Why I (heart) PowerPoint

Power Point gets a bad rap, and it bugs me.  I don’t know how many times I have heard people rant against this particular piece of software,  What they are really complaining about is a presentation style that does not involve the audience and which focuses on the fancy stuff happening on the screen and not on the content being communicated.  But this isn’t the fault of Power Point.

So to balance the scales a bit, here are some of the things I love about Power Point.

It’s a great tool for supporting a presentation.

I do agree that letting Power Point dictate how you present information can lead to  incredibly dull and ineffective presentations.  However, planning your presentation first and then using Power Point as a tool for creating the visuals you want can be a very effective way to go.  This is of course the approach championed by Garr Reynolds, whose Presentation Zen style has really changed how I approach using visual imagery when I present.

I know that Power Point has a very linear structure, but I actually find this quite helpful.  Sometimes linear is good.  Last year I created a presentation on Digital Literacy for the parents at my school and I really wanted to create it using Prezi.  I tried really hard to figure out a structure for my talk that would fit into the nice flowing, non-linear structure of a Prezi and got stumped.  When I moved back to PowerPoint I was pleasantly surprised at how much more easily I could visualise and create a narrative flow for my presentation.

It’s a great way to edit and annotate a picture.

To date I have not found an easier way to crop, resize, rotate, annotate and draw on a picture than Power Point.  The best part is that Power Point can save each slide as a JPEG, so it can be imported and embedded just about anywhere.  I use this feature all the time.  In fact I think the picture and text that I have in the header of this blog was put together in Power Point.

It’s really easy to animate stuff.

OK, I know that this is usually the reason a certain genre of Power Point sucks.  You know, the ones with Pac Man eating the words off of the screen, or machine gun noises accompanying the slow staccato appearance of each letter of a word as it slowly makes it’s entrance.  The reason this feature is misused is that it is so easy to use.  Which means that if your purpose is to actually animate something to support your presentation, then Power Point is an appropriate tool to use.  For example, I use it a lot in my Math Classroom because I can easily animate visual representations of the calculations we are working on.

It’s easy to create multimedia presentations that combine audio, pictures and movement.

Now this can also be done using a number of other tools; Photostory 3 comes to mind.  There is however a Power Point plugin called iSpring Free that allows you to convert your presentation into a Flash Video and save it to your computer.  Last year to add some challenge to my Grade 6 research presentation on Inventions I had them set up their Power Point presentation using timings and record their voices on top of the scripts.  We then converted their presentations into flash files and uploaded them to my server.  I think they are pretty good, but you can judge for yourself.

You can write on the slides as you work through them and save your annotations.

image I don’t have a smart board in my  Math 7 classroom so make do with a laptop and projector.  I try as much as possible to teach using Power Point and my Wacom Tablet.  I am still getting the hang of it but really like that once I have written down my explanation I can save it and upload it to our class blog; either as a Power Point of as a JPEG image file.

So that’s my mini rant.  Power Point is a really useful piece of software; don’t dismiss it just because so many people use it poorly.

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