide info but with the key info/ concepts blanked out. This means if they want a complete set of notes they have to pay attention. The info is revealed as the learners put forward their ideas & suggestions. I find this method really encourgaes group discussion too.
    It's all about the way you use it!!

  • George K. Halsell

    As a community college instructor, I teach a wide variety of courses, including two sections of music appreciation with classes that average close to 50 students each. In the latter course, I use mostly use PPT to offer images of composers, instruments, etc., in much the same way that a textbook might include such material. Very little of my PPT material is vital to my class, but I feel that an image of, say, a composer or performer helps to make that person a little more human, and the longest written or spoken description of an oud or a gamelan could never substitute for photographs of these instruments, particularly when accompanied by an audio recording of the same. Aside from labels for images, the only time I use large amounts of text are when I am playing a recording of vocal music; in this case I provide the lyrics in both the original language and in translation. Again, this is only for illustration and is not material that must be copied into students' notes, so I am not so concerned with having a low word count per slide.

    I agree that the use of PPT, coupled with a traditional lecture format, tends to encourage student passivity, but my current circumstances (my particular classroom set-up, the large number of preps I have per week, and the wide variety of student abilities I get in a community college classroom) make it difficult to move to another model. However, given my current situation, I believe the PPT's are an important supplement to my lectures.

  • Jana McCurdy

    I know when we have had too many slides because students sit back like they are watching a movie instead of taking notes and asking questions. When that happens, I use my PPT notes as talking notes and go back to the whiteboard. As I write notes on the board, students do the same. They feel free to stop me and ask questions without "interupting the presentation." If a complex diagram is needed I can quickly turn on the projector and show a few slides without disengaging them. Of course, not all students are fully motivated at all times. Some students will come to class and sleep or daydream even if you have the most exciting and engaging class possible. You never know who just got off the late shift, who had a sick child who was up all night, or who is going through a divorce. But, if 80% of the class is not engaged, maybe it is time to try a new approach.

  • Deborah Janeczko

    PowerPoint is simply one of the tools in our toolbelt! Don't forget the different learning styles…PPT is excellent for the introverted, visual, and to some degree auditory learner, however the tactile, extroverted, verbal learner will become quickly bored and lost in the desire to learn. I find use of any "tool" for the majority of teaching time becomes a negative to the bottom-line goal of facilitating adult learning. As a distance education instructor, it is helpful to have a questionnaire or assignment placed in the middle of the presentation. I particularly like to add something where they have to coordinate with another student. I try to design the PowerPoint so it won't necessarily make sense if they don't complete the assignment. I do believe PowerPoint presentations in the classroom have simply replaced the old-fashioned lecture. My pet peeve is the instructor who simply reads the slides. Each slide should be a reminder as to the topic for discussion, not a repeat of the textbook word-for-word. Again, we have so many tools to select from, and we should use as many as we can, to assist students with different learning styles to break the monotomy of the "same ole same ole".

  • Wayne Askew

    I see no reason to use Power Point if your course is largely "soft" and the subject matter you are teaching mainly consists of guiding class discussion that can afford to digress along the path that the student comments may take it. But if the subject matter is science based and a a series of technical points or steps being instructed, and a soul searching discussion of the finer points of sub orbital electron distribution is not needed, Power Point sure beats a blackboard and chalk!

  • Guest

    I don't use PP as I desire a more interactive class experience. I do, however, create what I call 'notes forms' that contain important theorems, definitions, etc with the critical words or formulas replaced with blanks to be filled in, and problems (including blank graphs if needed) stated with space below them to work. Students print out the notes forms from Blackboard before coming to class and then I use the document camera and we fill out the notes forms together. Students love this since it organizes their notes and I love the way it keeps my class organized and interactive. Students actively contribute steps in the problems we work together and sometimes even the important concepts in theorems and definitions.
    I bring extra paper in case I decide to do an extra problem to illustrate a concept more fully – and students can write that on the back of one of their notes sheets. This seems to work very, very well for my classes.

  • Richard Cooper

    This has a lot of interesting thoughts. I teach Master level courses. I want my students to learn to think and not be feed information. Yes, PPT can be a useful tool for transmitting information. Class room discussions, exercises and other tools are needed to take learned material to application. If I used PPT it would be available for my students in some online manner for their use outside of the class room. I want that time preserved for taking what was learned into some practical application.

  • 45Doc70

    It is unclear, at a quick glance, in these comments what all the diverse areas of instruction are being represented.

