Skip to comments.Research points the finger at PowerPoint(major pitfall of powerpoint presentation)
Posted on 04/04/2007 6:50:36 PM PDT by TigerLikesRooster
Research points the finger at PowerPoint
University of NSW research shows the human brain processes and retains more information if it is digested in either its verbal or written form, but not both at the same time.
Photo: Andrew Meares
Anna Patty Education Editor
April 4, 2007
If you have ever wondered why your eyes start glazing over as you read those dot points on the screen, as the same words are being spoken, take heart in knowing there is a scientific explanation.
It is more difficult to process information if it is coming at you in the written and spoken form at the same time.
The Australian researchers who made the findings may have pronounced the death of the PowerPoint presentation.
They have also challenged popular teaching methods, suggesting that teachers should focus more on giving students the answers, instead of asking them to solve problems on their own.
Pioneered at the University of NSW, the research shows the human brain processes and retains more information if it is digested in either its verbal or written form, but not both at the same time.
It also questions the wisdom of centuries-old habits, such as reading along with Bible passages, at the same time they are being read aloud in church. More of the passages would be understood and retained, the researchers suggest, if heard or read separately.
The findings show there are limits on the brain's capacity to process and retain information in short-term memory.
John Sweller, from the university's faculty of education, developed the "cognitive load theory".
"The use of the PowerPoint presentation has been a disaster," Professor Sweller said. "It should be ditched."
"It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented."
The findings that challenge common teaching methods suggest that instead of asking students to solve problems on their own, teachers helped students more if they presented already solved problems.
"Looking at an already solved problem reduces the working memory load and allows you to learn. It means the next time you come across a problem like that, you have a better chance at solving it," Professor Sweller said.
The working memory was only effective in juggling two or three tasks at the same time, retaining them for a few seconds. When too many mental tasks were taken on some things were forgotten.
I can agree to this theory. I sort of had the same impression. From now on, I will only present diagrams with a few words when doing PowerPoint presentation
Bad Points of this Theory
Fascinating. I’ve recently been pondering a gut feeling just like what this study indicates. There is a certain raw power in the spoken word (or for that matter, the written word). But dribbling them out together seems to diminish the impact of both.
I use PP all the time, originally at students’ request. But I only use the stuff on PP as the skeleton (or visuals extending some point made in the lecture), and the lecture as the primary substance. The drawback is when students complain after doing poorly on a tset that such-and-such “wasn’t on the slides.”
And its corollary, taking notes during a lecture is counter productive.
A good Powerpoint presentation is easy to read, easy to understand, and contains no errors.
Of course, I've seen a great many bad powerpoint presentations. But they can be done well.
The gist of this article seems to be, from my perspective, that Powerpoint should be diagram-heavy and word-light, to avoid cognitive overload. That is, it is highlighting tool. Shouldn't try to cram too many words into the presentation.
Overhead projectors were evil too.
My accounting professor: (puts up slide)Here the answer to problem 6-2A. Any questions?
(Students stare blankly at a full screen of numbers)
Professor: OK. (removes and replaces slide) Here is 6-3A. Any questions?
I teach accounting now. I draw and complete every problem on the board at the same speed a student would do it. I stop along the way to answer questions.
No overhead. No PowerPoint. No problem.
Your post is begging to be converted into a PowerPoint presentation.
I was gonna says something, but I forgot.
DBPP—death by PowerPoint
Yeah it makes sense and i would tend to agree.
I am a university science research-lecturer of 30 years duration and I have made all the lecture mistakes over the years and occasionally gotten a few right. I have gradually gotten to where I tend to put up a a power point slide symposis sentence (sometimes potentially provocative) and then verbally explain-justify the statement/conclusion in some detail after the slide’s simple concept has sunk in. Then alternately, I will use a clear and hopefully dramatic image or striking graph and say very little (hoping-it the picrture speaks for itself). Having both visual/verbal emphasis forms periodically within the talk seems to help minimize the nodding off based on my highly unscientific observations from the podium (seeing whe whole range of possible reactions over the years). Complex diagrams with lot of accompanying podium verbiage is pretty deadly. IF I am for some reason forced into that senario, then I at least try to end with a simply stated take-home point knowing that is all anyone would remember at best.
Fortunately, its not rocket science—well that is unless it actually is rocket science.
I've seen a PhD spend 20 hours on a 20 minute presentation. He could have gotten his point across with 1-2 hours work. The rest was wasted effort spent polishing an already effective presentation.
My first thought is, this is a study. Wait five minutes and there will be another one refuting it. Studies are like busses. If you miss one another one will be along in about 45 minutes.
I have said for over 10 - 12 years now that anyone that gives flashy Powerpoint presentations full of effects has entirely too much time on their hands.
