PowerPoint-Induced Trends in Higher Ed

eBay Time MachineIf you want to be a well respected blogger with a contingent of loyal followers, you need to be entertaining and relevant, and you also need to back up your posts with legitimate data and references. Taking my own advice, and not to be outdone by my peers, I decided to do some serious research for this post. I wanted to find proof that PowerPoint is the driving force behind a number of trends in higher education… trends that adversely affects a student’s ability to learn. So naturally, I bought a time machine on eBay, and traveled 50 years into the future to witness the results of these trends with my own eyes. What I saw was frightening, yet predictable. Here is an excerpt from my time travel journal:

March 6, 2063 ~ Textbooks are officially dead, and word on the street is that they were killed off systematically and without mercy by well-placed PowerPoint bullet points and stylish clip art. Student are building bonfires Ray Bradbury style. White board markers are outlawed in universities across the nation, and instructors are required to use government-issued PowerPoint templates and laser pointers when lecturing. I have been hiding out with a small contingent of outcasts who call themselves Citizens Against PowerPoint Abuse (CAPPA for short). They organize regular demonstrations against PowerPoint and advocate for a return to the good ‘ol days of group projects and learning games. In their eyes, the world is coming to end, and on the day of reckoning, it will look like this:

PowerPoint template slidesBut seriously folks [insert laugh track], it is 2013 and PowerPoint is already changing the way instructors teach and students learn. Some of these trends are good, but many are not. In this post, I’d like to highlight a few of the more prominent trends, and then pose a few ideas for reversing them… before it’s too late! Continue reading

How it all began

“Before there were presentations, there were conversations, which were a little like presentations but used fewer bullet points, and no one had to dim the lights.”

On the recommendation of a colleague, I read this great article, titled Absolute PowerPoint by Ian Parker of The New Yorker. It is about the history of PowerPoint and how it “edits our thoughts.” It’s fascinating to read about how it all began, including the perspectives of people that were directly involved in the tool’s evolution. It’s also fascinating, however, to read this 10-year-old article and think about how little has changed in the way we use the tool… but we’ll talk about that a bit later. In this post, I’d like to share some of the more interesting facts that I found about the history of PowerPoint!

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Unique slide backgrounds

We all want to create unique and engaging slideshows. However, we undermine this goal when we start the creation process by opening PowerPoint, and selecting a prepackaged design template as the basis for our entire presentation. These templates can stifle our creativity and often lead to typical (boring) presentations. Think back to the last few presentations that you attended… did any of the presenter’s slides use background designs and bullet point graphics that you have seen before?

With that being said, it can be intimidating to start a presentation with the “blank” template, especially if you’re new to the idea of presentation zen. As a compromise, consider starting with a simple, clean template, and then mixing in some different designs and backgrounds on a select number of slides. PowerPoint practically forces you to use the same template background on every slide, however, so you have to know the trick!

before and after PowerPoint slides

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