    My main teaching thrust is for pre-nursing students (A&P, Micro, CHEM, Nutrition). I suspect that the area of instruction will "drive" the use of (or lack thereof) powerpoint, e.g., powerpoint slides showing how to balance a chemical reaction is much easier for students to read than my chicken scratching on a chalk board (as I started out doing 25 years ago); in A&P, graphics are much more important, as well, since we no longer teach students about anatomy directly on the cadaver with a dissector at their sides (other than in lab, of course); metabolic pathways are "neater" in powerpoint or on an overhead projector or on mimeo-graphed hand-outs (remember those?) than hand-written on the board and increases the efficiency/effectiveness of delivering those sorts of lectures.

  • 45Doc70

    Part 2 Vogue, style or not, there's not much difference between using a slide projector at a conference and powerpoint in the classroom in fields of [pre- and health care] science[s]. Individual learning styles aside (and there is considerable controversy as to whether there really are "learning styles"), science courses run the gamut from audio learning to visual learning to tactile learning, the former two going hand-in-hand with powerpoint, the latter difficult to blend in a lab setting unless the lab is mediated.

  • 45Doc70

    Part 3 If one is so oriented, powerpoint also gives faculty an incredible amount of creativity (that allows academic freedom to thrive and grow in an atmosphere where it is, and has been, slowly, but surely, shrinking) in lecture preparation as opposed to "cookie cutter" (one size fits all) presentations from publishers or from within academic departments, themselves. Powerpoint lectures in the biophysical sciences (many of which seem to change almost daily) add to the flexibility of information sharing as well as to the currency of that information.

  • 45Doc70

    Part 4 My focus, as I indicated earlier, is on biophysical sciences. It's easy to see that there are fields in which professionals find powerpoint difficult to use in the classroom: the lecture is here to stay, whether it be in a textbook, in the classroom, on streaming video and will require support of one sort or another, e.g., chalk board, hand-written notes, powerpoint, cue cards, cadavers …

    The article stimulated discussion. Discussion is good.

  • Dominick Grace

    I use Powerpoint only if I need to provide information to students I can't provide orally, e.g. by showing them a painting that is the subject of the poem we are studying, or by linking to a sound clip of an aeolian harp, or by showing different covers for the same book to discuss how paratext influences our response etc.

  • Donald P. Balla

    I have repented from ever using PowerPoint and Blackboard again. Although everything people above write may be true, there are better methods than using PowerPoint. Final reason for canning it: PowerPoint removes emphasis from books. I make a point of choosing a quality book, and I write a separate workbook for my students. The workbook goes session by session. In class paper works better a laptop. I do little presentation of information in the classroom. In class we practice the skills that put to use course content. PowerPoint is not effective as information dissemination. My student evaluation scores are at or near the top.

  • LAB

    As a science teacher at a community college, I use PowerPoint frequently to show my students pictures of places and processes they've never encountered before. The visual cortex is one of the most ancient parts of our brain. SHOWING a picture of a volcano is much more effective than a verbal description. And a photograph is clearer than a whiteboard scribble. The danger comes when students think that all they need to know is written on the slide (or on the whiteboard). It's up to the teacher to use the visuals as scaffolding for critical thinking and learning. PowerPoints are also extremely valuable for students who miss class or have trouble learning in "sage-on-the-stage" settings. PowerPoint is a tool. What you do with it is up to you.

  • K. Graham

    I recently started using power point presentations because i was assigned a class in a large auditorium with no black/whiteboard. I have resisted using PP because it has appeared to me to be a big brain sucker. This past year, I started to adapt PP to my smaller sized classes, and students had some helpful responses I will share. Several times this summer, there were tech problems in my classroom and I had to resort to my old style of teaching. My best students (I teach history in a community college in the Bay Area) said they much preferred lecture without power points, and most of the students said they liked my board work over PP. The "better" students said they had to think more and pay close attention when I lectured without PP.

    I also notice that students feel compelled to start scribbling everything down on a bulleted list, even when I tell them they would be better served going through the points one-by-one with me. So now I use animation to draw attention to the points one by one.

    I do think the images that PP can provide are compelling, but I limit the writing and bullet points. Even the cue that knowledge can be condensed into discrete bullets is a bad message to send our students. I do think PP can help getting some vocabulary out of the way.

    I feel pressure to use PP because it is viewed as "modern" and skillful. I think I have made some peace with using it for some material, but I much prefer the old fashioned combination of board, overheads and my little mini-skits.

