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Power point is a just like the name says a powerful tool for learning. It is basically electronic slides where a person can embed files such as texts, music, pictures, diagram, or whatever else you like.
The benefit is that you are engaging students not just through words, but also through visuals. Some students learn better by hearing, but other students learn better by seeing.
So, immediately you can see the benefits of engaging students through the visual means. Also, it provides for some excitement in that it breaks down the daily routine of lectures.
Recently, I wrote a review on a book by Mary Douglas. It is a pretty heady book, but if I were giving a presentation on it, I would have used many slides instead. In my review, I had one diagram, but in a power point presentation I would have had many more. Below is a link to my review.
PowerPoint presentations enable teachers to increase the quality of written material and visuals they present to the students in the class. The alternative to PowerPoint presentations are using blackboard/whiteboard, and flip charts. Though to completely eliminate the use of blackboard, the PowerPoint offers some distinct advantages. First the PowerPoint presentations can be made in advance, thereby effectively increasing the time available to the teacher to teach. Also the PowerPoint makes it possible to provide a much richer quality of visuals including multicoloured complicated diagrams and pictures.
Flip chart and overhead projection of transparencies provide some of the features of PowerPoint, but thee are relatively more difficult to make. also their quality usually does not match that of PowerPoint presentations.
For something even more visually stimulating and pleasing, check out www.prezi.com.
It's an Internet based tool, it is free, and you can use it like a PowerPoint, and you can also upload files/pics/etc.
I get tired of the sameness of PowerPoints--there's really only so much you can do to create excitement in the presentation. With Prezi, I can create more movement, which really grabs my students' attentions. For student presentations, Prezi forces them to learn the material instead of just reading from a slide. They have to think about organization, arrangement, and the material.
PowerPoint does have its role for the teacher, but I think that many teachers now have access to pre-made curriculum PowerPoints that bore students. Most people don't use PPt to its full advantage. For example, I use it to explicate a text such as a short story and have my students do the same. With color, movement, and music this PPt project is a very beneficial tool. Check out www.awaytoteach.net and click on the Jenni Lee's "Cat in the Rain" presentation to see what PPt can really do.
You are right about Flipcharts. They can be quite time-consuming, but they do have more options such as students being able to move objects around on the chart, etc. If you use them more often (my school district uses the Promethean board with ActivStudio program), they do become much more simple to make.
Technology is inherent more engaging for students of every age than lecture. PowerPoint can be a tool for guiding students in note-taking, reinforcing points made in a lecture, and to inject occasional humor or visual reinforcement.
It is important for teachers to avoid the infamous "death by PowerPoint" than many business speakers fall prey to. Simply treating a PowerPoint presentation as a glorified overhead projector filled with notes to be copied down will do nothing but bore students.
PowerPoint is even more valuable, in my opinion as a teacher, for students to create and use in their own in-class presentations. Another excellent use for PowerPoint is for the teacher to present a mini-lecture on a topic, have students take notes, and then have the students create PowerPoints to summarize key points. It does not even have to be a whole-class assignment, but it could be applied to specific students with learning disabilities or other issues, to ensure their understanding of information transmitted orally.
I use Powerpoint to deliver a framework on a text and then place the framework on our student intranet. Students then have to add slides with their observations/research on a particular theme or idea. When when we 'run' the Powerpoint the students talk to their slide. This encourages condensation of information and allows them to incorporate video, images and diagrames as well as text. The finalised presentation is then saved for revison by all.
I agree it is possible to over-use Powerpoint, but this is the same for any teaching tool or method.
In my experience, Powerpoint has been an invaluable classroom tool. From a practical standpoint, it is one form of technology that costs our school nothing to provide at the moment. (its already installed on all our computers, and we've had overhead projectors for awhile). This makes budget cuts a non-issue. Sadly, I cannot say the same for other forms of technology I would like to use in the classroom.
Powerpoint has aided me when it comes to accomodating students on IEP's. In a class where half the students have Ed plans, it is hard to remember everyone's needs. A powerpoint can be constructed in advance with every student in mind.
Powerpoint has been useful when it comes to helping my students understand the ins and outs of plagiarsm/intellectual property in all media. I can role model citation format and give proper credit in everyday materials instead of only giving focused instruction on those things. While I could site whiteboard notes in MLA format, it would take up a lot of time/space and bore the kids.
I love doing vocabulary introduction with because the visuals I can provide obviously aid in student learning/understanding. I can also make students smile/keep them awake! Not one student has forgotten the word "Hackneyed" since I started introducing it with (credited) images of the five "Bring it On" DVD's.
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