It’s the fashion nowadays to talk of “Death by PowerPoint”, conjuring up images of boring meetings presided over by David Brent lookalikes droning on in front of slides containing management jargon and statistics - but this week I’m going to stick up for this much-maligned resource.
Remember the old days – hours spent writing notes on a board with your back turned whilst mayhem took place behind you? Board pens running out at inopportune moments and having to rub out vital parts to fit everything on the same board? Scribbled lesson plans on a desk to remind what to do next and old boards that no longer rub out cleanly? No longer!
When explaining complex ideas, such as the chemical reactions involved in the blast furnace or how a transformer works, you can use a step by step, slide by slide approach. You can easily go backwards and forwards between slides as students ask questions or points need clarifying. You can also make your PowerPoints available to students via the school website or your own wikispaces page so that they can use them for study or to produce their own edited versions at home.
If you have the whole lesson (including instructions for activities etc.) on the presentation it also makes it much easier to evaluate the lesson afterwards and make changes for next time whilst they’re fresh in your mind – my PowerPoint is in effect my lesson plan. I have all the courses I teach PowerPointed in my own style (complete with my running joke about my hatred of dogs – lots of dogs being shot from canons or falling from tall buildings!) which I update as I discover new teaching ideas and resources.
Without a doubt my greatest love (after Mrs Porter and Nottingham Forest of course) is Google images. Take any topic/word and put “funny’ or “cartoon” or “amazing” after it in Google image search and you’ll get a memorable image to use in the lesson; often one that will provoke discussion that can be used as a starting point for your teaching. I’ve just recently got into moving images so if you type “gif” as well you’ll get some animated diagrams too. Try this with “Refraction funny” and see what you get!
For classes higher up the school I often print key slides out for students to use as a basis for their notes. This means students can focus on your activities or ask questions whilst adding additional notes to the ones you’ve given. I have found this has saved me hours of valuable time at A/IB level. I don’t use a background for my slides, just simple black on white, making them very clear when printed. I also never use fancy transitions and fly-ins as these slow the pace down and do NOT make the presentation more interesting. I sometimes also put a whole topic on loop and students mind-map the topic as the slides change; it normally takes 3 or 4 complete loops of the show for the students to complete this task, depending on the length of the topic.
So properly and imaginatively used PowerPoint is a powerful tool in our armoury – stick up for PowerPoint!
Simon Porter loves his wife and Nottingham Forest (in that order), and works for premium international schools operator Nord Anglia education.