MET:Using PowerPoint As a Tool in the Classroom

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Kristie Dewald (for stop-motion animation - section 65A)

Authored by Teraza Real 2014

PowerPoint refers specifically to using a Microsoft Office Program , which enables a person to create slide based presentations. PowerPoint can be used as a tool for teachers to create visually content rich presentations with multimedia.


Developed by Microsoft, PowerPoint is a Microsoft Office Program. The purpose of this program is to make electronic slide shows. 1.25 million PowerPoint presentations take place every hour [1]. One study has found that 97% of visual aids in organizations today use presentation software [2]. Some say, that PowerPoint is "nearly unavoidable" [3] Such software is now one of the "most prevalent types of technology being used in the classroom" (Atkins-Sayre, Hopkins, Mohundro, & Sayre, 1998)[4] However, there is a backlash movement and not all researchers are sure of the benefits of PowerPoint. One prominent critic is professor Edward Tufte. PowerPoint can have educators better consider theories and applications such as constructivism, e-learning, cognitive theory and memory.


PowerPoint was launched May 22, 1990 and was part of Microsoft Office Suite. The original name for the program was to be called "Presenter". Prior to 1997, all PowerPoints were linear. PowerPoint '97 incorporated the ability to make non-linear transitions without users having to learn programming [5]


PowerPoint presentations consists of "slides" or pages. On each slide a user can place text, graphics, movies, sound or other types of multimedia. The presentations can be printed or viewed on a computer. The computer can transmit the information to an overhead projector, Smart board or online webcasting programs, such as Elluminate Live.

File:Computer projector.JPG
Computer Projector

Uses in Education

PowerPoint for teachers

Teachers can use PowerPoint in many applications in their classroom. Teacher have a choice for how much or how little they would like to apply this technology to their classrooms.

How teachers can use PowerPoint:

  • Notes and Lessons
  • Images
  • Daily routines
  • Classroom or student showcase
  • Meeting agendas
  • Videos and multimedia presentations
  • Graphs and charts
  • Audio

PowerPoint for students

PowerPoint can be used in the classroom in many ways. Students can learn how to use PowerPoint and apply their knowledge in many ways. When students learn PowerPoint they also gain valuable tech skills. [6]

How students can use PowerPoint:

  • Creative writing classes
  • Poetry
  • Visual interpretations
  • Presenting information to the class
  • Creating graphs
  • Creating instructions
  • Creating self quizzes
  • Creating games
  • Displaying student work
  • Slideshows of class events and activities
  • Problem Based Learning

Good PowerPoint design

Using PowerPoint effectively

When creating an effective PowerPoint presentation, plan your presentations like a story, with a beginning, middle and end. Create visuals on the slides that go along with what is being presented. Effective presentations do not have a lot of text, nor do they have flashing text and other annoyances. According to Isseks [7] there are some serious considerations one should make to insure their PowerPoint presentations are effective: remove many bullet points, don't waste time on fancy transitions and sound effects, most importantly keep the classroom lights on. Teaching students in the dark hurts learning.(Isseks, 2011).

Steps in creating an effective PowerPoint presentation

According to Penciner[8], these are the steps to an effective PowerPoint presentation:

1. Create three documents: speaker notes, a hand out and your slides. This will allow a presenter from putting too much information on a slide.
2. Use narration and relevant images.
3. Narration and images are better than narration and text.
4. Consider not to use bullets.
5. Limit the information on one slide.
6. Use interesting multimedia presentations but avoid excess.
7. Speak in a conversational manner.
8. Do not read slides.
9. Direct learners to important passages and events in your presentation.

Neurobiological considerations

Humans see and perceive things differently, but all humans each have a visual cortex. The visual cortex is the area of the brain that is responsible for integrating what we see. The visual cortex also plays a role in long term memory [9] There are two pathways known as the dorsal stream and the ventral stream. The dorsal stream is about the "where" and "how", it relates locations of objects and controls our eyes when reaching for an object. [9] The ventral stream is about "what" and is associated with object representation, form recognition and long term memory. It is important then to see that the things that PowerPoint does well: the "where and how" (parts of the dorsal stream) neglects access to the long term memory in the ventral stream. Therefore, it is important to recognize that PowerPoint can only be seen as an adjunct to good teaching and should not be the main focus of a lesson.


