Saturday, November 26, 2011

Power Point: A helpful vice, or corporate avarice?

[Let me first reveal that the most loathsome aspect of Power Point actually appears through Microsoft Word. When typing, or rather mistyping “Power Point”, Word sardonically refuses to auto correct, forcing the writer to capitalize and include the space within this Microsoft entity. Therefore, sometimes I changed it to be Microsoft-correct, other times I left it well alone.]

            Moving forward: In the readings this week, there are two arguments presented. The Christine Tardy article “Expressions of Disciplinarity and Individuality in a Multimodal Genre”, the Alan Perry “PowerPoint Presentations: a Creative Addition to the Research Process” and Tara Williams’ “Multimedia learning gets medieval” argue that Power Point presentations, and other multimedia opportunities, enhance student learning as they contribute to current lessons and activities within the class. As students, we have all been exposed to Power Points. We have collectively groaned upon seeing a handout with endless slides on it. Depending on our undergrad experiences, our level of exposure to this presentation has probably influenced our opinions toward the style. I went to a small, liberal arts school and majored in English. My lectures were taught by professors who used chalk if writing any notes, and regardless, still mesmerized me with interesting and insightful lectures. My college roommate however, majored in marketing. She sat through PowerPoint after PowerPoint, worked collaboratively making more power points, analyzed data on PowerPoint, and was bored. What would have been better?
            Tardy writes, “though the verbal mode does provide one means for expressing individuality, the visual mode adds an important layer of self-expression. Color, background design, and use of images are just some of the elements that writers can manipulate according to their own tastes, purposes, and sense of self”.  The appearance of a presentation is important, and reveals a personal insight to the writer.  How we manipulate the slides thus affects the interpretation of the audience. Tardy furthers to acknowledge the benefits of incorporating visual with verbal modes to help developing writers: “And as developing technologies offer new visual possibilities for scientific researchers…visual modes will continue to grow in importance for multilingual research writing”. The technology allows students to express their writing by combining various medias, something we have discussed in depth this semester. PowerPoint is clearly one manner to combine visual and verbal elements. Further, Alan Perry asserts Tardy’s position, writing ““I believe that requiring students to create and present a PowerPoint project in addition to writing a research paper is an effective means of organizing research assignments for high school students”. Thankfully, Perry does not wish to replace the research assignment and sees the value in supporting the research with a component that allows for presentation and collaboration. In addition, Tara Williams’ “Multimedia Learning Gets Medieval” acknowledges the negative sides of PowerPoint. She cites sources who believe the slides are “pedagogical parsley”, “PPPhluff”, and do nothing more but trivialize important information. She cites in particular Jacqueline Foertsch, who “argued that they too often become “dessert,” functioning as the ‘students’ rewards for choking down the literary broccoli I’ve been cooking up all semester long.’ More provocatively, [Foertsch] contends that ‘courses in film and television analysis bring out the couch potato not only in students but in teachers as well’…For Foertsch, technology precludes rather than encourages active learning and threatens to turn the literature classroom into a living room”. Williams bravely acknowledges these beliefs, but expresses her belief that multimedia learning greatly enhances students, especially her students studying Medieval Literature. Technology allows students to deepen their understanding of this time period, help them to place the period with a cultural lens, and give them a greater appreciation for the literature. She writes, “multimedia elements can be valuable in an academic setting when carefully designed and implemented”. The careful design and implementation of a lesson is no more than good teaching, and yet still not an easy feat. Williams concludes her essay, writing “In a society structured around religious and courtly ceremonies and invested in dramatic spectacles, reading was a performative and communal experience; those same qualities now characterize encounters with multimedia and Web technology. Similarly, technology and technological media will never supplant literary texts in English departments, but they can enhance the ways in which students understand and approach those texts”. I love to read these connections between “Old World” and “New World”. It makes me feel better to read that the Internet might not be ruining the world, but actually mimicking pre-existing cultural norms. The belief is that technology can enhance student understanding of text. To enhance is not to replace, but to improve. Again, this is good teaching: how do we do it?
            In the spirit of debate, there exists a completely opposing argument in this weeks’ readings by Edward Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale. I include his background, because upon reading the essay, my first thought was “Who is this guy?” and upon realizing he seems to have the background to make such statements, I read it again. His argument is clear through the title of his essay “PowerPoint is Evil”.  He writes: “The practical conclusions are clear. PowerPoint is a competent slide manager and projector. But rather than supplementing a presentation, it has become a substitute for it. Such misuse ignores the most important rule of speaking: Respect your audience”. Tufte succinctly creates our discussion: yes, PowerPoint can enhance (or supplement) a presentation, but too often it is becoming the substitute for a presentation. Something (What?) is lost through the use of the slide manager, and not much is gained according to Tufte.

