Here are some ideas for rehabilitating Powerpoint as part of a class built around active learning.
Note: I’m using the term PowerPoint here (rather unfairly, sorry Microsoft) as shorthand for any presentation tool. These tips apply equally to Keynote or Google Slides.
Avoid PowerPoint Karaoke
Use your slidedeck as an illustration, not as a substitute for a teleprompter. An image that appears just at the right time to reinforce a point, to be the punchline of a joke, or to introduce a new topic, can have a big impact. Instead of bullet points, try using one picture and telling a story around it. If you feel like you need the text to follow for your own peace of mind, include this in the speaker notes instead of on the slides themselves.
The art of the pause
Put your lecture on hold and get students to interact and discuss points with their neighbour or group. Leave your question for discussion or provocation up on the slide. Vandberbilt University’s guide to active learning recommends pausing ‘for two minutes every 12 to 18 minutes, encouraging students to discuss and rework notes in pairs.’ The guide cites evidence that this actually increases learning compared to ‘passive’ lectures.
Try a mini lecture or lectorial
Keep your PowerPoint talks to short bursts within a class, and intersperse them with different active learning activities. For instance, get students discussing a key provocation from your mini-talk and reporting back. Use the slide deck as an illustration of your mini lecture, rather than the centrepiece (what you’ve got to say is the centrepiece).
PowerPoint slides can be a great way of showing your audience the structure of your session, and giving them an idea (or signpost) of where you’re up to, so they don’t get lost or switch off. You could also pop in a slide to remind students of the learning outcomes for that day.
Make it interactive
Use your slide deck to ask poll questions, create a student-generated word cloud or list of FAQs. Try a quick Kahoot or a Zeetings. Put the focus on students collaborating, with your PowerPoint as the backdrop. For PowerPoint users, there’s a free add-on feature called Live Slides that allows you to embed and demo a live website from a slide.
Mix it up
Following the same pattern every time lulls students into the sense that they don’t need to pay attention. Even the TED Talk formula (lampooned in the video below) gets tired after a while.
‘Everybody knows that a presentation seems more legitimate than it actually is if there are slides.’
It’s also okay for your Powerpoint to show a bit of personality – although maybe read this before you start peppering your slides with memes.
Avoiding death by Powerpoint, Using Powerpoint by Danny Liu