  • K. Graham

    I recently started using power point presentations because I was assigned a class in a large auditorium with no black/whiteboard. I have resisted using PP because it has appeared to me to be a big brain sucker. This past year, I started to adapt PP to my smaller sized classes, and students had some helpful responses I will share. Several times this summer, there were tech problems in my classroom and I had to resort to my old style of teaching. My best students (I teach history in a community college in the Bay Area) said they much preferred lecture without power points, and most of the students said they liked my board work over PP. The "better" students said they had to think more and pay close attention when I lectured without PP.

  • JA_SEK

    Power point is a technlogy trait which when used appropriately can substantiate and enhance the lerning enviornment. It all boils down to the presentation developer. I have seen many a ppt that put me to sleep. Read word for word is no less than having a kindle read a book. Emphasis on necessary content points, demonstrations and lesson reflection make for content absorbtion. Power point additionally makes for review or concentrating (centering) on a particular point or portion of a lesson. Power point hs tobe used efficiently and effectively otherwise it can become a significant distraction instead of an enhancement.

  • Linda Ballard

    I don't always teach in the same exact sequence the book is presenting the material. There may be several different concepts taught in the same chapter that I believe are joined together in a difference sequence than the publishers. I make the PowerPoints available for the students to use for study, but I use the boards for examples in lectures and homework for student participation.

  • Kathryn Kemp

    I use PowerPoint extensively in lower division history survey classes, mostly to provide visual supplements to course content: For example, photographs from Ellis Island add value to a class discussion of turn-of-the-century immigration. Slide titles help students organize material, and key terms, dates and properly spelled names are helpful, but should be kept to the minimum. The less text on the screen, the more attention will be given to what's being said in the room. I; try not to put anything on screen that you wouldn't bother to write on the board. The corollary to this is: Students will copy everything on the screen, no mater what you say to them. In upper division classes, I only use PowerPoint occasionally, for maps and illustrations that enrich content. Students tell me that they find PowerPoint helpful. PowerPoint seems particularly suited to history classes, but I wonder if it may not be less help in other disciplines. By the way, a student told me that she made minimal sketches of the PPT screens in her notes, which helped her remember what was being said at the time they were shown. I have passed this on to my classes, and some others have adopted this method.

  • Yvonne Ho

    I think if you use Powerpoint, you have to make sure you don't just simply lecture. I think if you add interaction and Q/A sessions into the lecture and stop at certain points in your lecture to see if students are understanding the material and then ask questions that cause students to pause and think about the material as well as respond to questions, this can add interest and develop critical thinking skills for the students. I agree with the above comments, powerpoint is effective but it depends on how you make use of it. If your material lacks context because of the oversimplified bullet lists, you can always give handouts to supplement your presentation.

  • Bernd Schroeder

    I am interested in whether people have looked into the *new* dimensions that power-point type presentations can add to learning. Full disclosure: I teach mathematics and will not teach a live class off power points or slides, because (when I do it) it increases presentation speed to unacceptable levels. However, (and this is important) for on-line presentations, when students have a pause button, it is great for the many challenging visual aspects of mathematics: You can produce much higher quality than with chalk and talk, you can make things move, and you can add these features in a fashion that is more organized than I could be in a class simply *because* it is scripted whereas a class is not. For an example, if you want it, check 32:20 (the cool stuff starts about 32:30, but the quick intro sets the stage) of the presentation

    I know, it's a pep talk, but you've got to be excited about calculus. (Not because it will help you learn, although it does that, too, but because calculus simply is cool.)

    • guest

      very very cool! thanks for sharing.

  • Claudia Stanny

    I insert a PPT slides in my materials to prompt me with a question for a pair-share activity or a minute paper. If forces me to take these breaks for student discussion and thinking on paper when I might have stormed through. Now I am more intentional about planning the questions (and create better questions) and using them at the right point in class.

    I also use PPT to create mini-demonstrations of an experimental procedure. I teach a course on Memory, so PPT lends itself to creating a few trials of a memory task and following with a test of memory. I can give students an immediate experience of a participant's experience of the procedures used in a research study discussed in class.

    I use PPT for clicker questions to uncover misconceptions about memory (and prompt discussion) or to demonstrate common heuristics and biases in judgment and decision making (much better to talk about the class's (anonymous) inconsistency in decisions that replicate research findings than to just summarize the findings).

    As others have said, PPT is just a tool. Like any tool it can be used effectively or ineffectively.

  • Professor Lee

    I never use powerpoint. I use prezi for my teaching (online and in-class) and for national conference presentations. Prezi is not linear and can be posted online so that students can post further ideas on various topics so that the whole class can see the newly added info. Prezi is far more interactive and intuitive than powerpoint.

