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For most posts on this blog, comments are turned off by default. For reasons why this is the case, and with which I largely agree, see this blog post at Bioethics Bulletin. I will open comments on individual blog posts when I explicitly desire feedback on something I have written. Those comments will be moderated; irrelevant, abusive comments will be sent to the circular file.

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How PowerPoint ruins a presentation

Rani Lill Anjum:

PowerPoint presentations have become the standard way for philosophers to present their work. The idea is that this is a modern and useful tool that benefits both the speaker and the audience. But after having sat through countless PowerPoint presentations at conferences and meetings over the last few years, my experience is that PowerPoints more often than not actually works as a hindrance for giving a good presentation. The use of PowerPoints seems to encourage a violation of basic pedagogical principles. I here want to share some of the ways in which PowerPoints have ruined a perfectly interesting talk for me as a recipient.

Her 11 points of advice for people who want to use PowerPoint in presenting their work are all fantastic points. 

It was rare that I saw PowerPoint in use during a paper presentation of any kind when I was a graduate student. Faculty occasionally used PowerPoint when doing lectures (or used Microsoft Word to put notes up on screen for all students to see, in one case), but never in presenting a paper of their own. Graduate students, when presenting papers in colloquia, never used PowerPoint. As a department, our practice was that audience members in a paper presentation should have read the paper beforehand, and should have come prepared to ask questions. This had the practical effect of rendering PowerPoint useless. Using PowerPoint locks you into a certain script for your talk. But that is a liability when your audience is going to ask questions that you may not have anticipated and you need to think on your feet as a result. For that reason, I am skeptical of PowerPoint's usefulness in a paper presentation.

For doing lectures to students, however, where you are likely to have a more well-defined set of material to get through, PowerPoint seems more useful. It can still be abused, however, so lecturers who are using PowerPoint as a teaching tool in the classroom do need to follow Anjum's advice. As I stated in my prior post, presentation software can be helpful in the classroom, especially when it would take a long time to fully write an argument out on a whiteboard or chalkboard. So if the argument isn't too big, I will generally write it out on a PowerPoint slide beforehand.

For slides like that, however, it's really important to not go through these slides too quickly. The time that you save in writing out an argument on the whiteboard needs to be spent well, and explaining and commenting on how the argument is supposed to work seems to me like the best way to do that.

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