Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Blogs as Presentation Tools

Here's a thought: using blogs instead of Powerpoint.

Cindy Chick has a very useful post on using blogs as presentation media. She discusses advantages and disadvantages and links to a presentation that she recently did in Blogger. I've been going back and forth on this for a while and I think I'm at the point that I will never present using PowerPoint again. Last week, I spoke at the Nassau Library System and used a blog for my presentation and loved it because the presentation flowed better. Cindy Chick writes:

"The organization of a blog forced me to think, not in bullet points, but in speaking points. I've been skeptical at claims that PowerPoint dictates a certain undesirable structure upon it's users, but after working with a blog, I'm starting to think there may be something to that idea."

Unlike Cindy, I'm finding myself more and more opposed to the use of Powerpoint in instruction. (Everyone who uses Powerpoint should immediately stop what you're doing and read Edward Tufte's analysis.) Powerpoint is very easy to use badly, and very difficult to use well. I've seen too many presentations, especially by students in classes, where Powerpoint is used as a crutch. The speaker sits at the table with the rest of the students and reads the text presented on the screen in front of them. This enables the speaker to speak without having to face the class looking at him or her. Text-heavy Powerpoint presentations are boring, and clip art-heavy presentations are lacking in content (I know, I've fallen into that trap myself too many times). The graphs and charts that Powerpoint produces contain minimal informational content.

Sunday evening I was preparing my first Legal Research lecture for this semester--an orientation to novice and expert information seeking behavior, and an introduction to secondary sources. I was using PowerPoint to draft my presentation, and I finally decided I was better off just printing off the handout and distributing that rather than using a laptop and projector. The technology ties you not only to a preconceived script, but also to one spot in the room. I'm not a great lecturer, but I feel that my lectures are better if I'm free to move about the room and engage students directly.

Powerpoint can be useful as a slideshow tools, when you want to display photos or other images. It's good for that. Other than that, however, I doubt that I will use Powerpoint again.


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