Presentation software has become a standard accompaniment to lectures in education. PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google presentations are easy to design, and pre-made presentations are easy to find on the Web. However, too many teachers use these tools ineffectively, with too much text, distracting special effects, and too many slides. Below are some tips to help you avoid these pitfalls.

Four Ways to Enhance Lectures with Presentations

  1. Use slides to present what is not possible with a chalkboard. Presentation software is great for displaying art, architecture, graphs, and maps. Many great presentations need nothing more than images and titles to reinforce the lecture or discussion in class.
  2. Use text as prompts. In general, keep the text on your slides to a minimum. We have been in both middle school and graduate classes where students dutifully copied every word on the screen to their notebooks verbatim. Those students can’t possibly listen to the conversation, probe their own thoughts, and practice being stenographers at the same time. Rather than putting all of your lecture notes on the screen, just put a few words that will help students follow the day’s conversation, perhaps supplemented with some new vocabulary or important dates.
  3. Use simple designs. For most presentations, consider using the default white screen/black text template. Spend your time working on teaching a great class rather than fussing too much with the design of your slides.
  4. Avoid fancy animations and graphics. Before you have that image zoom in with a curly-q pattern from the bottom of the screen, think to yourself: is this really going to help anyone learn? The occasional funny sound or gimmick might wake up some dozing heads, but these quickly devolve from novelty to distraction.

Our Teaching History with Technology web site has more information on creating multimedia presentations.