Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Teaching Tip: Teaching with Presentation Slides

Few teaching tools inspire more emotion than Powerpoint (or Prezi or Keynote). We’ve heard from faculty who say that they won’t teach without it. And we know others who insist that they’ll never use it.

Presentation software can be overused, but the fact is that it can help not only lecture but discussion, too. We recommend experimentation and sparing use. Our tools should never control us nor get in the way of our larger goals. Here are some basics to keep in mind whether you’re an old pro or a novice.

Keep it short. The wags who first diagnosed “death by powerpoint” were on to something. It’s best to keep the words on a slide to a minimum and to keep any presentation to a few slides at most.

The slide is not the lecture. Reading slides to students generates only yawns. Use slides to augment or focus lecture and discussion, and vice versa.

Powerpoint is about attention. If students are looking at something interesting, they’re less able to listen effectively. Think about how, where, and when you want to use a slide to focus attention.

Simple is best. Keep the design basic and the frills minimal. We should be able to gather everything we need from a slide in a glance so that we can immediately return to talking and listening with attentions focused.

Emphasize the visual over the verbal. Our brains are more attentive to graphics than to text-based slides. Even a simple line drawing might communicate more efficiently than a slide we have to read.

Aim for interactivity. “Clickers” can help gather many kinds of feedback—quizzes, pretests, surveys—and then display the results immediately and graphically in a presentation. But it doesn’t have to be so high-tech. Slides can help focus a discussion or organize a group activity.

Useful links:


About Pecha-Kucha, a performance art form in which a speaker discusses 20 slides, each for only 20 seconds.

And for fun, a popular stand-up routine about powerpoint:

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