05 09 2014 powerpoint logo

Somewhere around the world right now, there is someone giving a PowerPoint presentation. The audience are either wondering why the presenter is reading text that they can quite easily read themselves, but at the same time is too small to even be on the slides, or they're writing down the objective and the outcome for that days lesson. All of them are wondering how many slides are left till they can go home. Acording to research, there are in fact 350 such presentations going on this very second! Why?

The History

Everyone knows what it is. We've all used it. But how did PowerPoint get so popular? In 1990, Microsoft launched the presentation software for PC, which it had bought with the founding company, Forethought. It was originally intended for people who gave presentations to others:, like managers, professionals and salespeople. 26 years on "it has become the standard for anybody who wants to explain anything using a projector to anybody."

In 1990, this idea was quite revolutionary. It was launched at the same time as Windows 3.0. So not only were people not familiar with presenting without an Over Head Projector, most weren't even familiar with using a graphical user interface at all. Seeing the slides at that time would have made for a very effective presentation.

In 2016, it's not revolutionary anymore. It's now the norm. After 26 years of use, it has pretty much become a tradition! Want to present an idea? PowerPoint! Want to teach a lesson? PowerPoint! Want to propose to your wife? PowerPoint!


What's good?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that it's a terrible program. I think it's great, for lots of reasons, and I'm definitely not the only one. Dave Gray, one person who agrees with me here, mentions a few:

1.It's easy to learn;

2.Pretty much everyone has it, or a version of it (and it's now online);

3.It can be shared and converted to other formats pretty easily;

4.It's easier to digest information from powerpoint than say, a word document or spreadsheet;

5.Information is broken down and can be rearanged;

6.And for the advanced user, you can take your presenting to another level, or use it for something other than presenting. Something I've tweeted about, myself...




What's bad for education?

Despite these good points, there are so many people in so many areas and sectors that have an issue with it, the US Military being one. But my issue is with it's use in schools. I think it leads to laziness. It's used all the time, for everything, from worksheets, to presentations, to receiving student work. So what's wrong with that? Well, for starters, PowerPoint was not designed for that purpose. It wasn't intended as a teaching tool. There are better programs, apps and methods for teaching with. It seems, however, that we're so blinded by the PowerPoint axis of evil, that we don't try anything else.

Let's assume that the presentation creator has actually followed some PowerPoint presenting rules. The font is no smaller than 18pt, the presenter isn't just reading from the slides, and there isn't info packed into them that people can hardly make out. There are still so many other issues. For example, there is research that suggests that expecting people to read and listen to presentations at the same time, the basis of nearly every PowerPoint presentation, is not very effective. There are a few other studies, some of which state that there are no real learning benefit of using the software (study 1study 2,study 3).   

Most of the above issues can be solved by just using PowerPoint smarter and better, with more focus on learning. But few people will do that if they think that it "ain't broke".

Innovation is Key, and innovation is what's missing when a teacher automatically turns to PowerPoint for their lesson. Mostly because they're just doing what they always have been doing. Same old, same old. But there are so many other programs that can be used. I previously wrote an article on Prezi, and why it's good for teaching with. But you can use other things. At the bottom of that article, there were alternatives, and there are a few more just below this, which I will try and showcase in some future blog posts.


Alternative Methods

But like I've mentioned above, it's not just the software that's the issue. It's how we use it. So below are a few different ways of spicing up your teaching using technology:

1. Use Google Presentation instead of PowerPoint and share the presentation with your students. Don't present it, but allow students to figure it out themselves and follow through instructions and lesson outcomes.

2. Use a Google site, or a Weebly or another website, with all information placed on there with a video links, worksheet links, or links to Google Classroom, Edmodo, Schoology or whatever you use.

3. Create a screencast using camstudio or an alternative to show the students what they will be learning and how to go about it. It's amazing how much freedom you gain when the students are watching you teach compared to you showing it to them. This also gives them control and independence over their learning as they can replay it whenever they like, during the lesson or outside of the lesson.

4. Get rid of the presentation all together and just talk to the students, or show them directly what they are supposed to do. In an age where technology has become the norm, this is now a novelty.

5. Get students to create their own outcome for an objective you give them.


All of the above methods, I have tried myself, so can vouch for them. Of course, there are limitations with each, and they won't all work with every one of your students or classes. Some of the methods will favour more able students (number 5), where some, are perfect for students that need more support (number 3).



When PowerPoint was created, it was never intended to be used as a teaching tool in classrooms. However, it has become that. I think it's time we use software or teaching techniques that are more suited to the outcomes we want for our classrooms and our craft.


For more reading on this topic, check out the links below:

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