We need to determine where our opinions lie, and how we can incorporate a potentially helpful technological tool into our classrooms, without being lazy. My questions for the readings are:

1.     How do we create successful presentations that incorporate PowerPoint, but do not act as a substitute for our lesson? How do we ensure that our slides are not simply “pedagogical parsley”?
2.      Tufte argues we need to show respect for our audience. How is this done? What do our students want (need) from us in regards to a lesson or presentation?
3.     How do we discern “good teaching” from “good classroom management”? Often times, a class will sit quietly and take notes while listening to a PowerPoint presentation. This is easy, and totally frightening. How do we know our lesson is actually “good”, and not easy to sit through because we talk spiritedly about a subject we love?
4.      What are your experiences with PowerPoint? Am I wrong to assume that these experiences have influenced our use of it? How do we use PowerPoint in our lives?  Where do we see the future of PowerPoint heading?
5.     What is the “Something” that Tufte argues is lost through the use of PowerPoint?

Christine Tardy’s article discusses a Peter Norvig PowerPoint on the Gettysburg Address. I’ve included this link here, and a YouTube video with Jeff Daniels reading Lincoln’s speech…Enjoy.                                                              


  1. It seems as if Tufte is resistant to the form the products of digital academic endeavors take on because we are reconstructing the world through blurbs and tag lines rather than full prose. And I wonder if he’s right. Is a PowerPoint presentation a formal-enough act of composition that can stand on its on as an academic project?
    Tufte’s concern about whether or not PowerPoint is used as a supplement rather than a substitute for a formal project is valid. Even Perry’s five benefits of assigning a PowerPoint--“learn how to conduct research, start a research project sooner, hones presentation and public speaking skills, improve cooperative learning skills, enhancing computer and technology skills”--has nothing to do with what happens when we actually write a full-on research project (Perry 65). It helps the before and the after the fact. And this may be good, surely good. But can it be a replacement to formal composition? Not that Perry suggests it should be the lone product of a research project, but what he finds important does not address Tufte’s infelicities.
    Still, as I embark upon this course’s last hands-on activity, the PowerPoint presentation, and the final project, I realize I am not composing in the traditional academic sense. Yet, I am treating the assignment seriously. I feel as though I am doing the work I would do to produce a more formal product. Formal “written” product that is. A PowerPoint presentation is a formal classroom activity. And I feel my PowerPoint presentation will cover academic-worthy material. And isn’t that the point, to research a topic and then articulate this research in a formal way?
    Not to mention, a large part of this activity relies on discussion. Which I think Tufte over looks. Though text presented in a typical PowerPoint presentation may promote only “15 seconds of silent reading,” there are many more minutes filled in with talking (Tufte 2). Because a PowerPoint may limit the amount of physical text produced, it does not mean that an abundance of knowledge had not been absorbed in the process of creating one. And it should be no indication that students will not be able to articulate this knowledge because they have not formally written out what they know.
    Perhaps for an undergraduate class, the PowerPoint as a supplement assignment seems right. For us, students with more experience, our final project seems appropriate, and for me, stimulating. I can spend more time developing the final tool than writing out the rationale and analytical component that might accompany a project like this. But again, is this a good thing? Are we skipping something in the process? So far it doesn’t feel that way. I’m just spending more time doing the thing (a WebQuest by the way) than writing about doing the thing.

  2. Kellie – thanks for presenting both sides of this debate. Even still – after reading the articles and thinking about my response to your post, I’m not sure which side I’m on. Hmmmm.

