‘Not another PowerPoint!’: Ending the stigma

Published by UCLan Centre for Collaborative Learning on

Authors: Jessica Cooper (Nurse Educator, University of Central Lancashire) and Emma Chambers (Adult Nursing Lecturer, University of Central Lancashire)

We’re both relatively new to the University and our academic journeys. Having come from nursing backgrounds, we’re already used to system crashes and frozen screens, and using machinery that incessantly beeps at us…

If you are a mastermind of digital technology, then this blog may not be for you! However, if since joining your institution it has dawned on you that maybe there a few gaps in your knowledge, then this blog may be worth reading. Even if just to remind you that you’re not alone. We feel your pain!

Digital technology can be daunting; forever changing and adapting, and it can be hard to keep pace. In higher education we use lots of fancy software, some which may seem mind-blowingly complicated at first. However, in our shared learning journey, we have both realised the superior power of the humble PowerPoint – a tool which over time has gained a bad reputation. Have you ever sat down in a meeting or a teaching session with a PowerPoint presentation knowing it’s two hours long, and then tried to pinch yourself to stop from nodding off? Us too!

PowerPoint is the easy fall-back for session delivery, sometimes met with eye-rolling and apprehension, telepathically hearing the internal thought of: ‘oh no, not another PowerPoint!’. We are not afraid to admit that we ourselves have been the culprits; guilty of overloading slides and using them as notes pages to prompt our teaching. Having the information easily accessible to the speaker can feel almost like a safety blanket, particularly when you are new to academia or teaching a less familiar subject. Information on slides can draw the eye away from the speaker, which is greatly appreciated when 30+ pairs of eyes are fixed on you and imposter syndrome is at its peak (that’s a story for another day!). This not only detracts attention from the speaker, but also impedes the learning experience. How can a learner be expected to read reams of text off the screen whilst listening to and fully engaging with the facilitator? As nurses, we are great at multi-tasking, but this is a big ask for anyone.


Emma:

“When I started at the University, I immediately realised the downfall of using long and disengaging PowerPoint presentations, and began to wonder how they could be made more interesting. This started my journey into reinvigorating the humble PowerPoint. I had many a discussion with colleagues – some who loved it, and others who desired its complete abolition from the teaching toolkit! However, I often found myself defending the program.

There are some fantastic positives; allowing for a natural focal point so that all eyes aren’t on you, offering a visual reinforcement for verbal information, and providing structure to a session and access to other materials. I realised that a PowerPoint should be complimentary to the session, but not overwhelm it. Slides should be simple with images or brief points to reinforce the message of the speaker, and be used to progress through the session, with embedded activities to increase engagement. This could include creating games within PowerPoint, or alternatively, the use of other technologies.

Whether for pre-session or face-to-face work, using a multimodal approach is often much more immersive for the learner. I had not used many of these applications before working at the University, and picked things up from colleagues and online resources. I also learned through playing with the technology to see what would happen! PowerPoint seemed to start living up to its former glory, and at this point I was asked to work on a group project developing a new skills session…”

Jessica:

“At the beginning of this project, I was reluctant to use PowerPoint and struggled to see how it could be made immersive and engaging for this type of work. I didn’t realise you could do so much with it. Whilst working alongside Emma and others to create an interactive piece of pre learning for our students, I found the beauty of using the application, which inspired us to write this blog together. I feel the main benefits of making an interactive PowerPoint are that we have been able to create work using something that most people will be familiar and comfortable with using, and that is also engaging and inclusive to all students.

We have ensured interactivity and ease of navigation by using hyperlinks and action buttons. We have embedded audio, videos and pictures, and have also included knowledge checks in the form of quizzes and games. In addition to this, we have added quick response (QR) codes so the resource can be accessible on any device and at the learner’s convenience. Through working on this project together, I have discovered just how amazing and useful PowerPoint can be. As the saying goes: ‘teamwork makes the dream work!’. Hopefully, by writing this article, we can now inspire others to try working with ‘old’ tools in a new way.”


PowerPoint can be fun if you dare to be brave and creative, and learn how to maximise its uses. We are both still on a digital journey. Even when we think we know how to use something, it may still surprise us. So, let’s change the PowerPoint stigma together, by utilising it in ways that are interactive, innovative and engaging for all.

Collaborative working has opened our eyes to the interactive and engaging uses of PowerPoint. Even if you think you’re not ‘tech savvy’, it’s the creative approach and use of simple technology that really matters.

Be brave, give it a go and join the revolution!

Image by Mohamed_hassan on Pixabay


1 Comment

Karen Blake · August 23, 2023 at 9:47 am

Thanks for opening the conversation Jess and Emma. I personally feel we are at risk of “throwing the baby out with the bath water” if we get rid of power point. What we need to do is update how we use it, as you have so eloquently said. There are many functions that can be utilised in power point to use it as an effective teaching, and learning, tool. what we need to do as lecturers, is keep our knowledge and skills updated (sound familiar) to ensure our material keeps our learners engaged.

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