Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Students and PowerPoint

I teach a High School survey class called Multimedia. It's main purpose is to get our incoming classes up to speed on some of the programs and equipment available to them in our building. I try to create a curriculum that is oriented towards helping my students succeed in their other classes and to this end I like to ask the rest of the staff what skills they would like to see me reinforce. In a recent request for this information from teachers, the two main items listed were creating better PowerPoint slides and citing web resources.

The PowerPoint slide issue was by far the bigger concern. It isn't that the kids don't know how to make a presentation. They have the technical side down. It's that their slides are cluttered. They have too many bullet points. Text is hard or impossible to read. Graphics are blurry or pixelated.

I must add that they have learned a lot of this by watching us. Us teachers, that is. We are guilty of the same things. I have been to more than one staff meeting in the past 10 years that have demonstrated one if not all of the above bad design points. (I've made a few myself.)

How many times have you been to a presentation where the presenter says, "I know this is hard to read but...." or "I know that there is a lot of information on this slide but..." I don't know how to get the point of good design vs bad design across to teachers but I am working on a new unit for my students. I want to narrow it down to just 2 or 3 main principals they should follow in their design process for a PowerPoint slide. Possibly:
1. Font size
2. If you are going to read it to me don't put it on screen!
3. If you think its important that I see your picture. Make sure I can see it

It's rough. I'm still thinking about it. Any suggestions from you other teacher types out there? If you had to give your students just one recommendation for creating a good PowerPoint slide, what would it be?

[Image: "bored & tired": Flickr: Uploaded on January 3, 2008 by jakub_hla: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jakub_hlavaty/2163782581/]

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