    I find myself agreeing with Alan Perry, yet in my almost seven semesters of teaching English I’ve never used PowerPoint (PPT) slides, nor have I ever come close to including them in my lessons. Huh. I do think his inclusion and the results of the students’ PPT worked well, but I’m still not sure I’d assign one in the same way. Here I keep wondering – “well, why not?” I think maybe because I’ve been focused on sticking to the “writing intensive” requirement of the courses I teach – to me, a PPT isn’t really “writing intensive.” Not to say the brainstorming and organization pieces aren’t worthwhile because I certainly think they are, but at the same time I feel like I owe it to my students (and my department) to get them to write about new knowledge and in new ways as much as possible. The homework I gave my students in replacement of my cancelling class on Tue 11/22 included asking them to write a letter to a friend or family member about the research project they’re working on. I gave them guidelines and even said that if they were stuck on the project to write about why. I knew this might help students form a more concrete argument in the long run (essentially to write/brainstorm about their project before writing their papers)…and perhaps get to have some fun sharing their findings. I would never assign them a PPT for this piece of the project…it seems like a cop-out. BUT – I don’t find myself strongly disagreeing with Perry. I just might not do what he did. Maybe it would be different for a literature analysis type class like his; mine is more the “writing about literature” side so I stick to assigning writing.

    I do think teachers can use PowerPoint in a non-parsley, non-dessert kind of way – I found these statements somewhat extreme. I’m sure I could adapt the handouts I make into 2-3 slide PPT presentations and teach my lessons in the same manner. (Anyone could.) And actually…I might save paper doing it. I think PPT slides are great for facilitating discussions with larger groups where are series of questions can be projected for all to see. I’ve been to many conferences where this is common practice and hugely successful (and encouraged). In fact, this might be the only time I’ve used PPT myself – to facilitate discussion sessions at conferences. In talking about research I did with my colleague, just speaking at the crowd wouldn’t cut it – PPT is almost a necessity for projecting study results. This same approach, I figure, could definitely work in the classroom. Unlike Perry, though, I might assign a final PPT presentation to be due at the same time a final paper is due, not three weeks before.

    In the end, I don’t mind PowerPoint and what the platform is capable of (the “slide projector” capabilities), but like Tufte I agree that “[i]f your words or images are not on point, making them dance in color won’t make them relevant.” This point hits the nail on the head. The presentations have to strengthen the message, not become the sole act of delivery. I can’t think of any of my instructors in college that used PowerPoint, nor many of my other grad program’s instructors, nor have I seen PPT in a class this semester (except Sutherland’s talk, and for that I think the PPT was totally appropriate)…so I have to wonder…Do we ‘need’ PPT slides in the classroom at all? I don’t think we do. With good teaching practices, they can have multiple uses and result in successful learning outcomes for students, sure, but are they needed? No. Perhaps on the undergraduate level where students are first getting their feet wet with public speaking presentations…they can be utterly helpful there, but I can’t think of too many other instances where education is better off with PPT than without it. I’d be interested in reading more studies about how master teachers are using PPT in their teaching methods, because I guess I’ve never experienced it.

  3. Kellie, great post! You did a great job posing both sides of this week's readings. You asked, How do we create successful presentations that incorporate PowerPoint, but do not act as a substitute for our lesson? How do we ensure that our slides are not simply “pedagogical parsley”? I agree with Lindy that the arguments seemed a bit extreme. I think that teachers can find a balance it just takes work. I agree that showing or reading off slides is boring and probably won't allow for optimal learning, which is why I think that teachers shouldn't use it as a visual aid to "copy" or reiterate exactly what they're saying in class. It should be images to go along with what the teacher is talking about, it should include other pieces of information or things that can be compared or contrasted to so students can see all aspects of the topic. I think the best way to balance using PowerPoint is to be interactive with it--ask questions in the slides and have students work in groups to answer, or make a few slides activities or "jobs" that students have to complete using the information they have just learned about. Perry provides a few great ways to ensure that it is not "pedagogical parsley" for instance, he gives surveys before the research, after the PP, and then after the research paper. He explains how a “second survey given after students had finished their presentations asked them to respond to statements concerning their enjoyment
    in making a PowerPoint presentation and what they learned as a result” gave him good feedback about PowerPoint (Perry 66). He also interviewed students and used class observations to figure out how beneficial PowerPoint is for their research.

