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Avoiding Death By PowerPoint - Some Practical Ways to Get More from Your Slides

Ruth Tarrant

29th September 2020

PowerPoint doesn't have to be deathly - for those presenting and watching!

"Death by Powerpoint" is a slow, painful death that many teachers and students are exposed to on a daily basis.

Slides can, however, be incredibly powerful and there are increasingly imaginative ways to use them.

Some old-school advice for traditional slides

Whether you use PowerPoint or Google Slides or some other alternative, there are some golden rules to follow:

  • use simple, clean fonts that can be easily read at the back of the classroom - white font on a dark background is very difficult to read from more than about 5m away
  • provide essential content only - try the 5 x 5 rule of no more than 5 points, each with 5 words or fewer
  • don't write all the words on the slide that you might actually want to say! You can always write yourself additional notes as a reminder
  • put thoughtful, helpful headers on each slide
  • remember - white space is important!
  • think about the slides as enhancing your presentation, not being your presentation

Some snazzy technologically-enhanced improvements

A number of educational institutions have explored how PowerPoints / Google Slides / other alternatives can be used more effectively in the new online / blended / hybrid environment.

Two tools that seem to lend themselves to this are Nearpod and PearDeck.

Both of these tools have free and premium versions. Both allow you to use your existing slides, or even videos, (a BIG win, especially with the additional time-heavy challenges for teachers right now) and enhance them with features such as quizzes / tests / game-based features as well as collaborative features such as mindmapping.

Basic, free versions allow limited quiz features, but the premium versions allow students to provide audio responses too.

To my mind, the free versions look more than adequate for the majority of lessons you might want to teach, although the premium versions also allow teachers to download reports to assess student learning and identify strong/weak spots, and "takeaway" reports that students can access.

There are some good comparisons of the two tools, with a bit more techie-insight than I can manage, here and here.

Ruth Tarrant

Ruth has been Subject Lead in Economics at tutor2u for many years after a career of teaching Economics, Business, Politics and Maths in a range of secondary schools. She is a highly experienced A level Economics Examiner, and also teaches undergraduate Economics on a very part-time basis at the University of Oxford. Ruth is passionate about making economics fun, engaging and accessible.

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