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PowerPoint Bad For Learning 439

cute-boy writes "This article in the Sydney Morning Herald reporting on research done at The University of NSW suggests the use of Microsoft PowerPoint (and similar products) in lectures and meetings actually makes it harder to absorb facts, rather than being a reinforcement of key points."
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PowerPoint Bad For Learning

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  • Oblig. Tufte (Score:5, Informative)

    by cgrayson ( 22160 ) * on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:06AM (#18605461) Homepage

    See also: information presentation expert Edward Tufte's essay The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint [].

    Alas, slideware often reduces the analytical quality of presentations. In particular, the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis.
  • by God'sDuck ( 837829 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:08AM (#18605507)
    That's why Tufte and his information-architecture crew always recommend putting important information *on a handout* -- by which they mean a real hand-out with copies of the data, not a "teaser" summary or (worse) tiny screenshots of the slides.
  • Typical media spin (Score:5, Informative)

    by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:09AM (#18605539)
    The point isn't that PowerPoint is bad, it's in how it's used. The thing they stress in the article is that the PPP and the spoken words should not be exactly the same, basically that the presenter should not simply read their slides. It doesn't mention using the slides as adjuncts to what is spoken, which presumably would be fine assuming the presenter leaves slices of time for the audience to consume the contents of their slides and then mentally switch back to the presenter again. I think that anecdotally most of us are already aware of this fact, presentations where the presentor simply regurgitates their slides tend to be the most boring and least useful (until you figure out that is what they're doing and totally switch mental energies to other things knowing that you can always review the slides later, aka day dreaming).
  • by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:10AM (#18605551) Journal
    They actually gave us a powerpoint presentation test to grind those types of things into us before we graduated from college because too many people don't know how to effectively use the tool

    Basic points:
    1) Use white/yellow text on dark background if you can, it is easier to read.
    2) Everything must be very brief and in bullet form.
    3) No more than 3 bullets per slide
    4) No more than 3 or 4 main points in the entire presentation, summarize the main points again at the end to ensure the people remember those.
    5) Do not put too many words/graphics/etc because people will be looking at the slide trying to decipher it instead of listening to you.
    6) Make sure all text is really BIG so everyone in the room can read it very easily and quickly.
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:18AM (#18605725) Homepage Journal

    Whenever I do a presentation, the bullets on my slides are extremely brief, usually no more than 4-5 words.

    Technically, it's best if your slides have NO BULLET POINTS. They are a visual aid, designed to allow you to display visual information. That means slides like charts, graphs, photographs, logos, etc. When you're discussing something that lacks a visual aid, the slide should show nothing more than the topic of discussion. That helps keep listener attention on yourself, and not on your slides.

    Watch Steve Jobs give a presentation sometime. Notice how the attention is almost always focused on Jobs. The only time it's not is when he explicitly directs your attention to some sort of demonstration or visual aid on the background screen.
  • by The tECHIDNA ( 677584 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:20AM (#18605779) Homepage
    FTFA: "It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented." Well, here's a hint: stop reading from your PowerPoint presentations as if it were a speech. The PPT is to supplement what you're talking about (visual aids, anyone?), not to show to the audience the equivalent of Microsoft Sam "reading" a Word document. This was drilled into me by my CS teachers. For our three seminar classes on the road to my CS degree, you were expected to give lots of presentations, and they needed to last for at least 10 mins. Far too frequently, my colleagues just got up there and read verbatim from what was typed on the PowerPoint slides. One of my CS teacher's solutions was this (after roughly 20 seconds of verbatim reading): "Wait, wait, wait...stop. Just stop. Look, all of us in here know how to read. If you're going to just 'read to us' your presentation, just give us a printout of your PowerPoint slides, and sit down, as you have nothing else to offer and you're wasting our time. Next!" Of course, they got a failing grade for the presentation part of the essay/small thesis and got their feelings hurt. And my opinion? Better in the university than in the boardroom.
  • by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) * on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:21AM (#18605805)
    8) Powerpoint is a slide presentation program. Do not use it to create content.
  • by Ushiroda80 ( 992590 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:28AM (#18605959)
    Edward Tufte, a professor emeritus of Yale has previously written about the problems of Powerpoint g?msg_id=0001yB&topic_id=1 [] , and gives the example of how the 1986 Challenger explosion could have been prevented if NASA didn't rely so heavily upon it for presentations. In summary it's about how Powerpoint is a poor tool for communication, As opposed to just text, or speech.
  • by azaris ( 699901 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:38AM (#18606183) Journal

    I myself continue making presentations with the most difficult but most thought-out of tools, LaTeX, which is actually a mathematical book publishing tool.

    Prosper [] has all the glitz you need anyway.

  • by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) * on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:51AM (#18606465)
    That is Tufte's main gripe with Powerpoint, that so much content is created in it. He advocates creating charts and tables and such in actual statistics software, making it presentable with a graphics package like Illustrator, and using PP just to display what you've created.

    What topic do you present, if I may ask? When I give photography presentations the bulk of my slides are photos, interspersed with some summary text here and there when the subject is of a technical nature.
  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:51AM (#18606469) Journal
    According to the article, no. Trying to use Powerpoint as a reinforcement is actually counterproductive. When the brain has to process verbal and written variants of the same data, comprehension is reduced. Slides should be used only for things like pictures and diagrams.
  • by zentinal ( 602572 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:55AM (#18606537) Homepage
    Speaking of Edward Tufte, check out 'The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint: Pitching out Corrupts Within' [] for an excellent critique on the misuse of PowerPoint and a primer on the best way to use this tool.
  • by Sven Tuerpe ( 265795 ) < minus physicist> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @12:34PM (#18607221) Homepage

    There is a dissenting opinion [] by Don Norman, by the way.

  • by wanerious ( 712877 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @12:53PM (#18607547) Homepage
    His rule applies to PowerPoint presentations, which this ain't.
  • Re:WRONG. (Score:3, Informative)

    by tb3 ( 313150 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @12:59PM (#18607637) Homepage
    Pity Gates and Ballmer didn't go on those courses. The slides I've seen behind them at recent presentations have been some of the most awful in living memory. Take a look at the slides on this page [] for some examples of what I'm talking about.
    I guess the bosses get an exemption. Pity.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @01:37PM (#18608303) Journal
    If you want to see the right way to make a powerpoint presentation, go look at the last Steve Jobs keynote address, where he introduced the iphone. He doesn't try to summarize everything, the talking itself should make clear what his points are. Instead he uses the tool where it's strengths are: to show graphs and charts that would be impossible to convey with speech, to show pictures, and occasionally to emphasize some key points.

    By the way, if you find you need to distract people's eyes while you are rambling, it's a sign that the problem is with your rambling, not with the powerpoint. Make your speech interesting enough and you won't need to worry about that.

    The apple keynote [] for your convenience. The iphone introduction is especially good. It might be worth noting that a lot of Jobs' 'reality distortion field' is just that he doesn't bore people when he talks. Compare his presentation to that of the cingular CEO at the end of the movie and you'll see what I mean.
  • by Crispen ( 52264 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @01:42PM (#18608405) Homepage

    1) Use white/yellow text on dark background if you can, it is easier to read.

    Actually, AT&T discovered back in 1989 that for some users light text on a dark background glows [or "halates"] making the text harder to read. If the goal is to make your presentations "universal" [and to avoid ADA/508 lawsuits for creating inaccessible educational material], the rule is DON'T use white/yellow text on a dark background.

    See "Open Look: Graphical user interface style guidelines."

May all your PUSHes be POPped.