    Going off this and answering another one of your questions—how do we discern “good teaching” from “good classroom management,” I think that asking students to comment or respond to a PowerPoint presentation would ensure that it isn’t pedagogical parsley. Using reflection assignments or even self-reflections in how it affected their learning of the topic could be useful in making sure that students are benefitting from the presentation. The only way to know if the lesson was actually “good” as you say is to ask students and see/hear their responses or work they’ve produced. So, I think a good way to start with this is by commenting or responding to the slides with activities, questions, or concerns and let students work it out with each other. I think with everything else we’ve discussed this semester in our class, it’s a balancing act. I think PowerPoint can be very beneficial if it is implemented well and in a way that includes students into the presentation.

  4. Kellie, this is a great post, and definitely drubs out something I call "My damn hate for creating a Power Point." It's been an OmniPresent something throughout my collegiate years, and has followed me into my nascent teaching experiences.

    I can best begin to discuss my experience with Power Points and teaching through my only active teaching which was as a lecture leader last year in my assistantship. How did I use them? I didn't. At the time I didn't use them for all the reasons as delineated in our readings. I found them to be discussion killers, an accoutrement and nothing too serious.

    However as I reflected upon my teaching in this lectures, I've begun to think that they would be useful. The great irony being that I've found them useful as a supplement, and not as a wholesale stand-alone entity.

    There were times when I found that it would have been useful to define terms explicitly in front of the whole classroom and worked for there. If I could have shown the definition of Expressionism, or visually separated Expressionism from Impressionism in a solid table for everyone to wrangle with, I think it would have been worthwhile. It would have been something more tangible than throwing it to the wind in simply discussion.

    What's missing from Power Point? (PowerPoint?) I would argue that what is missing is discussion. But what I feel is important is that this component is only missing if the instructor doesn't take the initiative to use the slides as a means to raise provocative questions. The PPT can interact with the classroom through the guidance of the professor.

    I agree that simply using a PowerPoint (Power Point?) to teach something is dull. Way dull. I disagree that it can't be used meaningfully as a supplement. As though it's a dirty word, as though it is a horror to compliment in-classroom discussion with something more concrete.

    I don't see the need for a clean Black and White stance. As I've thought this through, I've come to appreciate their usefulness. Just because my initial experience with PPTs (Power Points? PowerPoint?) was sitting eyes glazed as a professor read off of them, doesn't mean that's the only method they can be employed.

    Per usual, and not only sexy enough for emphatic academic debates, I think the answer to the riddle lies in the gray area.

  5. Thanks, Kellie, for addressing both sides of the PowerPoint debate. As all of you have suggested so far, there is a middle ground for this tool. Tufte is responding to teachers, mostly those outside of the humanities, who have relied on PPT as a teaching crutch, relentlessly churning out slides for lectures. In this sense "PowerPoint is Evil," or more accurately this is how the use of PPT can be evil. Unfortunately, I think many instructors use PPT because they don't think of instruction beyond the lecture mode, in the Freirean "banking" sense. This is a very bad thing, I hope we all agree.

    That said, I have come to appreciate PowerPoint for two particular uses:
    1. Outlining an argument. Here I agree with Perry's implication that the sequence required by PPT forces creators to make sure they have a logical and coherent argument. I have written conference papers that I thought were finished, but after trying to create a PowerPoint to supplement the paper I realized I had some serious gaps in my thinking.
    2. Visual argument. As Williams has suggested, for many of us who work in preprint cultures, the visual has a particular importance. I've often found that I cannot fully make my argument without recourse to images and PPT provides a vehicle for this. In this case, the PPT is not just a supplement. It is an integral part of the argument. So I guess I would challenge the notion that PPT is only a supplement or a "slide projector."

    Any others willing to defy death by PowerPoint? For more on this, see

  6. I think a big problem with Power Point is that teachers and students alike do not know how to use it correctly. A PP presentation is never meant to hold all the information that will be shared, but is rather to act as a guide both for the instructor and the student. I’m sure many of you, like myself, have sat through presentations where the presenter merely reads off the slides. The entire time, you are probably thinking, “I’m in college. I can read.” Teachers are not exempt from this behavior either, as I’m sure others of you have experienced the teacher who provides slides that were written so long ago, that the instructor no longer needs to looks at them, but merely drones on for an hour reciting the same words he has for the past 10 years. If the presenter weren’t there, the PP would still communicate the same information. This is when PP becomes the substitute.