Three reasons to use PowerPoint

Class watching PowerPoint presentation

There are three reasons to consider when one needs to decide to use PowerPoint according to Peciner:[10]

1. Emphasis - By using single phrases and words a concept can be emphasized.
2. Augmentation - Graphs and tables that are well-designed to augment a presentation that narration alone cannot.
3. Multimedia learning - Engaging learners though employing multimedia. Picture superiority effect effect demonstrates recall is better when pictures and narration are demonstrated rather than either just picture or narration alone. [11]

Support for PowerPoint

PowerPoint is almost ubiquitous in the classroom of today. A large number of educators have and use PowerPoint in the USA. [12] College students have come to expect the use of computer slides in their studies and classes. [13]. In comparison to more traditional models of teaching, which usually include chalk boards, projectors and lecture; Powerpoint allows for more sensory stimulation. [14]The benefit to slide shows is that it can incorporate sounds, music file, video files, images, graphs, data, and generally appeals more to the human senses.

Dual coding & arousal

Dual coding theory and arousal are two theoretical concepts that are used to make the case for PowerPoint and other slide-show software in the classroom. Arousal is a concept in the study of motivation and emotion. Researchers have connected messages that convey a high sense of arousal with higher recall and closer paying attention. [15] Arousal theory shows a positive link between arousal and learning. [16] Emotionally arousing materials enhance learning and motivation which can have a positive effect on learning outcomes. PowerPoint should lead to more interesting classes, which increases arousal and therefore more learning occurs.

Dual coding theory suggests people have a preference for either verbal or visual systems. [17] A lot of pedagogical research has been done in learning styles. In this theory, students learn better from their preferential learning style. [18] Computer generated slides combine verbal with visual elements and therefore should appeal to a larger segment of learners than just one of its own. As Dils [19] suggests "Powerpoint presentations can effectively reach verbal, kinesthetic, and visual learning styles".


Evidence against PowerPoint

The same evidence that is used to support PowerPoint can be used as an argument against it. [20] Limited capacity models of information processing, explain how arousing messages can impede information processing. It is argued that placing computer-generated slides to lecture increases processing demands on the audience. [21] Research indicates that "messages that have arousing content require more cognitive capacity to process than messages that are relatively calm" [22] It is argued that an antagonistic relationship exists between humans' finite processing capacity and the arousing messages that consume the capacity. [23]

If computer-based slides tax students' information processing, there is a probability that students will process the less significant content at the expense of more significant content. Cognitive psychologists find that humans process visual and verbal messages differently (dual coding theory ), there are also key differences in how those types of messages are processed. Humans process visual information more readily than auditory information [24] This explains why student's can watch a PowerPoint presentation and say "I couldn't concentrate on what the speaker was saying"[25]

It is argued that this technology lowers the quality of teacher-student interaction. [26] Research has found that teacher immediacy, both verbal and nonverbal, is an effective strategy for instruction that increases cognitive and affective learning. Nonverbal acts like eye gaze, smiling, nodding, relaxed body posture and lean can all positively effect learning. [27]

Powerpoint backlash and Edward Tufte

In The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, Edward Tufte argues that PowerPoint is making us "stupid, degrading the quality and credibility of our communication, turning us into bores, wasting our colleagues' time". [28] Tufte argues that PowerPoint has a preoccupation with format and not content, described as "PowerPoint Phruff". Tufke especially targets the "auto content" wizard, along with another collegue Norvig:

AutoContent was added in the mid-nineties, when Microsoft learned some would-be presenters were uncomfortable with a blank PowerPoint page - it was hard to get started. "We said 'What we need is some automatic content!'" a former Microsoft developer recalls, laughing. "Punch the button and you have a presentation." The idea, he thought, was "crazy". And the name was meant as a joke. But Microsoft took the idea and kept the name - a rare example of a product named in outright mockery of its target customers. [29]

As well as qualms with AutoContent, PowerPoint is accused of causing us to "think in bullets". The use of bullets prevents students from creating schema. Tufke suggests that students are done reading a slide before the teacher even begins to talk. Bullets dilute thought. Bullets are typically too generic and leave critical relationships unspecified. Bullets can be useful in presentations but sentences with subjects and verbs are usually better. [28] Other costs of PowerPoint include: foreshortening of evidence and thought, low spatial resolution, a deeply hierarchical single-path structure, breaking up narrative and data into slides and fragments, rapid temporal sequencing of thin information, conspicuous decoration and Phruff. [28]

If one is on the fence with regards to the "down sizing of learning" with Powerpoint consider this example: instead of writing reports using sentences, students are learning to how use PowerPoint. A typical project will have 10-20 words, a piece of clip art on each slide and the project consists of 3-6 slides. This is a total of about 80 words, or 15 seconds of reading. [28]

Other presentation programs

The following is a list of other programs that also allow slide show creation:

   Apple Keynote
   Corel Presentations
   Google Docs (web-based)
   Harvard Graphics (obsolete)
   Hewlett Packard Bruno (software)
   IBM Lotus Freelance Graphics (obsolete)
   Kingsoft Presentation
   LibreOffice Impress (open source)

Authoring tools that support PowerPoint files



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