  • Helen Gordon

    I HATE PowerPoint..if ever there were a program I would like to get rid of, that is the one! Work by Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte would suggest an alternate way to use PP. Which includes more visually stimulating pictures, very few words (Reynolds says only 7) and the use of a note organizer. I have now been doing this for three years and at first students complain that they do not have slides to take notes on…but have become more comfortable using the note organizer that forces them to take their own notes. Reynolds stresses that watching PP slides put the student in a passive mode and hence they do not retain or retain very little of the information…that the brain cannot listen and see new material in a meaningful way if this is not coupled with some active action on the part of the learner. Since switching I have seen understanding and application of the material rise as well as end of course (national) test scores. I have to admit, it is harder to conduct a class…because PP facilitates me to "zone out" too and just go off the slides without interacting with the students. My slides that I have converted are so much more fun, lively and I use the pictures to anchor a point or give an illustration. Very, very few words. Between that kind of interaction and story telling + bringing in case studies their learning has really altered.

    • Michael Palmer

      Hmm. If you hate PPT, I would think you wouldn't use it. (Is anyone holding a gun to your head? Is using PPT a new condition of tenure?) But then you write a paragraph on how to use it effectively. Do you really hate it, or was this just a moment of provocative hyperbole? If so, it worked.

  • gsad

    As an Art Appreciation Instructor and lecturer pp is a must. We must be able to view what we are discussing visually. What worries me is that the students expect you to post your pp's where they can access them outside of class, which pretty well makes you as the instructor replaceable and unneeded, and the classroom a thing of the past. I do not post my pp's to a resounding "Oh no, why not?" and that leaves me believing that some instructors do. I don't want to encourage sleeping through the class. And they surely do not need another excuse to do so. If there is one thing that is encouraging,it is that Art is controversial and attention getting. We as lectuers of the arts are always posing questions about content, and we are always crossing the decisive lines of what the student has set up as their normal thinking boundaries and limitations.

  • Marsha Orr

    I'm with you Maryellen. I was beginning to think that I was doing a lot more work on my Powerpoint presentations than the students were doing with the content. For the past several semesters, I've been teaching mostly online. To me, Powerpoint in online is of limited value. I've switched to short videos that I use to introduce the course, explain assignments (this is the most highly rated area of my course in course evaluations), and to demonstrate use of some of the technology I use for online (VoiceThread,, I'm focusing more on discussion, building content, and application that lecture (and you know what…..I'm having a lot more fun and getting to know the students a lot better).

  • mel_archer

    I make use of the ppt presentation in financial accounting. I find its use highly useful not only from the teacher's point of view.
    I observe that students pay close. While not all that I say are written in the ppt presentation, the students see the flow or sequence of the teaching-learning process. I pose questions and problems to be answered by them as an application process.

    The ppt is not the "it all" of the teaching-learning process. It is only a tool. The teacher should be very creative during the process to maintain the retention or focus of the students. Every now and then, questions from the students arise and interaction take place. I will certainly continue to use the ppt.

    It is practical on my part too. I only need to update the presentation from time to time more so if there are updates in the IFRS and IAS.

  • Frank Sole

    I had an interesting A/B testing opportunity 2 years ago when we moved into a new building with "hi tech" classrooms. I had been "chalk & walk & talk" up to that point but with the new technology available I felt an obligation to my students to bring my class presentations up to the available capabilities of the new classrooms. I did a great deal of work over the summer to move my lectures to Power Point. I used some Publisher materials but most was of my creation. As fate would have it, the first day of class the room housing my classes had "operational issues" and Power Point was not available. Dry erase boards stepped in where chalk had been before. About half way through the semester the technology was fixed and I moved to the Power Points. At the end of the semester I asked the students what their preference was and it was approx. 30% Power Point, 70% "standard lecture". I was surprised! This is the video, iPhone generation and they wanted their education the "old fashioned" way. The only time I breakout Power Points now is when I think it will show something better than the lecture will and that's not too often. This was across 4 classes that semester in an Introduction to Business course including 1 night class . The day classes were freshman/sophomore and the night class about half non-traditional students. Pretty representative of our State University, 13,000 student, urban campus population.