    For some reason we have this general idea that a ‘good’ presentation will make use of PP. Therefore students/ instructors will cram in visuals and other multimedia just to ‘look’ like they have something to say. Many instructors/speakers/presenters are capable of carrying on meaningful discussions or lectures without the use of PP. Other times having a visual or referencing a pre-made diagram can be helpful. But when PP is used just for the sake of using it, that’s when the audience is being ‘disrespected’. We are dazzled with colors, images and bold text all to tell us nothing.

    I actually believe that PP has made some instructors/presenters lazy. When people are asked to give the same presentation or teach the same class over and over it is easy to just make slides once and then use them repeatedly. The problem is that the instructor/presenter eventually goes on autopilot. As a student/audience presentations like this become really hard to listen to. If the information isn’t even interesting to the person talking then how will it be interesting to the people listening?

    The solution comes down to teaching public speaking skills along with PP. Teachers can’t just assign a presentation without doing a few mini lessons on what is acceptable presenter etiquette, how to use slides appropriately, how to engage the audience, etc. We must also make it clear that flashy presentations are not always good presentations. If the content is not there, then no amount of media will fix that. PP is meant to accent the work, not take its place. Once we do this, I feel some of these problems will hopefully work their way out.

  7. Kellie, I like how you displayed both the pros and cons of using PowerPoint. Similar to Tufte, who suggests that PowerPoint merely lets speakers “outline their talk” (1), I use to believe that I was required to use PowerPoint in my classes as a way to aid what I would say and a way to guide my presentation for my viewers. While in high school and as an undergrad, I created my PowerPoint presentation after completing the essay and even though I put thought into the fonts, color, and graphics, I did not think of it as a way to expand or offer a new insight into my field of study.

    This week’s readings came at a great time because today I introduced the ABC book project to conclude our reading of The Secret Life of Bees. My students will be required to create a page for each letter of the alphabet that offers an important word/idea from the text that is accompanied by a quote, graphic, and explanation. While explaining the project to my students and going on to describe how they will be assessed, the student, who I mentioned in last week’s post (the one who does not like to write but is eager about working in the computer lab on our wikispaces), asked, “Can we user PowerPoint for this project?” Even though I advocate the use of technology in my classroom, he caught me by surprise because I envisioned a finished product that was in a hard copy, printed book form. I quickly said “yes” to him, knowing that him, and other students like him, would be more likely to complete this assignment if they were able to use a mode of writing that they felt comfortable with. I hope that on the due date, I receive more projects than I have in the past like Tardy described from his experiences.

    Kellie, in response to your question, “How do we create successful presentations that incorporate PowerPoint, but do not act as a substitute for our lesson?,” I think that the use of PowerPoint will vary given the type of project. For my ABC book, using PowerPoint would not lessen or substitute for all the requirements that I expect my students to have in a hard copy of the book. In fact, I believe that PowerPoint could be used to add to what this assignment requires. My students could include links to the words that direct viewers to dictionary definitions and allow them to analyze how connotation and denotation varies. Williams, in her article, “Multimedia Learning Gets Medieval,” discusses the benefits of technological presentations, stating that they “create a learning experience that is closer to interactive performance than to passive reception—a ‘quick’ book rather than a ‘dead’ one” (78). In thinking about my ABC project, I can envision the presentation of our PowerPoint books as being more interactive and inclusive for students, especially if I can allow my students to view one another’s book in the computer lab and navigate the links on their own. I still value the traditional hard copy project and love to have copies to display in my classroom, but when it comes to sharing with the class, it is hard for the whole class to visualize, causing some students to lose focus and get distracted.

  8. Kellie, everyone has already said what a great job you’ve done in presenting the arguments present in our readings. I couldn’t agree more! I also couldn’t agree more with the presence of audience in mind when creating Power Point presentations. I’ve been both the student groaning and the teacher begroaned. Sometimes a Power Point presentation is the most effective means of conveying information. In recent years, I’ve used Power Point in place of paper handouts. Our school boasts a green energy commitment, so at times, paper resources are limited, especially in the Spring. Needless to say, this engages a lot of my visual learners. If there are notes to be taken, I usually have students write them by hand. The individual slide handouts seem to universally bore all humanity. Afterall, Bill Gates wasn’t keeping educators in mind when creating Power Point. It’s a corporate application that gets over used in education. Bill Gates saves all his great educational ideas for charter schools that reject underperforming students. Yet at the same time, Power Point provides a great opportunity for other activities…such as review Jeopardy! Many a student rejoices at the interactive nature of Jeopardy, and Power Point makes it very easy to create these on your own. It’s one of the few opportunities I have for making a game out of literature and using technology at the same time.

