Research doesn’t favor notes via PowerPoint

Recent research on cognitive load theory suggests that PowerPoint is doing more damage than good.

From the full story in The Sydney Morning Herald:

It is more difficult to process information if it is coming at you in the written and spoken form at the same time.

Professor John Sweller states:

It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented.

slide1If you wish to use a PowerPoint presentation, consider using it as a visual aid. PowerPoint should not be used to display only text. If you have notes to present [top slide] consider using images to emphasize your points [bottom slide].

When thinking about this topic, I’m reminded of this comment one of my colleagues wrote a few months back: “I love PowerPoint, but for me it’s used to enhance my instruction, not remind me of what I need to say.”

slide2Her statement took me back to a book I read several years ago by Clifford Stoll title, “High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don’t Belong in the Classroom and Other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter title The Plague of PowerPoint:

Want to make a splash at your next public talk? Know your material so well that you can speak off the cuff, without computer, laser pointer, or video projector. Scribble your important points on a chalkboard and emphasize them with your voice. Face your audience, not that computer monitor. Throw out that tired clipart and the cliches about the explosion of technology, the challenge of the future, and the crisis in education. Let me hear your voice, not a pre-programmed sound effect. Show me your ideas, not someone else’s template.

Stoll has a point. When was the last time you walked away from a lecture and said, “wow, that lady’s PowerPoint was awesome!” You can read the entire chapter here.

The bottom-line is that PowerPoint is a great tool when used correctly. When used poorly it can be boring or distracting.

But you don’t have to delete all your shows. Here is a tutorial to help you improve your presentations.