It’s Not PowerPoint’s Fault

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

There’s a discussion going on (again) on one of the forums I follow that is trashing PowerPoint. Now, I’m not a big fan of Microsoft, but really, PowerPoint is one of their better applications. The fact that there are millions of crappy PP presentations out there is not the fault of the application. Really.

Also: Prezi (or any of the other applications people love to rave about) will NOT magically make a mediocre presenter into a star. Honest.

It’s NOT about the tool.2012-11-11_09-06-05

Too much focus on the tool – which includes positive (eg. Prezi is the ONLY way to go) as well as negative (eg. I hate PowerPoint) focus – interferes with the design and development of good instruction.

Active learning is key, but avoiding any particular tool or approach “just because” is usually not helpful. Sometimes, “lecturing” really IS the most effective way to do something. Even drill has a place in some kinds of learning.

Ultimately, it boils down to the skills and expertise of the designer and the instructor. I’ve seen teachers do amazing things without so much as lifting a piece of chalk, and I’ve seen abysmal teaching using some of the fanciest tools around.

This quote is from a list of rules for spacecraft design, but much of it applies here too ( )

20. A bad design with a good presentation is doomed eventually. A good design with a bad presentation is doomed immediately.

When I design & build something, whether it’s a computer program, a course, a Halloween costume, or a rabbit hutch, my own expertise (and what I have access to through colleagues and friends) and the tools I have available inevitably affect the thing I am designing. For example, I have neither the tools nor the skill to cut curves into wood, so I design my rabbit hutches with straight edges.

When designing instruction some things are made easier by particular tools and harder by others. The tool inevitably affects the instruction that is being designed. This is neither good nor bad – it simply is. It’s great to start a design thinking about what you would do in a perfect world, but after that you need to get practical and consider the tools you have available. Then you need to fit the two together. You are usually better off using a tool you are comfortable with than one you are not. There are times when it is appropriate to try something new, and times when the tried and true are appropriate. There really is no single right way, EXCEPT that you should be authentic and committed to providing the best instruction you know how to do AND you should be prepared to adjust what you are doing to match the needs of your learners.

For any task you set for your learners, you should always be prepared to answer these two questions (with honesty and grace):

  1. Why are we doing this?
  2. What is it good for?

Finally, any time you consider changing what you are doing, ask yourself this question:
How does this make things better?
If you don’t have a good answer to this, why are you doing it?

1 person likes this post.

Leave a Reply