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The third in Maria's series on using PowerPoint to improve students' learning. In this episode, she offers suggestions for using Powerpoint during a lecture for more than just presentation of content.
Hello. This is Dr. Maria Yon from the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Welcome to Teaching and Learning Matters. This is the third of a four-part series on using Powerpoint to improve learning. The first episode suggested ideas for helping students prepare for class and the second, how to use PowerPoint at the beginning of class. This episode offers suggestions for using PowerPoint during your lecture.
I was walking across campus a couple of weeks ago when I overheard two students talking. As I passed, I heard one student say to the other, “She just reads straight from the PowerPoint and anything she adds is useless.” We often hear students complain about what is often called “death by PowerPoint”. This we want to avoid!
Take a moment to think about your PowerPoint slides. Are they helping students learn? Pay attention? Engage in the content? Think? Can your slides be put to better use? Would you change anything about them? Font size? Color? Number of words on a slide? Or better yet, how the slides are used during your lecture?
A good lecture involves some think-time for students to process the content or ask questions. The nice thing about PowerPoint is that you can plan breaks for these activities ahead of time. PowerPoint can actually help us slow down and give students a chance to catch their breaths and reflect on the material. It’s a time when we are reminded to step back from the material and interact with students.
We can easily forget to do that when we are frantically trying to get through a lecture or are caught up in the excitement of our own lecture. Students’ minds are less likely to wander when there is a question break or other activity planned about every fifteen minutes. They’ll be more motivated to pay attention if they come to expect times when they are asked to do something more than just listen or take notes.
So, what might one of these PowerPoint slides look like? You have been lecturing, going through your slides, and all of a sudden students see that the next slide is blank! First, it gets students’ attention. How might you use this blank slide? It’s up to you to make the best use of it.
Here are some ideas. Ask students what the slide might contain: What content? What question about the previous lecture material? What visual might be helpful? Instead of a blank, the slide might be a question that you pose about the content. Or the slide might ask students to write a summary of the preceding lecture. It might be a photo or a graph that they are to interpret as it relates to the lecture. Discussion time follows before going on with the lecture.
The slide might direct students to engage in some type of active learning strategies that can be used as transition points in the lecture. These strategies give students an opportunity to think about and work with material just presented before moving on with new information. They help gauge how well students have understood the content, perhaps shaping what is going to happen the rest of the class period. Finally, put questions on PowerPoint slides if you’re using a student response system. It’s a great way to review and clarify when followed by a discussion.
When you plan your next lecture, think beyond PowerPoint for presentation of content. Insert slides at critical points to engage students in learning. Review your old PowerPoint slides now and kick them up a notch. Tune in to Episode Four, Using PowerPoint to End a Lecture, because Teaching and Learning Matters.
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