This little cartoon could be titled “Death by PowerPoint”
Many people do it because they believe that their company's credibility would be ruined unless their PowerPoint presentation is not flashy.
Sometimes, I feel that the main point to get across is "We are good!", not the content.
Corollary: Bill Gate is Evil.:-)
Close. The point is "We look good!"
The difference between looking good and being good is kind of like the difference between looking professional and being professional.
Those that want their employees to always 'Look professional' will never get it. Nor will the understand why their offices are full of empty suits.
Power point presentations are generally pretty useless. If all your going to do is run a slide show why not e-mail the information to interested parties beforehand. Those that would have slept through the meeting will not open it, others will be able to read it at their own pace and respond after thinking things through.
Once the email cycle has completed a useful meeting might be arranged between those that are interested enough to have spent the time reading and commenting.
But the reality is that those that run one way meetings (he/she talks, everybody else listens) are the worst enemies of productivity in existence. You want to get their attention, calculate what one of their meetings costs the company per hour. Then point out that the opportunity costs are higher.
This interpretation of the research is obviously flawed.
One doesn’t read Ppt slides. One speaks to them. That makes them visual aids.
Otherwise, one concludes that TV & Movies cannot educate.
Two productive ways to use this information without throwing out the metaphorical baby: The is to use the Lessig method for preparing a super-stripped-down presentation when you’re addressing an audience. For more on this exciting departure from convention, see http://presentationzen.blogs.com/presentationzen/2005/10/the_lessig_meth.html.
And the other way is to use conventional methods when your presentation is to be self-delivering. Powerpoint has become a fairly powerful authoring tool and can be used quite effectively as a standalone multimedia communications carrier with an inherently high bandwidth.
I was thinking the same thing. TV and Movies thus can’t educate us by their reasoning. Look at what all the news organizations do. They make you listen, then show footage of theings ya have to look at, all the while crawling even more text.
I listen to Fox News Channel through a little transmitter/receiver set up I resurrected from an old hearing assistance system. It’s much better that way....hmmm...maybe they are on to something.
The Air Force requires me to give a quarterly briefing to all the bosses on a certain program, so last year, I stood before the group every three months, in front of the obligatory PowerPoint slides and pointed out the highlights. I also handed out printouts and advised them to review them at their leisure.
That worked pretty well, but then I got the okay to EMAIL the briefing and simply file all the read replies as proof that I had provided the info.
I received MANY grateful thank yous and now I don’t have to put together a fresh presentation on the same material every 90 days.
The ONLY plus about having to do those briefings is that it made me very comfortable speaking before a room full of Generals and Colonels and such.
Just imagined them sitting their in their underwear? (Do your think they have stars printed on their T shirts?)
Thisi alone will bring the American military to a screaming halt...
The PowerPoint Commandos in the Pentagon will go stark raving mad at hearing the news.
I call it "brainmelt" - happens along about 3 o'clock daily at the IT seminar...
One tool that I use a lot is a Flash based program called Xcelsius that turns Excel spreadsheets into interactive simulations. It is an amazing tool that adds a lot of value, particularly as an alternative to dozens of slides full of quantitative data, or in situations where "what if" scenarios are the order of the day.
Does this mean we can pull PowerPoint from the ASAS-Light?
I’ll write up the SPR tomorrow...
Thanks for an important article..will share.
I wish that were so but you know that the East Coast Pruple Pampered Princes in the Pentagon won’t hear of it.
POWERPOINT HUMOR —
Ballad of the PowerPoint Rangers
If you have nothing to say, say it in the PowerPoint, as the commandment goes.
Large pictures are a must.
Use short and pithy Anglo-Saxon words rather than Latin-based speech (Churchill’s dictum).
Tolerate no interruptions except to go to the bathroom.
I teach kindergartners.
It will take more than this one study to knock off the Socratic dialog.
Agreed. The worst presentation is to have someone read material that they already have displayed on screen. PP text should be minimal, just the outline of the presentation--the speaker's notes. It's also effective to put in visuals and explain them.
Thats a good one. If someone chats during one of my presentations, I look directly at the offenders and stop talking until they finish, or will ask them to share their input with the group.
The entire concept of people showing up for a presentation should be ditched. We now have web pages, email, and discussion boards. If something needs to be seen by a group of people, a very informative web page can be created on a company or school intranet or public website, the people who need the information can be emailed the link, if there are any questions the would be presenter can be emailed the question, and can respond with good answers. Another way would be a discussion board format where a topic could be posted onto a web page at a given time with information and Q&A could happen on a discussion board. If the technology of today were used to its potential, 90% of meetings, presentations, and phone calls would be a thing of the past.
Like I tell the older folks I work with: "Talking to people is so 20th century".