    At the heart of the argument lies the truth about Microsoft. Their programs typically aren’t geared towards students. Even Microsoft Word has made it increasingly difficult to write using a proper MLA format. It takes me a few boring walk throughs in order to get students to learn how to change the format to MLA. Even as I write this response on Microsoft Word, I can see how far removed this writing seems from the format of most academic writing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we can only judge the fruit by the tree. Power Point is just a Microsoft product. Like any new piece of technology, teachers and students are probably last on the list of beta testers. Of course, I’m assuming this based on my own interactions with teaching students. As stated previously, we need to use thoughtful consideration before blindly barreling down the path of technology in education.

  9. I should probably disclose that a few years ago, I used PowerPoint to ask a gentleman to be my boyfriend. I was pretty proud of the 10 slides where I poured my heart out. So my love of PowerPoint runs deep.

    Melody made my point already, that the issue with PowerPoint is the -misuse- of the program. Not only are people dumping the entire content of their presentation into slides, they are not considering their audience. Like Jansen says in the Shakespeak video, it's about interaction.

    Speaking of interaction, I think we're talking about a program that can engage our listeners on an auditory and visual level while they study English. Remember the short videos we made back in September? The ones that had music were very powerful, even if the content was similar to other videos. Sometimes sound and sight are more accessible than words, at least at first.

    So why do we have to use PowerPoint like my boring undergrad professors did?
    Why do the slides have to be in order? Why can't you use PowerPoint as a catalogue for visual aids? Look at how attractive, striking, and educational the Visual Milton PowerPoint is... I couldn't help but stay engaged in the content.

    Also, wouldn't a "close reading" be easier for a student with less text, in giant font, projected in the front of the room. I've noticed in my TA class that students speak far less in class when they each have their own individual copies of the text, rather than when I'm pointing to it in the front of the room. I don't know why that is, but it's been my experience.

  10. In my "American Society Today" class a couple of semesters ago, we were required to present one important topic via PPT. At first, I thought, "Oh no, PPT again...," as I had experienced some depressingly boring PPPs, especially in High School. But our professor encouraged us to create interesting, dynamic, interaction-based PPPs, so students would not fall asleep. He actually went first, working as sort of an "ideal" example. We all made sure we included discussion, even during the presentations, allowed critical voices, included video clips, pictures, clearly structured tables, etc.

    So I agree with what some of the comments before have already pointed out: one of the keys is interaction. But I think this should be clear. Giving a presentation, even without PPT, one would never exclude or forbid discussion or questions. Why would you using PPT?

    What we all should bear in mind talking about and using PPT as a means of teaching and learning is that we should keep the PPPs rather simple and rare. Teacher-centered teaching is important from time to time, but it should not be the general way of teaching.

    Agreeing to what Melody said, PPT brings with it, among others, one big opportunity for students. They can improve their speaking and presentation skills, and they can learn how to pace themselves.

    I think an important aspect of "respecting your audience" is to think of what you would like to see/hear/talk about/be able to do during a PPP. I, personally, would like to be able to ask questions, be confronted with different types of media, i. e. graphics, text, video clips, pictures, etc.

  11. How do we create successful presentations that incorporate PowerPoint, but do not act as a substitute for our lesson? How do we ensure that our slides are not simply “pedagogical parsley”?

    The most successful way to present a Power Point for a literature class is when you have facts to present to the class. It's especially beneficial when you're introducing a book that is steeped in an historical background or when you're teaching a survey class that bases its course description on moving through the 19th century for example (transcendentalism, romanticism, modernism, etc.). The foolproof way not to have "pedagogical parsley" in your Power Point slides is to ensure that whatever you're presenting has purpose. It's crucial not to create a Power Point, just because you think that's what you're supposed to do.

    Tufte argues we need to show respect for our audience. How is this done? What do our students want (need) from us in regards to a lesson or presentation?

