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5 Reasons Why Powerpoint Can Harm Your Learning

5 Reasons Why Powerpoint Can Harm Your Learning

You’ve been drinking way too many cups of coffee. You’ve been pinching your arms, hands, legs, knees, and even your ears. It seems that, no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to fight off the sleepiness.

The good news? This isn’t your fault. The bad news? It seems that you still have to endure the remaining 30 minutes of some boring PowerPoint presentation.

If this sounds familiar, no worries. We’ve all been there. Even though PowerPoint can be a useful tool, it poses some potential risks when it comes to learning. Here are five ways that PowerPoint can harm your learning.

1. It can discourage complex thinking

Few things are more misleading than when a PowerPoint presentation is oversimplifying and skipping essential points related to a topic. This can make the audience believe that the topic is far simpler than it actually is, creating a huge gap between the reality and the perception.

According to Paul Ralph at Business Insider, PowerPoint slides discourage complex thinking. As he said:

“Slides encourage instructors to present complex topics using bullet points, slogans, abstract figures and oversimplified tables with minimal evidence. They discourage deep analysis of complex, ambiguous situations because it is nearly impossible to present a complex, ambiguous situation on a slide. This gives students the illusion of clarity and understanding.”

How to avoid it?

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If you are presenting on a complex topic, make sure to include the essential bullet points. You should also clarify from the start that the information you are presenting is just the tip of the iceberg. If audience members want to understand the material better, recommend some specific resources. Include these specific resources on the last slide. This will give them a more realistic view on how big the topic can get. This way, it’s their choice to pay attention to your disclaimer and follow up with the resources later.

2. It can lead to lazy thinking

A PowerPoint presentation often works like a script for the presenter. Then, when a question is asked, there are often two possible outcomes:

If the answer is in the presentation, he or she will say “I will cover that answer in my next slides.”

If the answer is not in the presentation, he or she will say “I am not completely sure, let me check on that and get back to you.”

Arthur Drobin says the following in an article from Psychology Today: “PowerPoint isn’t only a problem for audiences who must sit through boring presentations in the dark, but just as significantly for the presenter who is stuck with the information on the slide. Using PowerPoint leads to lazy thinking. All too often the presenter can’t answer questions that aren’t immediately relevant.”

How to avoid it?

Your PowerPoint presentation shouldn’t be your script. You should have knowledge and experience pertaining to the topic which you are presenting. Of course, you may get some surprising questions that will make you have to think a bit on your feet.

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By knowing your topic well, you should be able to answer most questions that come up, even if the answers aren’t included in your slides. So, when a question is raised, take a step back and truly consider it — not just whether or not it appears on your slides.

3. It can kill productivity

When I was working for one of the biggest companies in Norway, a majority of the elite employees were avid users of creating PowerPoint presentations. When you begin to miss meetings because you are creating PowerPoint presentations for other meetings, how productive are you? Being busy is certainly not the same thing as being productive.

This is a point that an article on Computerworld backs up: “Tremendous amounts of time are spent in the military on putting together presentations, and [this] takes away from true productivity.”

Even more importantly, it’s not easy to learn new material when you’re busying yourself with unproductive and unfocused work.

How to avoid it?

PowerPoint should be used as a supportive tool that will enhance your presentation. Do your presentation without notes and use just a few well-selected PowerPoint slides. PowerPoint should be used to enhance important sections of your presentation. This might be a few bullet points or a graph that is backing up the point you are speaking about.

Or, do like Jason Dorsey, who gave a presentation in front of a large crowd without PowerPoint slides.

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4. It can drown your audience

There is a metaphor regarding presenting information that goes like this: “If someone asks for a glass of water, don’t spray them with the fire hose.”

Few things are more annoying than when you ask someone a specific question, one that should require a short answer, and they start giving you a big lecture.

Edward Tufte said, “In a business setting, a PowerPoint slide typically shows 40 words, which is about eight seconds’ worth of silent reading material. With so little information per slide, many, many slides are needed. Audiences consequently endure a relentless sequentiality, one damn slide after another.”

How to avoid it?

Even though there is seldom a maximum number of slides for a business presentation, this doesn’t mean that you need to drown your audience in slides. Respect them and let them breathe. The fewer slides you have and the more succinct they are, the easier it will be for you to keep their attention and to get your points across. They will respect you more since you didn’t waste their time.

Another bonus is that you didn’t waste your own time on making a huge amount of unnecessary slides.

5. It can lead to serious misunderstandings

When a complex topic is presented on PowerPoint slides, it can be very difficult for the audience to interpret and understand the real message. This can lead to serious misunderstandings. Some incidents are more severe than others: New York Times columnist Clive Thompson blames the space shuttle Columbia accident on poor use of PowerPoint.

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How to avoid it?

First of all, you need to know your topic. Then, you need to put yourself in the audience’s shoes. Make the PowerPoint presentation very simple to understand, like you are presenting the topic to a ten-year-old kid.

Remember that your audience will probably not know the topic as well as you do. It can be highly admirable when a person can explain a complex topic in a simple way.

Conclusion

PowerPoint is a worthy and supportive tool — when it’s used in the right way. The intention of using PowerPoint should be to enhance your message, not to make it more unclear.

What is your experience with PowerPoint? Have you experienced a good PowerPoint presentation that delivered the message in a succinct way?

