PowerPoint has been a mainstay of my teaching for the past 30 years.
While I don’t just stand up there and recite what is on the slides, I do use the text that is on the slides to highlight the key points I want to make and to keep me on track.
Well according to an article written by Mary Jo Madda on EdSurge, the way I use PowerPoint may be hurting my students’ learning more than helping them.
Simultaneous auditory (spoken) and visual presentation of text, often done through PowerPoint presentations, is an all-too-common occurrence in classrooms nowadays and may lead to cognitive overload.
It’s referred to as the redundancy effect. Verbal redundancy “arises from the concurrent presentation of text and verbatim speech,” increasing the risk of overloading working memory capacity—and so may have a negative effect on learning.
The duplicated pieces of information—spoken and written—don’t positively reinforce one another; instead, the two flood students’ abilities to handle the information.
Some researchers contend that it would be easier for students to learn a topic by closing their eyes (so as to ignore the PowerPoint slides) and only listening to the teacher. (So that explains what my students were doing for the past 30 years; I just assumed I had put them to sleep – they were just utilizing an effective learning technique.)
So what is the solution?
Richard Mayer, a brain scientist at UC Santa Barbara and author of the book Multimedia Learning, offers the following prescription: Eliminate textual elements from presentations and instead talk through points, sharing images or graphs with students. This video illustrates exactly what he means:
If you find it difficult to eliminate words entirely from your PowerPoint presentations, especially when you want students to get those key vocabulary words down, here are some additional hints:
- Limit yourself to one word per slide. If you’re defining words, try putting up the vocabulary word and an associated set of images—then challenge students to deduce the definition.
- Honor the “personalization principle,” which essentially says that engaging learners by delivering content in a conversational tone will increase learning. For example, Richard Mayer suggests using lots of “I’s” and “you’s” in your text, as students typically relate better to more informal language.
So I think I need to go back and redo all my PowerPoint slides and just put one word and a matching image on each slide.
Of course, doing so may significantly multiply the number of slides I use.
Here’s an example of what this new approach may look like:
Slide 1: ASSETS (with some pictures of buildings and equipment)
Slide 2: a big “=” sign
Slide 3: LIABILITIES (with some pictures o an IOU or a car loan)
Slide 4: a big “+” sign
Slide 5: EQUITY (with some pictures of stock certificates)
Currently, I can squeeze all of that onto one slide (minus the pictures, of course), as well as a numerical example.
But if it helps the students learn the material more effectively, I’m willing to give it a shot.
I’m just worried my hand is going to get tired from all that clicking to the next slide…
*image from Speak Schmeak