    • Michael Palmer

      In live settings, PPT puts distance between the presenter and the audience unless the presenter stands between the screen and the audience or walks around. Another possible explanation: With chalk/talk media, the audience must focus on what is said because the chalkboard serves only to highlight or underscore points. (This gives an advantage to aural learners unless others take notes as the lecture proceeds.)
      I have often wondered why people pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to attend a live workshop when they could acquire more information simply by carefully studying the presenter's book. (There is always a book.) As Will Hunting puts it in one scene, people pay $200,000 for a Harvard education they could get for $175 in late fees from the library.
      Well, there are several plausible explanations. We like social settings. But we also like the interplay of multiple sense systems that live lectures require.
      PPT can become a barrier to that connection between lecturer and learner.
      But a boring lecturer who simply sticks his head in a manuscript and reads without ever making eye contact or otherwise engaging with the students is worse than PPT, even PPT consisting mostly of bullet points.
      As Marshall McLuhan once wrote, "Those who try to distinguish education from entertainment don't know the first thing about either."

  • abdul chamid

    I dont really like use power point. I prefer use board or flipchart to deliver my materials. it is just more hlpull for the student to follow what I describe. Presenting the abstract thing by creating a visual by my self is more helpull for the student or training participant to follow my lecture. Also not using sound system because it can disturb student concentration. I realise that power point just help the presetation quickly but nor effective to make people understant more about the topic.

  • Junior Gentles

    PowerPoint provides a good summary of the material and if used effectively as a prompt for lecture topics and not read from, can prove to be a good teaching tool. My dissertation survey showed that 80% of the students surveyed expressed satisfaction with the PowerPoint presentations used in their class, and so the students do not mind a professor using it, and using it well.

  • Fred Kissane

    I use Power Point frequently though not excessively. The article above mentions that well designed PowerPoint presentations can be impressive & without bragging the feedback I've received regarding mine indicates that they are. There is a quite a bit of scope for inventive use of the animation functions & I've been able to quickly produce great animations of complex systems without having to involve third parties or learn new technology. I always follow up a presentation with a discussion of the presentation. I'd suggest that the author of the above article has done so without really exploring PowerPoint's full potential.

  • revdocdonn

    One great suggestion for PowerPoint slides is conceptual metaphor. Intentionally include visualizations (pictures, clip art, actions, etc.) that DIRECTLY relate to the point on the slide. Humor can also be used in moderation. Different facets stimulate memory. ALSO when presenting PowerPoint, print out (or have students print out) handouts … three per page … with lines for notes on right column. Give salient truncated points in the slide causing the student to expand in notes. I also use a remote keyboard allowing me to add and change the slides based on student discussion. Having them immediately view their comments encourages higher level thinking. PowerPoint needs to supplement the topic, encourage discussion and feedback and be student directed.

  • J. Kier

    I use powerpoint for a number of reasons;
    – Like it or not, some students simply do not know what to focus on when taking notes or studying. I give out printed 'handouts' and they take notes as I emphasize points
    – The powerpoints keep me 'honest'….sometimes we wind up off-subject by discussing situations, stories and case studies, etc. I can usually refer to where I left off in the slides to tell me where to continue;
    – I incorporate colorful pictures, animations, videos and websites into my powerpoint slide shows in order to appeal to visual learners, especially if there's a cause/effect relationship or a hierarchy of some sort in the lesson.
    Powerpoints, if used properly, can be very valuable tools in teaching – It is when instructors use powerpoints as 'reading material' or 'self-teaching' packets that they wind up with bad raps. Do I think it's the only way to present material? No, absolutely not, but I find it both valuable and effective.

  • layton1000

    I tend to think of PowerPoint slides like a screencap of what I would write on a blackboard in class. I'm a slow writer and I have some learning disabilities that means things get jumbled in my head if I try to write out definitions and argument schema (I teach philosophy) beforehand. For me, they aren't the end-all, and I make this clear to my students: just as you should come out of class knowing more than a professor wrote on the blackboard, you should come out of our class meetings understanding more than what was spelled out in PowerPoint. (I also use this conversation as a way of pointing out to my class that their venerable instructor has weaknesses, but that she – like them – needs to find a way to work around them.)

    I also don't find it particularly oppressive to skip around. If you have six or seven slides of basic points then you should know the order they're in and be able to tell at a glance whether the slide you want to talk about next is the one that's actually up – meaning you can skip from the second to the fifth quite easily. But I agree it can be too oversimplified. Really, I think it's best to treat PPT or any presentation more like an agenda for the class than a presentation.

    FWIW, I've also found PPT approached this way to be a godsend for learning-disabled students or simply for those with different learning styles. I know I would have benefited a lot from my classes if professors would have had the bare bones laid out in a more orderly way, like PPT encourages.

