Back in the day when PowerPoint was new, it held a lot of promise for many teachers and students. No longer do teachers have to write visual aids by hand on paper options like Manila paper or create transparencies for projectors, they simply have to create presentations on their computers.
PowerPoint is easy to use and offers a lot of options, giving users many ways to make their presentations more colorful and more attractive to the viewers.
For teachers, this is certainly a great plus factor. Students seem more attentive because the PowerPoint presentations are colorful and could even have animations and sounds. With students appearing happy with this arrangement, teachers are happy, too.
But an education expert warns that as useful and attractive as PowerPoint might be from the viewpoint of educators and students alike, it can actually make students stupid! That’s a rather strong claim, but the education expert writing for The Conversation believes that universities and schools should ban PowerPoint entirely.
Easy Lectures, Stupid Students
The main purpose of a PowerPoint presentation is to create visual aids that puts the lecture into easy bullet points. The teacher is supposed to expound on these bullet points to explain more to the students, but the problem here is that the lecture becomes over simplified.
Education expert Dr. Paul Ralph of the University of Auckland pointed out three reasons why PowerPoint presentations are toxic to education:
PowerPoint discourages complex thinking
The things lecturers can put on the slides are limited. In fact, they are encouraged to be as simple as possible in presenting their lecture, leading to teachers needing to condense complex topics into much simpler forms.
Abstract figures, oversimplified tables, and bullet points help the lecturer have an easy-to-understand visual aid, but this discourages complex thinking among students. So, the students are under the illusion that they were able to easily understand what would have been a complex topic.
PowerPoint makes students more reliant on the slides
Students have this wrongful notion that the teacher had already put everything they needed to know in the bullet points and simple tables presented on the slides. With that in mind, who wants to read the text books and take down other notes, anyway?
But students are supposed to learn from complex problems and topics. While these might be a more difficult way of doing things, this is how learning should actually happen.
In short, teachers are simply spoon-feeding their students with information when they simply make PowerPoint slides, but this does not actually facilitate better learning.
PowerPoints makes students think of the course as a set of slides
As strange as it might sound, students have this notion that the course is based on their opinion of the slides, with PowerPoint presentations deemed better if they are short yet concise.
Thus, if good teachers make complex but realistic lectures, they are now the ones criticized for being ‘unclear’. And if they fail to make bullet points by choosing graphical slides with complex information, they get criticized for failing to provide ‘proper notes’!
For Dr. Ralph, PowerPoint should be banned from schools before it is too late or else, he believes that “the downward spiral of lower expectations, less hard work and less learning [in students] will continue.”