    I think this question is subjective from teacher to teacher, but in my opinion, the best way to be respectful of your audience is to realize that not everyone is as engaged or excited about the topic you're teaching about as you are. The best way to respect your audience is to be honest with them, especially at the high school or early college level when you're likely to have kids fulfilling graduation requirements. Students need to know that no topic is insurmountable.

  12. Kellie, great post! For my own experience with PowerPoint, outside of the English discipline I've seen countless PowerPoint presentations, each more forgettable than the last. Most of the time the instructor would just stand at the front of the class and read off the screen. But I've only had one English professor actually use it in the classroom. I had this professor several times and I saw the same PowerPoint presentation a couple of times! However, she used the presentation in order to give a lot of background information in a short period of time. She would do this at the beginning of the semester or beginning of a unit so that students would have a starting point in terms of the necessary historical/political/economic background information required to engage with the text. The PowerPoint presentations were sort of a jumping off point--a way to encourage students to do further research. The presentations were usually accompanied by the professor explaining why the information was important and she always encouraged us to add any information we might already know. Yet, I always felt like these were the "easy" days in class--the days when I could go on autopilot and did not really need to pay attention, so perhaps there could have been more engagement on the part of the students.

    I think PowerPoint presentations are useful because they allow the instructor to give a lot of information quickly, and I think like Ian said it is often useful to be able to define terms for discussion. At the same time, I agree that it is when PowerPoint stands in for the instructor/or class engagement that it becomes problematic. I also agree with Alex about the value of the visual element that PowerPoint allows. I can imagine teaching ekphrasis poetry and how almost necessary PowerPoint would be in order to connect the text to the visual element. I guess I agree that when used correctly PowerPoint is a really great tool, as long as the instructor does not use it in place of engaging students.

  13. You raise a lot of interesting questions, Kellie. My own experience with Power Point has certainly been diverse—from the overuse by, in my opinion, lazy professors as an undergrad, to the development of my own Power Point presentations for classes that have ranged from economics to Shakespeare, I have both loved and hated the idea of Power Point presentations. I think that if we are going to teach, create, and experience Power Point, we have to deeply consider that the use of Power Point is to not only provide a presentation, but to also give a performance. Williams makes this point about how we encounter PowerPoint as a “performative and a communal experience,” but I think this can only be accomplished by first presenting, or as Tufte would conclude--projecting relevant and accurate material that only acts as a foundation for the performance of the presentation itself. What I mean is that, a PowerPoint is meaningless without the performance aspect of a presentation. To me, this is quite like the experience of an interview process. You first supply the interviewer with a projection—facts, experiences, etc. that elicits a kind of image—this would be the resume; in a Power Point—the resume would be the slides. However, how often would a candidate be hired based on a resume alone? This is where the performance comes in—the communal experience. Much like the experience of the Digital story, the interviewee/narrator/presenter/performer needs to interact with these images in order to elicit the audience to establish a more in-depth and meaningful experience of what is being presented. I think that regardless of the subject or even if the audience is not interested in the subject, a PowerPoint, when constructed effectively, should work to critically engage any audience member. To teach the construction of a PowerPoint would then mean to teach the power of rhetoric and performance.

  14. Kellie,

    I think you raise a lot of good questions. Before reading the articles for this week I didn't think there was a separation between presenting with a power point, and presenting a power point. As I thought about it I realized that there is a difference. You ask the question of how to use a power point effectively, as a supplement rather than a replacement of a presentation., and my answer would be that there needs to be a balance. People do tend to cram a power point with information (similar to cramming a notecard / paper with information), because there's a fear that the information is insufficient. The only difference between the power point and notecard is one is visible for everyone while the other one isn't. Personally, I don't like to heavily rely on notecards/paper when I present because I was taught that they should act like reminders, not dominate the presentation. I like to make eye contact and speak to the audience rather than read from paper or the slides. If you have a power point/notecards, the information should be listed in words and short sentences, not paragraphs. The presenter should also refrain from reading the slides the whole time. Some slides should include images, instead of words, for the presenter to elaborate. I sort of agree with Tufte in the sense that power points can warp into a presentation on it's own, without the presenter contributing much to the presentation in the way it's expected.


MOOCS: A Problematic Solution to the Disinvestment in Public Higher Education

I agree wholeheartedly with Bady’s cynicism of the speed, inevitability, and necessity of the MOOC movement. From 2011-2015 I direct...