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Powerpoint Pointlessness: You read it here first!

Published 28 March 2007 6:04 am
Professor John Sweller, from the University of New South Wales School of Education, first came up with ‘Cognitive Load Theory’ in the 1980s. Most of his reasearch has been in the effectiveness of current teaching techniques. He has now produced evidence that PowerPoint presentations are impossible to take in if the information on the screen is the same as that which is spoken, because the audience’s attention will be split between the two.
‘The use of Powerpoint presentations has been a disaster. It should be ditched. It is effective to ‘speak to’ a diagram because it presents the information in a different form, but it is not effective to speak the same words that are written.”
“If you ever wondered why your eyes start glazing over as you read those dot points on the screen, at the same time the words are being spoken, it is because it is difficult to process the information  if it is coming in the written and spoken form at the same time.”
You read it here first, of course, in January 2006. Survival Tips For Powerpoint by Phil Factor
(modest cough)



3 Responses to “Powerpoint Pointlessness: You read it here first!”

  1. Patrick Index says:

    Whenever I go to a presentation (with Powepoint slides i.e. all the presentations I have attended in the last 10 years) I find myself gagging for the speaker to come out the slides and go into a practical demo (before I nod off). Phil, you have hit the nail on the head again Powerpoint presentations are …… pointless.

  2. jtklopcic says:

    The best presentations I have seen have used the time-honored practice of hand-drawn flip charts. Since the presenter has to prepare them one marker-stroke at a time, each one becomes a masterpiece of efficient communication. No more microscopic print on a busy faux-modern background!

  3. Phil Factor says:

    Thanks, Patrick and Jtklopcic. In reading over my article again I realise I forgot to mention that, when I was involved in the team determining corporate software standards for an International company, we made the competing potential suppliers sign a written undertaking never to give us any Powerpoint presentations, before they were allowed to be considered. It worked pretty well, though a few salesmen even then tried to ‘make a break for it’ until we retaliated with the fingers-in-the-ears-saying-LA-LA trick.

    Were I to be suddenly called at short notice to replace the present government, I’d make a Powerpoint Presentation a Technical Assault. A sure vote-winner amongst right-minded people.

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