Since Microsoft PowerPoint was released in 1990, it has been a key tool in many classroom ICT programs and businesses.

There seems to be a reoccurring theme in social media that “PowerPoint is dead”. PowerPoint has been the butt of many jokes including this infographic by SlideRocket. Wikipedia outlines a history of the “death by PowerPoint” criticism, which was first coined by Angela R. Garber in 2001.

I don’t think it’s fair to say PowerPoint is dead. Certainly, poorly used PowerPoint should be dead!

My beliefs on this topic are:

  • There is nothing wrong with the tool; it’s how it’s often used.
  • PowerPoint is a great tool to support presentations and also has other uses such as digital storytelling.
  • In a presentation, focus should be on the speaker and their story/information rather than the slides.
  • Text should be limited and images should be used extensively.
  • Tell rather than write the details of your message.
  • Design should be simple, clear and consistent.
There are definitely many great alternatives to PowerPoint which I like to use myself, but it’s important to remember that these tools can also be used poorly.

I recently read a great post by Silvia Tolisana (aka Langwitches) which had a lovely focus on storytelling. I was inspired by a lot of her advice and decided I needed to teach my grade four students how to use PowerPoint well.

My students were researching  a natural disaster with a classmate/s. Their task was to:

  • Research the natural disaster.
  • Create a model or representation of their natural disaster.
  • Create a PowerPoint to inform the audience about the disaster.
  • Present the PowerPoint using speaking notes, and present their model.

A task earlier in the year where the students were using PowerPoint demonstrated to me that they had developed some habits which could be improved upon. The students were more interested in adding sounds, animations and a rainbow of colours, rather than collecting well researched information which they could present to an audience.

My team teaching partner, Kelly Jordan, and I wanted our students to:

  • Begin by dividing their topic into sub categories and work out the overview of their presentation.
  • Research by using books and credible internet sources.
  • Use resources that they understand, put the information in their own words and include a reference section in their PowerPoint.
  • Create a PowerPoint that focusses on using text that was no more than titles/key words.
  • Source, attribute and use Creative Commons images.
  • Create speaking notes to support their presentation.
  • Engage and teach the audience by presenting their model of the natural disaster.
 

The results were very pleasing. The students enjoyed giving each other feedback and it was clear that every student had come along way since their earlier attempt at presenting with PowerPoint.

Here is just one example (of course it was the presentation that went with the PowerPoint that was most impressive):

There was a focus on oral language, and students had learnt new skills in regards to planning, researching, referencing, attribution, Creative Commons images etc. Hopefully these are skills which the students will use again in the future.

The children loved having the choice of who to work with, what topic to explore and how to create their models. The models were extremely creative and varied. There was everything from a volcano piñata to a electronic earthquake, cyclone in a bottle, tsumani storybook, bushfire diorama, exploding volcano and more.

This project was definitely a learning experience for both the students and the teachers. In my eyes, PowerPoint is not dead and is something I will continue to use in my classroom along with an assortment of other tools.

Do you use PowerPoint? How do you use it?

What advice do you give students about working with PowerPoint?