Featured photo credit: Michael Kellett / Michael Kellett Professional Photograph via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

If you’ve got a big block of free time, the best way to put that to use is to relax, have fun, decompress from a stressful day, or spend time with a loved one. But if you’ve just got a little chunk — say 5 or 10 minutes — there’s no time to do any of the fun stuff.

So, what to do in free time?

Put those little chunks of time to their most productive use.

Everyone works differently, so the best use of your free time really depends on you, your working style, and what’s on your to-do list. But it’s handy to have a list like this in order to quickly find a way to put that little spare time to work instantly, without any thought. Use the following list as a way to spark ideas for what you can do in a short amount of time.

1. Reading Files

Clip magazine articles or print out good articles or reports for reading later, and keep them in a folder marked “Reading File”. Take this wherever you go, and any time you have a little chunk of time, you can knock off items in your Reading File.

Keep a reading file on your computer (or in your bookmarks), for quick reading while at your desk (or on the road if you’ve got a laptop).

2. Clear out Inbox

Got a meeting in 5 minutes? Use it to get your physical or email inbox to empty.

If you’ve got a lot in your inbox, you’ll have to work quickly, and you may not get everything done; but reducing your pile can be a big help. And having an empty inbox is a wonderful feeling.

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3. Phone Calls

Keep a list of phone calls you need to make, with phone numbers, and carry it everywhere.

Whether you’re at your desk or on the road, you can knock a few calls off your list in a short amount of time.

4. Make Money

This is my favorite productive use of free time. I have a list of articles I need to write, and when I get some spare minutes, I’ll knock off half an article real quick.

If you get 5 to 10 chunks of free time a day, you can make a decent side income. Figure out how you can freelance your skills, and have work lined up that you can knock out quickly — break it up into little chunks, so those chunks can be done in short bursts.

5. File

No one likes to do this. If you’re on top of your game, you’re filing stuff immediately, so it doesn’t pile up.

But if you’ve just come off a really busy spurt, you may have a bunch of documents or files laying around.

Or maybe you have a big stack of stuff to file. Cut into that stack with every little bit of spare time you get, and soon you’ll be in filing Nirvana.

6. Network

Only have 2 minutes? Shoot off a quick email to a colleague. Even just a “touching bases” or follow-up email can do wonders for your working relationship. Or shoot off a quick question, and put it on your follow-up list for later.

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7. Clear out Feeds

If my email inbox is empty, and I have some spare time, I like to go to my Google Reader and clear out my feed inbox.

8. Goal Time

Take 10 minutes to think about your goals — personal and professional.

If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them.

Write down a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality. What action step can you do today? The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.

9. Update Finances

Many people fall behind with their finances, either in paying bills (they don’t have time), or entering transactions in their financial software, or clearing their checkbook, or reviewing their budget.

Take a few minutes to update these things. It just takes 10 to 15 minutes every now and then.

10. Brainstorm Ideas

Another favorite of mine if I just have 5 minutes — I’ll break out my pocket notebook, and start a brainstorming list for a project or article. Whatever you’ve got coming up in your work or personal life, it can benefit from a brainstorm. And that doesn’t take long.

11. Clear off Desk

Similar to the filing tip above, but this applies to whatever junk you’ve got cluttering up your desk. Or on the floor around your desk.

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Trash stuff, file stuff, put it in its place. A clear desk makes for a more productive you. And it’s oddly satisfying.

12. Exercise

Never have time to exercise? 10 minutes is enough to get off some pushups and crunches. Do that 2 to 3 times a day, and you’ve got a fit new you.

13. Take a Walk

This is another form of exercise that doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere. Even more important, it’s a good way to stretch your legs from sitting at your desk too long.

It also gets your creative juices flowing. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, taking a walk is a good way to get unstuck.

14. Follow up

Keep a follow-up list for everything you’re waiting on. Return calls, emails, memos — anything that someone owes you, put on the list.

When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, do some follow-up calls or emails.

15. Meditate

You don’t need a yoga mat to do this. Just do it at your desk. Focus on your breathing. A quick 5 to 10 minutes of meditation (or even a nap) can be tremendously refreshing.

Take a look at this 5-Minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

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16. Research

This is a daunting task for me. So I do it in little spurts.

If I’ve only got a few minutes, I’ll do some quick research and take some notes. Do this a few times, and I’m done!

17. Outline

Similar to brainstorming, but more formal. I like to do an outline of a complicated article, report or project, and it helps speed things along when I get to the actual writing. And it only takes a few minutes.

18. Get Prepped

Outlining is one way to prep for longer work, but there’s a lot of other ways you can prep for the next task on your list.

You may not have time to actually start on the task right now, but when you come back from your meeting or lunch, you’ll be all prepped and ready to go.

19. Be Early

Got some spare time before a meeting? Show up for the meeting early.

Sure, you might feel like a chump sitting there alone, but actually people respect those who show up early. It’s better than being late (unless you’re trying to play a power trip or something, but that’s not appreciated in many circles).

20. Log

If you keep a log of anything, a few spare minutes is the perfect time to update the log.

Actually, the perfect time to update the log is right after you do the activity (exercise, eat, crank a widget), but if you didn’t have time to do it before, your 5-minute break is as good a time as any.

More Inspirations on What To Do During Free Time

Featured photo credit: Lauren Mancke via unsplash.com

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