I recently wrote about my teacher toolkit - a way of expressing who I am in the classroom without resorting to adjectives. One of the tools on my list was Powerpoint, and I'll try and set out here why I think it's a great (though by no means perfect) tool for a teacher.
The case against
Of course there are problems with Powerpoint in the classroom. First of all, you need the infrastructure and money to have a computer and projector. Even if you have all that, it might be classically mis-used. I'm sure you, like me, have spent far too much time watching somebody use it:
- to show off pointless and rather painful effects - titles spinning in slowly from below, for example
- to put far too information on one slide
- to then read all that information for us!
- to demonstrate a lack of awareness of colours that complement one another
There are other things which you constantly see, not least an over-reliance on bullet points. So perhaps I should stop this list and move on to the positive side.
The case for
I imagine most people reading this have a good idea of how to use Microsoft applications. If you've used Word, you'll be able to use Powerpoint. If you are lucky enough to have interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in your classroom, the chances are you or your colleagues will have spent quite a lot of time getting used to new software that isn't as intuitive as Powerpoint.
So, it's easy to prepare before lessons. In class it can also give an extra dynamic, especially with the 'clickability' it gives you - the chance to quickly click through slides. I find this, with short revision activities or games for example, helps it work as a great settler for younger learners. It's also easy to control with keyboard shortcuts.
You need to know very little to get started: how to add and delete slides; how to change layouts; how to start a presentation; changing font and background colour; custom animation; keyboard shortcuts. All of this, plus some general Microsoft Word tricks e.g. copy and paste should enable you to use it confidently.
In the classroom
So what can you actually do with it in the classroom? I'll come back soon and write in more detail about specific activities. However recently I have started using it as the way of 'writing' on the board. We have interactive whiteboards at the school I teach in, but rather than use the IWB software and pen, I just open a new powepoint file (light text on dark background) to type on. With a wireless keyboard and mouse, it's easy to sit down with learners and feed in language for them, and for them to be involved in the process too.
I think to some people this might seem like about seven years too late! But I still believe Powerpoint has advantages over IWB software - intuitive controls for the Microsoft generation; lower costs; and in the classroom a clickability which is unique. I'll write more about that next time, along with example activities.