Wednesday, February 10, 2010


“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” – John Keating, Dead Poets Society

Do you remember the first PowerPoint presentation you ever did? I do.

It sucked.

I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember being dumbfounded by the PowerPoint technology. (PowerPoint, by the way, was invented in 1984! So it’s older than me… After playing around with it, I think I ended up with a white background, black words, and just about every ClipArt item I could find relevant to my topic. I figured the pictures were there, so why not use them?

In high school, PowerPoints were a pain. Everyone dreaded the assignment involving one, and everyone hated attempting to make theirs original, professional, pretty, cool, popular—the works. A PowerPoint was something to stress about.

Now that I’m in college, the tables have completely turned. You’d much rather an assignment involves an in-depth exploration of xyz presented by PowerPoint than an in-depth 20-page research paper. Another thing that I experienced only when I got to college: PowerPoint as a daily teaching tool.

I’m a sophomore, which gives me 4 semesters of classroom experience here at Maryland. Just for kicks, I took a poll of 15 sophomores, including myself, asking them the question “How many of your courses (teachers) use PowerPoint consistently as a teaching aid?” I asked them to divide this number by the total number of classes they have taken at this University, and I tallied the following results : 60% of the partipants classes DID use Powerpoint consistently, while 40% did not.

One thing the results do not show, but an interesting fact that I found is that PowerPoint usage depends greatly on major. If I remove the engineering students from the final results, the numbers change to 70% yes and 30% no. This article,, which starts out “Theorists can’t help it: When asked to explain something, they reach for a piece of chalk,” may explain the different in scores.

To me, it seems that the big question here is “does PowerPoint positively or negatively affect students success in the classroom?” According to a 2008 study conducted by Josh Susskind, professor of psychology at Northern Iowa, students felt that PowerPoint usage made class easier to attend as well as easier to understand. Students also claim that they took better notes, and that these notes were more organized, easier to understand, and useful in studying for exams when PowerPoint was employed. ( However, the study did not find any affect on student’s grades.

So I guess the question still stands. DOES PowerPoint affect grades? Is the technology a useful alternative to chalkboards and handouts? How do you feel about this?

1 comment:

  1. It is so interesting... the more communication classes I take, the more I notice the reliance on power point presentations. The other day my teacher's power point projector wasn't working and we sat around for TWENTY MINUTES trying to fix it. Such a waste of time... why couldn't she have just started lecturing or using the chalkboard or SOMETHING? It is instances like this that make me feel like we as a society have become entirely dependent on technology... we've been spoiled. We've had a taste of the easy life and now we don't know how to live without it.
    Don't you notice also in class when a teacher puts a wordy power point up, the students like ROBOTS copy down word for word, and then if the professor tries to go ahead there is always some student protesting "can you go baccckkk" and the prof returns to the slide and the scribbling commences? I almost think powerpoints have taken the place of listening and absorbing information in class.
    I enjoy reading your blog :)