Monday, May 7, 2007

Powerpoint: Should you use it?

This month's ASTD Learning Circuits Big Question is on when PowerPoint is the appropriate tool for teaching or in the case of this blog.. leading? There are scores of opinions on this.. Tony did a quick scan on his blog and listed numerous links to opinion on PowerPoint and it's use. And while, Learning Circuits poses some very good questions, I would like to take the dialog in a different direction. Here are five principles that we should take into account when evaluation PowerPoint as a tool?

  • Quality Instruction is active, engaging, and consists of more than a one-way communication stream. Adult Learning 101. There are lots of other aspects of the art of instruction that we should be spending time on other than PowerPoint.
  • Good Instruction is contextual requiring visuals to adapt to the situation. For example, presenting to 4 people over coffee is quite different than a keynote to 7000. Likewise, we know from research on stress that we all loose a few brain cells when we are upset. The ole 7 bullets a slide may not work in all cases!
  • Human beings learn in very different ways! Learning style needs of learners require that our presentations address a spectrum of needs in a normal audience. We know visuals are only one aspect of this and any programmed way of presenting will have learning styles it will match with and those it will be less likely to match.
  • Tools that gloss over one's shortcomings are favorites of the weakest performers. Poor performers will often seek out tools to help overcome their shortcomings. PowerPoint is no different than other quick fix tools that often become the solution for an instructor who is not prepared for a teaching obligation.
  • Powerpoint is neither the cause of nor the reason for good or bad instruction. Bad teaching is bad teaching.. bad leading is bad leading. (don't blame the robbery on the gun.. it is the human behind the gun)
I know that fourth principle may raise some questions in your mind. It is counter intuitive, much like when my 8 year old son will spend 2 hours protesting a chore that would have taken 5 minutes to do. Add any priniciples you think of to the comments section. Feel free to point out where I have gone too far...

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