EdTech 541Relative Advantages of PowerPoint & Presentation Tools in the Classroom

Relative Advantages of Presentation Tools in the Classroom

  • “Like so many instructional practices, PowerPoint is not inherently good or bad. It’s   all about how we use it and that’s not something about which we can afford to be complacent” (Weimer, 2012).

How can we make the classroom more interesting, more exciting, or more engaging?  Teachers are constantly asking themselves this question.  In the past, the most exciting days were the ones where students got to watch a film or movie.  Today, many classrooms are being equipped with computers and costly projection devices to support presentation graphics, as well as other visual presentation media. The modern classroom teachers have a plethora of presentation tools at their disposal such as Microsoft’s PowerPoint, Prezi, and Google Presentation.
PowerPoint is one of many effective pedagogical tools that can be used in the classroom. Presentations can be used in the classroom for initial teaching, for student projects, for practice and drilling, for games, for reviews, and for tests.  However, many presentation tools, such as PowerPoint, have earned a negative reputation.  The New York Times has had a spirited ongoing debate about the perils of PowerPoint in their blogs and editorials since 2010.  The primary criticisms are that today’s youth are being taught how to make a board room presentation or how to “market” an idea rather than fully developing an idea.  One editorial asks readers to imagine the Gettysburg Address being done on a PowerPoint or a Prezi.

The argument against many of the presentation tools is very short sighted.  If this were the only thing students were learning and the only way they were being taught, then yes, this approach is definitely incomplete.  PowerPoint and Prezi, along with the other presentation tools, are part of a total package, not the entire product.  Szabo and Hastings have conducted extensive research on the topic:

  • It appears, however, that PowerPoint lecture may benefit recall (or  perhaps           recognition) from memory.  PowerPoint could be useful in specific instruction where dynamic models, animation, and variation of colour may definitively help in the better illustration of the key concepts. Thus PowerPoint should not be viewed as a replacement for the blackboard, but rather as an efficient auxiliary medium, that can improve learning. Otherwise, PowerPoint will only entertain, rather than educate, students. (Szabo, A., & Hastings, N., 2000)

The secret to effective communications in the classroom, whether a presentation tool or otherwise, is to have and adhere to a set of standards and practices.  Garr Reynolds has developed a top ten list to help anyone present a PowerPoint that is organized and effective. The tips outlined by Reynolds (Reynolds, 2013) are that a presentation should:

  • be simple
  • be concise
  • minimize transitions
  • contain high quality visuals
  • be thematic
  • use appropriate graphics
  • use appropriate color & font
  • contain selective video & audio
  • be organized

There are many relative advantages of using presentation tools in the classroom.  In a traditional math course, teachers provide a lesson where facts and formulas are presented.  Typically a math class then consists of developing the formula and presenting examples.  Today’s teachers have the ability to enhance the classroom experience with graphics, videos of real life examples, and interactive presentations.  According to Szabo and Hastings “…presentation graphics increase the interest level of the classroom experience” (2000).  When the information presented is engaging students are more likely to pay attention or participate.  Teachers can make these supplemental lessons on their school websites, making them accessible to all students to be able to review as needed.

There are also multiple relative advantages for instructors and institutions.  “If students report that they find presentation graphics to be more interesting and attention capturing, it is reasonable that they also may find the course instructor to be more engaging and more competent” (Apperson et all, 2006).  While this quote may not be accurate, it raises an interesting perception about educators.  Presentation tools and software can save educators a lot of time versus alternative forms of visual aids, i.e. black boards/whiteboards or overhead projectors.  The usage of PowerPoint encourages educators to figure out ways to concisely relay information in an engaging and sometimes interactive manner.  (Apperson et all, 2006).

Marvellen Weimer says it most concisely, “…like so many instructional practices, PowerPoint is not inherently good or bad.  It’s all about how we use it and that’s not something about which we can afford to be complacent” (Weimer, 2012).  There are advantages and disadvantages to almost everything in a classroom whether it is using calculators in a math course or watching film in a history class or utilizing some type of presentation software.  The secret is to find some balance.  In a math class, a teacher first makes sure students know basic arithmetic before allowing the use of a calculator.  For more advanced skills, the teacher may allow students to play with the advanced features of a calculator to create interest or intrigue about the subject.  PowerPoint and other presentation software should be used responsibly and with a great deal of thought.  It can reinforce skills already learned or inspire students to want to learn more.  The secret is balance.


Apperson, J. M., Laws, E. L., & Scepansky, J. A. (2006). The impact of presentation graphics on students’ experience in the classroom. Computers & Education, 47(1), 116-126.  Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.libproxy.boisestate.edu/science/article/pii/S0360131504001423

New York Times (online) Retrieved from http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/03/is-powerpoint-in-the-classroom-evil/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Reynolds, G. (2013). Top ten slide tips.  Retrieved from http://www.garrreynolds.com/preso-tips/design/

Roblyer, M.D. & Doerling, A.H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Schulten, M. (2012, August 1). Is PowerPoint in the classroom ‘evil’?. New York Times. Retrieved from http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/03/is-powerpoint-in-the-classroom-evil/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1

Szabo, A., & Hastings, N. (2000). Using IT in the undergraduate classroom: should we replace the blackboard with PowerPoint?. Computers & education, 35(3), 175-187.  Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.libproxy.boisestate.edu/science/article/pii/S0360131500000300

Weimer, M. (2012, August 1). Does PowerPoint help or hinder learning?. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/does-powerpoint-help-or-hinder-learning/

3 Responses to EdTech 541Relative Advantages of PowerPoint & Presentation Tools in the Classroom

  1. jwbrunken says:

    Very thorough post, Kimberly. I applaud your research. I was especially keen on the quoted study that showed PPT actually can help with memory recall. Not surprising, but it never even occurred to me to look that up. I really appreciated how you brought all of the key elements of each reading into your blog post. I enjoyed reading about the use of PPT in a math class. I can’t recall any of y math teachers using anything other than blackboard or overhead projector. Perhaps I would have enjoyed and learned more in math class with it. Anyway great post. You deserve full marks.

  2. achraftouati says:

    Kim, what a great and thorough analysis of slide presentations you’ve provided. It is so important that math teachers nowadays start implementing different technological tools in their classes, including slide presentations because honestly students are fed up with the old, boring way of teaching math, which is memorize and drill and practice. Though these practices are useful to some extent, we should adopt a more constructive and engaging approach that will allow students to construct knowledge and make connect abstract concepts to real life, while having fun along the way. I completely agree with you that teachers must create slides with a great deal of thought and creativity; otherwise it could be useless and a waste of time.

  3. Nicole Gaylin says:

    You have done some great research on this and I think you have some very strong resources and ideas. Math has always been a really hard subject for me. There is something about it that just doesn’t click for me. I can understand it all perfectly fine when I’m shown examples, but the second you want me to do it myself, I’m totally lost. I took college level calculus in high school. I gave up half way through and drew pictures on my homework to show that I sorta-kinda got the general idea of the concept, but I had no idea how to use it to find an answer. Somehow I got enough points out of that to get out with a C. In college, I took notes, did all my homework, tried really hard, and I got a D-. I took the course again, but this time online. We used a program called Aleks and I ended up with a passing grade and was able to graduate. It’s amazing the difference that technology can make when it’s used correctly. Being able to make Aleks walk through hundreds of examples with me was amazing. A teacher in a traditional classroom wouldn’t have the time to do that. I think that PowerPoint could be used to show more examples for students and they could access the presentation from wherever they are. It would be a great edition to any class.

    I love that your blog shows a little touch of your local area. I live right next to Tacoma, in Lakewood, so I’m not too far from you!

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