At the PowerPoint of no return

  • Letters
  • Thursday, 12 Jan 2017

OPEN your eyes, put on your ears and please pay attention. If you have any questions, just raise your hands.

Many educators will run through that routine at the start of a lesson. Most will be handling the desktop in tandem with the portable projectors and, of course, the PowerPoint presentations.

But are we really giving lessons to the students the way we should be?

The most effective PowerPoint presentations should contain no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes, and feature font no smaller than 30 points. It follows the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint by Guy Kawasaki, 2005.

It also comes with CASPER (Contrast, Alignment, Simplicity, Proximity, Emphasize, and Repetition).

As educators, we are taught to reason logically and to express thoughts in a way calculated to inform and, when necessary, to motivate an audience.

Gaskins and Austin, who developed a program, the “Presenter”, for the software company Forethought, Inc. did not realise, when Micro­soft purchased the rights to PowerPoint in 1987 that they were, in a way, bringing about the collapse of world civilization.

The art of public speaking has all but collapsed.

Traditional speech is extinct, except for ritual speeches.

PowerPoint presentation is an equalising and democratising technology.

Gone are the days of speakers who organised their material well and mastered the art of acquiring and keeping the attention of an audience.

Today, you can flourish even if you are illogical and inarticulate as long as you can put together a boring slideshow.

Little thought seems to be given to the organisation of a PowerPoint presentation.

All you need is to just throw together a bunch of slides.

Listening to people talk is boring compared to watching something, anything, on a screen.

If there is a screen, many will be seen clustering around it and generations of human beings now suffer from phototropism, also known as vidiocy. Technology is turning us into a race of moths or June bugs.

Using PowerPoint encourages multitasking, a modern and fancy way of saying “not paying attention”.

Many presenters simply put their materials up on a PowerPoint slide and in the time it takes them to finish their presentation, you would have seen everything on the slide and returned to your iPhone or PC, with plenty of time to check your email.

The typical academic, if given two hours for a presentation, will include 60 to 100 slides in the PowerPoint set.

If the slides contain merely the text of the presenter’s talk, as they usually do, and if the presenter drones on slowly, then after 15 minutes the audience would flag the presenter after a mere handful of slides.

At which point the presenter would whine: “But I have 67 slides to go!”

I was just remembering my former teacher in the 1980s.

He taught us basic mathematics using an overhead projector but the lessons could have been just as effective using chalk on the chalkboard.

But chalkboards were no longer high-tech in the age of moon shots and helmet hair. Oh no, is it time? I still have 60 more slides!


Kuala Lumpur

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