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  • Nagaraj

    Use PPT as a guide to keep order in your presentation or to put up difficult diagrams to explain. It is a good tool if used properly. Do not use effects and waste other's and your own time. It should lead and not ment for reading what is written in the power point. Since many do not know how to use teaching tools, this type of discussions go on. If it is not useful, it would not be popular as it is today. It is more popular with students as well as teachers. Teacher should use the tool effectively and not become a slave to the tool.

  • Joanne Altman

    I can offer an example of how PowerPoint encourages passivity. I almost never use PowerPoint in class except when I need to do a demonstration simultaneously and PowerPoint helps me do the two things at once. In the few instances I have used PowerPoint, I asked students for feedback. One student wrote that he loved PowerPoint "because he didn't have to do anything". To me, that is the foundation of the problem. I do have many of my "lectures" put together in PowerPoint (for all the benefits stated for our own organization), but I don't show the PowerPoint to the students.

  • Ileana

    In online teaching, PowerPoint is almost essential. I think it's a great way to organize key concepts and ideas and to summarize the main point of the lecture. I do however think there is a right and wrong way to create a Power Point and that many instructors, including myself, could use some education on how to create interesting presentations.

  • D. Bayle

    I have developed my own website where I can add the latest information minutes before class. The presentation looks similar to PowerPoint but it is not. I can link to the latest research, graphics, youtube videos… from my own web page. I tend to minimize writing and just show maps, photos… that illustrate the topic being discussed. I have not used PowerPoint because I feel it's static.

  • milagros suyu

    Just a few reminders when using powerpoint as a tool in teaching:
    1. First , the technicalities of powerpoint preparation should be carefully studied and applied.
    2. Never use ppt as your "codigos" in the classroom
    3. Maximize the materials you prepare
    4. Present your ppt on a big screen, not in your own laptop making them invisible from a distance
    5. Don't be paralyzed in cases of brown-out or when your battery becomes low
    6. Minimize the number of your ppt.
    7. Dont abuse the use of ppt. You and your students might suffer from ppt fatigue
    8. Variety in teaching strategies is still the key to effective teaching and learning.
    8. Make it a habit that everyday there is something new and interesting activity that they will experience
    9. lastly. we should not forget that the best visual aid is still the alive, alert, energetic and always prepared teacher , whose meeting with the students is always anticipated with pleasure

  • Lola Francis

    I don't have a problem with PowerPoint itself. It just seems odd that since we know that there are so many different types of learning styles and ways to organize information, that we would stick to using a tool that is very limited in these two areas. Why not use an actual timeline tool to make timelines instead of listing the dates of occurance on slides? I think while PowerPoint has its uses, it really doesn't foster a lot of creativity, and more importantly interactivity, as well as some other tools do.

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  • Jen

    As a student, i feel that using Powerpoint slides and summarise content is good because you can't expect every student to always be able to fully understand the content straightaway. By including dot points- students can note these down during the lecture, and add any notes they find relevant as the lecturer speaks. Too much information doesn't encourage students to go and review their work because they fall into the trap of rote-learning and spitting out word-for-word, the words on the powerpoint slide. It is also distracting because we're trying to read the slides whilst listening to the lecturer- and we may miss things that are said not on the slides. If slides are kept simple, it forces students to go home, re-listen to the lecture and do their own research to expand on the points. It is also a good tool for summarising content. However the content on the slides should be concise but not too simple…

  • Gareth Gee

    'Bullet points' are for idiots. And Powerpoint, as a method for displaying information and pushing forward learning and understanding, is UTTER RUBBISH. The commentators here who favour its use in classrooms would be well advised to become travelling vacuum cleaner salespeople instead, since PowerPoint's ridiculous built-in 'pitch culture' and almost-content-free format is perfectly suited to that line of work. They would be well advised too to read what Edward R Tufte and the mighty Richard Feynman have had to say about this awful software. A good place to start is

  • David Thompson

    I wish my learned colleagues would learn to differentiate between the Power Point program itself and the all-too frequent misuse of it by too many lazy presenters. The idea of typing up some bullet-points on a slide and showing it (and maybe even reading it aloud to the audience), then believing you've "presented" the information is, I agree, utter rubbish. I detest listening to presentations like this. The Power Point program, however, has plenty of action and animation features, not to mention possibilities for embedding sounds and videos, which, if used intelligently and imaginatively, can animate a subject, give it dimension, and drive home a point. However, it means that the presenter has to take the trouble to learn how to set the program up ahead of time, an effort which I'm afraid too many of my colleagues are too busy, disinterested, or just plain lazy to do.

