24 March 2007

Death...by PowerPoint

I don't have a lot of experience with PowerPoint. I'm too old to have seen it in action during my school days and I didn't have access to a projector in my teaching classroom to have shown slideshows to my students. I understand the basics of how to create a presentation, but my skills are very low level. Intensive interventions would likely be necessary in order to get me up to standard. On the flipside, however, I think I'm an average recipient. I've seen some really strong presentations using this software...and some that were downright painful.

There is a district-wide presentation to elementaries coming up on Monday and I will be helping to facilitate things at one of the schools. Another specialist was helping get me up to speed on things and we decided to look at the PowerPoint from the staff training which occurred in December. The information contained within it was really good and very helpful, however, the slideshow presentation itself induced a fit of giggles.

There was an awful lot of information packed into the presentation:
I started to pretend to yawn after awhile. I really did wonder how teachers must have felt sitting through this. Things then devolved into student-like questions when boredom arises: "Can I have a hall pass?" But hey, to keep things lively, someone had chosen to make this a presentation with some animations on the slides.

I know that the graphic above is static, but the little key/keyhole thing in the upper righthand corner cycled through three different graphics. All I could think of was "Eat at Joe's...Eat at Joe's..." The other specialist wondered if it might not be meant to induce a hypnotic effect. Fortunately, it was too slow to be strobe-like and thus seizure inducing.

But the icing on the cake was all of the fancy-dancy transitions. You know what I'm talking about right? Some lines fade in...some slides dissolve into a lot of tiny pieces...other aspects are revealed by a 360 degree wipe? It got to be a bit much about halfway through viewing the presentation and this was where we really got into trouble. The other specialist made the comment of "We can rebuild it..." a la the $6M man and did some of the relevant slow-mo sound effects. By this time, we were laughing so hard that the screen was a blur through our tears.

The lone male in our office was sitting a few feet away through all of this. He is continually bemused, being a stranger in a strange land of women. Listening to the two of us "work" yesterday gave him another reason to shake his head. He said, "I'm going to bring a tape recorder to work and record you two giggling...so that whenever I'm feeling down I can listen to it and smile." Maybe a deathly PowerPoint presentation isn't so bad.


Nicole said...

This is pretty funny. Working in the business world, I see a lot (way too many) painful interpretations of the joy of Powerpoint. Never worry about your lack of familiarity with the software. It is of little benefit to humankind at large. :-)

Anonymous said...

Still giggling!

Ryan said...

I totally get the hypnotic animation thing; I was at a presentation on RTI at the summer institute last year and there was this was animation where I tried to count how many different changes it had and completely ignored the speaker.

Funny how the mind latches on to things.


good writeup

Anonymous said...

I think that PowerPoint is flawed right down to it's DNA: I know a bunch of things and you know nothing. I'm going to shoot some of those things out at you. Prepare to receive...

Most classrooms and meetings that I've seen are much more dynamic processes. People share information. New ideas happen. There are digressions. PowerPoint actively works against spontaneity and dialogue in a meeting. I wrote about this at length in a recent post on my own blog:


When I do use PowerPoint (as I did last week in a presentation to our Board of Ed), I try to use as few slides as possible - mainly as a way to mount multimedia artifacts and charts. I cannot imagine using it every day in the classroom. I think the reason people like Smartboards so much is the Smart Notebook software, which I feel addresses many of the shortcomings of PowerPoint.

Dan Meyer said...

Ha, yeah, that's good times. Those transitions -- checkerboards, slides, wipes, and what have you -- always always ALWAYS make me cringe. So arbitrary. Why choose one over the other? You can hear the thought process: "Y'know I think some checkerboards would give this the kick it needs right now." Yikes.

Speaking of cringing, Mike's total lack of empathy (this garbage about every PowerPoint presenter thinking "... you know nothing" about her audience) once again (as on my blog) totally undermines his otherwise sturdy point.

PowerPoint is flawed right down to its DNA, but only if we're assuming that animal is a creature that facilitates multi-modal learning and incorporates its audience into the process.

But just because 90% of PowerPoint presenters aspire that high (and flop that low, consequently) doesn't change the fact that you won't find that description anywhere in the user manual, nor does it change the fact that PowerPoint (or more preferably Keynote) is fantastic at "mounting multimedia artifacts and charts."

I guess your choices are to do right by the tools you have or to throw them out and smear everyone who uses them. Mike's made his; I've made mine.