Why computing teachers still really need PowerPoint

The mob call for PowerPoint blood

How we cringe at PowerPoint in schools!

The rainbow slide backgrounds! The pinwheeling! The jokerman! The scribble path animations! And as if the children’s attempts weren’t bad enough, we have to sit through INSET where glaringly obvious ‘comic sans’ bullets are read to us as if we were unable to read them for ourselves.

It’s no surprise that the the little red ‘P’ came to represent all that was dull and boring and fruitless about IT in schools.

Teachers are not alone either. Search the Internet for anti-PowerPoint and you will find an army. A Swedish political party reportedly wants it banned; groups the world over are convinced it inhibits communications. With PowerPoint all human interactions are arguably reduced to a series of bullet points, zooming in one by one alongside a pointless spinning graphic. (Not to mention the capital letter in the middle of its name that you can’t omit for fear of disapproving red scribbly lines appearing. Every teacher hates that.)

 

But have we missed the (Power)Point?

Despite all this, and all it represents, I in fact, love it. True, the average 7 year old can master its use in a lesson or two, but that’s not the point. You don’t learn PowerPoint just to learn how to use it; you put it to work as a flexible tool for recording any new knowledge: it’s a perfect electronic exercise book.
You see, if the digital experience awaiting you all when you log on at your school is nothing more than white boxes with yellow folders and little blue Ws and endless document titles, then sadly, you really need it.

(Or something like it, of course. There are other slideshow tools of equal measure in all ways but ubiquitousness).

Although, you need it not for making those slideshows on a geography or history topic that inevitably happens at some point and always will. You need it not for the more thoughtful hyperlinked slides and hot spots pupils can use to create their own interactive text books. Not even for how PP allows any subject to be turned into a ‘choose your own adventure’ style story, with non linear navigation through the tombs of the pharaohs or the rainforests of Brazil. Nor for the use of mapping software shots to create interactive atlases just because you can. No. All this should be just the standard recording of digital work. Multimedia and narration should be included too and PP had provided simple tools for you to do just that  years before you thought you needed an iPad to manage it. No. None of these reasons are why PP is something all Computing teachers need to embrace.
Here is the reason I love it and think it has an important job to do in our Computing lessons…

An idea so simple but so Power(Point)ful

The important point  – the ‘Power Point’ even, although I regret that joke already, is this: In the absence of any other form of platform, you should turn a PP slideshow into a record of all digital work in Computing / ICT lessons. A slide can be made quickly in a lesson and can usefully hold screenshots of a project in process, with pupil and teacher commentary and links to the actual files pupils have created. Train a class to digitally record what they are doing, even plan on a slide beforehand, and then complete a reflective prompt such as ‘The best debugging I did today was…’ and you have something quite valuable in the making. The much maligned PP becomes a digital exercise book stroke scrap book stroke journal recording every lessons’ progress and efforts. In one place. In a routine ‘part of every lesson’ way. It’s that consistent way to capture their work and keep organised that you didn’t realise you’ve been wishing for. You can even add those digital badges and reward graphics to slides you’ve been wanting to but without a VLE / Platform / Shared Site type thing you thought you could never do.

 

And, so there you are in parents evenings, allowing yourself a smug smile as you scroll through the slides’ narrative of a term of exceptional work, to wide eyed adults, using it to launch off to other projects on other pieces of software. Coming back to their baby’s happily typed ‘AfL’ comments on the next slide. ‘Today I learnt…’ (When last year you were searching through folders wondering where all that work they did went, trying not to break into a sweat – but I digress). It becomes the key document that is taken home at the end of the year, and you have something quite concrete to use for assessment, of the formative and summative kind in fact. And for pupils – the slide show’s building contents become a matter of pride and celebration of their work.
It’s such a simple idea that it actually takes a while to fully appreciate it, let it sink in and ask – why am I not doing this?
(There’s a little more too – New feature Office Mix has added a very different set of possibilities for your students to keep a record of their achievements, but I’ll save that for another post.)

 

So there’s my opinion. It’s not the most visually stunning or flexible piece of kit, it’s not the most engaging way to present to people, but as an electronic book that children can swiftly produce during a lesson and keep on building on, you can’t beat it. Microsoft PowerPoint, I salute you…

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