  • Gina Burkart

    As a learning specialist providing academic support to students and a college professor who has taught college students for 12 years, I relate to much of what Weimer discusses and questions here about PPT. Almost daily, I listen to students who are perplexed about why they are failing tests. When I ask them how they study, 99% of them tell me they print the course PPT slides and recopy or memorize the slides. This is exactly what Weimer fears in her article. Students assume what is on the slides is all they need to learn. After hearing this, I explain how to use the slides and the text together to synthesize, ponder, and predict. I introduce them to Bloom's Taxonomy and show them how to create their own power point of the material and create concept maps by inserting SmartArt into the PPT slides. I also teach them how to predict and write potential test questions to assess themselves. By doing this for each unit,students are essentially creating their own understanding of the material and wrapping themselves around it–as though they might teach it to someone else. Used in the manner, PPT becomes a powerful learning tool. But—students do not use it this way automatically. Most students remain at the level that Weimer feared unless they are redirected. The tune off in class and print slides–believing that is all they need to know for the test. Then, they set out to memorize the slides. Many even substitute the slides for the text.

    As a professor, I have used PPT in my classes as a learning tool. Rather than create slides that would be viewed passively–I have asked students to form groups in the classroom and quickly create a power point presentation of the text material that represents the main ideas. In other words, they were to identify the key ideas and represent them in an organized way that conveyed meaning to the rest of the class. Each group was then asked to present their presentation and field questions from classmates. This allowed the entire class to discuss the material and see what other students found to be the main ideas. My role was to help point out the differences, facilitate discussion, and redirect or correct thinking and fill in gagps. It gave me an immediate understanding of what students were understanding or not understanding and what they were perceiving as main ideas. It facilitated active learning–rather than passive. It also required that they come to class prepared. They did not want to come to class and not have anything to contribute–that would be embarrassing and also affect their participation grade. It also taught students how to access material before class. They read and pulled main ideas in attempt to join a larger discussion with an academic community. And in class, they learned how to engage in academic discourse. Isn't this our goal? If so, PPT can become a powerful thinking tool. But, this also requires us to rethink how we teach. We must move away from being the "Sage on the Stage." Thus, the issue is not really PPT but teaching . . .

  • ennilady

    A few years ago I 'flipped' my PowerPoint lectures into readings. Much of the content remained in point form, so they are a readable version of the content I had been providing in lectures. I have embedded questions in each reading; in class, I review my reading and the textbook reading for that week in the first hour of class (using PowerPoint minimally), and I use the questions as the basis of a discussion. The rest of class time is spent in lab activities in which concepts are applied, with a wrap-up at the end of the week. I have also used Jeopardy-like games to work on terminology and to apply concepts to vignettes. Students LOVE these games, and I get a chance to see how they think as they discuss in their groups what the right answers are. I have really enjoyed the class much more since changing the format — things are less in my control but are a lot more interesting for the students as well as for me. PowerPoint is just a tool — as with any tool, the important thing is how it is used.

  • Kristen

    I use to create my lectures. Much more interactive and eye catching than PP. My students love it and have started using it for other college courses they're taking. I also make sure it's not just me yakking during the whole lecture. There are questions throughout it that I either have the students answer individually in class, sometimes make them get into small groups, or other times have them journal about the topic. I'll often include video or audio clips with in my lecture. I also make sure that my lectures are never over 15 minutes long.

  • Gina Burkart

    Kristen–I have used Prezi also. Students love it! As you have mentioned, my students also started using it for their own presentations. I like that it is less linear and more recursive—like learning. I have also had students use Prezi for concept mapping with writing papers and studying.

  • Joan Kraus

    This discussion reminds me of the use of video in classrooms when it first became available. Most teachers used it as if it were a movie…turning it on and then grading papers etc while the students watched. (In all fairness, what teacher wanted to stop a movie and take a chance on it breaking or tangling?)

    However, when video became available, teachers treated it the same way. When I asked for the remote for our school's VCR, so I could pause it and ask questions, the office said no one had ever asked for it. They had to look around and find it buried in a drawer!

    Perhaps Power Point needs a similar modification. Yes, make the slides, but don't put so much information on them that students get lazy. Then print the slides out as a format to help them take notes on the printout itself.


  • Rob Rockhold

    Dr. Weimer:

    Regarding Powerpoint use, I am searching for a peer-reviewed reference concluding that reading text material on a Powerpoint slide while an instructor is speaking (essentially rereading the PP text) has been shown to reduce student comprehension of the material.

    Are you aware of any such data?


