College Teaching: How to let go of PowerPoint

It started as a means to an end. You wanted to do well in class but felt you couldn’t cope without additional support. “Don’t worry” you told yourself, “I can manage. I’ll just use a few. I’m not really dependent on them.”

So you start with five, and then it becomes ten and before you know it your on 30 or more slides per class. Deep down you know you’re addicted.  

College teachers – you may have PTS! 


You may have full-blown PTS! Powerpoint Teaching Syndrome.

Here are five indications to help your self-diagnosis of PTS:

  • Preparation for each class is devoted exclusively to preparing powerpoint slides. You even say things like “that’s the first five lectures in the bag” as you complete the slide banks.
  • You consider cancelling the class if the projector is broken or unavailable.
  • You read all the text from each slide.
  • Your rush through the last ten slides saying something like “I don’t have time to go through all of this so here are the slides”.
  • Your students explain they won’t be in class next week but they will read the slides instead.
  • You’re constantly asking other teachers for their slides. 

If you answered ‘yes’ to more than one the above statements then you probably have PTS. If all of the statements are true then you are in deep trouble and should get professional advice on how to improve your teaching. 

Don’t worry there is a cure for PTS and in many cases with proper treatment it can be completely eradicated. Here are some tips to help wean yourself off the dependency:

  • Build in-class student questions and activities into your slides –that way you focus on what the student does rather than the ‘delivery of content’.
  • Use the ‘B’ button in slideshow (on Powerpoint) –that way you can make the screen go black and it takes the focus away from the slide and on to what you say or do. Press B again to resume.
  • Place additional content in the notes sections of PowerPoint rather than on the main slide. Notes can be helpful for student revision without cluttering up the presentation.
  • Try to make every slide work hard for its place. Ask yourself ‘Is it really necessary? What purpose does it serve and how are students expected to use it for learning?’
  • Some functionality such as animation can work well for explaining particular concepts, at other times animations are useless distractions. Make student learning the focus of every decision you make and your overall design approach.
  • In class, talk about a topic then reveal the slides. That way you are giving the students an opportunity to construct their own understanding and then subsequently, they can compare and review through the imagery or text you present.

In short

Make your slides serve your teaching not the other way around.

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