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The right way to give a presentation September 18, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, engineerblogs.org, research, teaching.
Tags: , ,

I reposted my PowerPoint rant a couple days ago on EngineerBlogs.  In it, I basically discuss how people give presentations like they are papers.

Part of the reason this bothers me is that there is research showing that text-filled slides not only make it difficult to understand, they can actually impede learning.  Our brains don’t process things in parallel, and when we’re trying to deal with two different forms of language, it puts too much stress on the brain’s verbal pipeline.  It doesn’t take much to max out that capacity.

So that means don’t use powerpoint, right?

Wrong.  In fact, I highly recommend using PowerPoint…but not for what you think.

Humans are very strongly visual, and even those who seem to do better with verbal topic matter still will learn best with information presented in a visual format.  Therefore, go to town on PowerPoint – just without words.  Your slide show should be replete with pictures and diagrams.  In some classes, I can’t imagine NOT using this type of resource.

When explaining something, talk.  In fact, talk a lot.  And then, when you are done talking, write out a summary on the board while NOT talking.  This serves two purposes: first, you’ll repeat the information in a different form, making it more likely that a student will remember it.  Second, some students are going to have problems with auditory processing, so a summary really helps them.

The temptation is usually to write a lot out on the board or to put them into a slide show.  This is probably not going to help, especially if there is someone talking over the text.  If you have a lot to write, my method is to provide very detailed notes electronically after the class.  They can review those to get all the details they may have missed.

Therefore, the proper way to give a presentation is use slides with pictures, speak to describe the scenario, and then write short summaries on the board.  Don’t put text on your slides, and certainly don’t talk over any writing, whether it’s on the board or on the slides (which you don’t have, right?).



1. GEARS (@profgears) - September 20, 2011

I think it’s a fine idea. Using Powerpoint to accent the discussion or add visual representations to theory is always very good.


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