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  • plamonica

    The usefulness of PowerPoint depends on how PowerPoint is used. I have seen them all, "screenreaders" to the Pros, sure screenreader presentations are not worth a minute of time but a real pro uses a slide to bring up discussion points and topics of interest. From my point of view, my students can read the screen while I discuss why it says what it says.

  • Tina K

    I use power points for a general outline and then add to it with my lecture. I never just read the power points to them. I also ask them to print them out instead of just having them on their computer. Because I believe in "Muscle Memory".

  • Gloria G.

    I use PP in my lectures, it gives me the opportunity to incorporate questions regarding the lecture as I go. After one disorder is discussed, I may ask questions on that disorder and it lets me know if the students are listening and following along. I teach nursing at present Med/Surg.

  • Mark

    I once tried NOT to use PowerPoint slides in my classroom instruction. My students went bananas and demanded that I make the slides available to them. Reminded me of a Pavlov's Dogs experiment…

  • Karen

    I try to combine my "traditional" PowerPoint slides with interactive questions using a student response system. While there are an abundance of systems out there, I have found which has a system is integrated in PowerPoint and it is free if you just use the web-voting functions.

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  • candace

    I am a college student. Some teachers use power points effectively. Most do not. We are bombarded with hundreds of slides, pages completely filled with information. The professor is literally racing against the clock to get through all of them. The whole experience is exhausting and overwhelming. There is no time to absorb information or ask questions. Students are always frustrated. After being tested moral is low. If you study the sciences I find this is the only way professors teach.

  • Student

    From a student perspective, I think they can be good but they are usually bad because teachers don't understand how to effectively deliver a powerpoint properly. For instance, I have been given powerpoints (and this is even in Med school by the way) where there are paragraphs of information. This makes it hard to follow the teacher because the powerpoint itself attracts my eyes to this slury of information. Then the teacher will not read in order and it makes it confusing to try and follow. Also the other problem is I think that powerpoint hurts students who like to write/draw in their notes on lined paper because the lecturer is going faster. I know I am one of these students and by having the professor write/draw on the board, I am able to process the information better the first time.

  • Bob King

    As some have mentioned, Power Point is a tool in the toolbox. It seemed to me that author of the original post assumed an all-or-nothing use of Power Point. Either it is used, and usually badly, or it is not used. This may or may not be an accurate description of how Power Point is used in the classroom. We would need to do a survey of this. For instance, I use it as a review guide for my students. The slides are indicative (of the content in the textbook), not informative. The slides cannot be used as a substitute for reading the text. In this way, I try to encourage (force?) literacy practice on my students.

    Also, bad Power Point presentations, whether prevalent or not, speak to the use of technology in general. If one thinks of a current shibboleth-cum-movement, the "flipped" classroom, it is clear that at-home videos play a central role in that method. Surely, practitioners would not jettison the method because the videos might be poorly done by some professors. It also speaks to the general call for greater technology use in the classroom. Production of materials is quite time-consuming.

  • Dr. Hew

    Power point is a very helpful tool for learning me and my fellow teachers have used it for years and students grades have improved since we started using them.

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  • tahiya

    PowerPoint is a crutch and it sucks. You have to be an AWESOME STUPENDOUS INCREDIBLE teacher to use it well consistently and not get roped into its evil tendencies. It's PRESENTATION software. Worse than that. It's LINEAR presentation software. Horrid. As an instructional designer I will once again yell at everyone within earshot: TELLING ISN'T TRAINING. Lecturing isn't teaching. Never mind what it does to students. Before it ever gets in front of students it completely hogties the minds of most instructors. It's the greatest purveyor of pre-thought thoughts and canned transmission of information in our time. If you want to make an impact on someone and your dedicated to using PowerPoint, just create 2 slides: the title of your talk and "the end"

    • tahiya

      …you're dedicated…



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  • Nicholas Tut Naath

    I agree that the use of PPT, coupled with a traditional lecture format, tends to encourage student passivity, but my current circumstances (my particular classroom set-up, the large number of preps I have per week, and the wide variety of student abilities I get in a community college classroom) make it difficult to move to another model. However, given my current situation, I believe the PPT's are an important supplement to my lectures.

  • Nicholas Tut Naath

    I also worry that using Power Point encourages passivity. Well-designed Power Point presentations can be graphically impressive. They do add a great deal of interest and without question make it easier to listen and follow along. But do they encourage interaction? Do they promote critical thinking? Possibly, but often they make having discussions more difficult. The lights are partially dimmed and the seats arranged so that everyone focuses on the screen. Those aren't features that foster the vibrant exchange of ideas.

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