"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Saturday, August 12, 2017

"Death by PowerPoint"

Jane Wakefield of BBC wrote two years ago an article "How to avoid 'death by powerpoint'". She listed several images that one should avoid putting into slides. The list she shared was made based on opinions of several powerpoint professionals. These images are: "cogs, images of people holding hands around a globe, stacked pebbles, thumbs up, archery targets (with optional arrow), jigsaw piece being fitted into puzzle, businessperson poised to, run a race, handshakes, rosettes, and groups of businesspeople staring intently at a monitor". Of course, overused images are not the only reasons why a powerpoint presentation can become a disaster. Addition of technology to learning can only be positive if it is done right with cognitive principles in mind.

Above copied from BBC News
Richard Mayer enumerates various principles one should consider in multimedia presentation. These principles are all based on evidence. The list is nicely summarized in a chapter in Applying Science of Learning in Education: Infusing Psychological Science into the Curriculum (2014).


Above copied from
Richard E. Mayer (2014)
Research-Based Principles for Designing Multimedia Instruction
In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, & C. M. Hakala (Eds.). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/asle2014/index.php

The principles are provided in the following tables (Mayer(2014)):




The effect sizes are quite substantial especially for reducing extraneous processing, demonstrating how important it is to place only what is truly necessary on a slide. Another chapter in the same book looks at specific examples and one is shown below:

Above copied from
Catherine E. Overson (2014) 
Applying Multimedia Principles to Slide Shows for Academic Presentation
In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, & C. M. Hakala (Eds.). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/asle2014/index.php
The original version has the unnecessary background of the caduceus, the symbol of medicine. The slide compares descriptive against analytic epidemiology. In the modified version, these two are presented side-by-side. The modified version basically follows two of Mayer's principles:

  • Coherence Principle: Extraneous material is not included.
  • Signaling Principle: Essential material are highlighted and organized.
And the results are significant:

Above copied from
Catherine E. Overson (2014) 
Applying Multimedia Principles to Slide Shows for Academic Presentation
In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, & C. M. Hakala (Eds.). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/asle2014/index.php
Simply making and using slides instead of writing on a blackboard is not necessarily going to improve student learning. Using technology in our classrooms do require a thoughtful consideration of how students learn. 


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