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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 September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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