Pecha Kucha – PowerPoint with Rules!

By Katherine Lithgow

It’s been compared to a poetry slam. It has taken place in bars, nightclubs, universities, churches, private homes and studios.  It began in Tokyo and has spread world-wide.  What is it?  Well, it’s a power point presentation.  More specifically, it is a power point presentation with rules.  Pecha Kucha, (pronounced peh-chahk’-cha), Japanese for chatter, is a short powerpoint presentation with a time and slide limit-  20 slides, 20 seconds per slide, for a total presentation time of 6 minutes and 40 seconds. 

The “rules” were created by a two Tokyo-based architects in 2003 to provide a format where designers could take turns presenting their work to each other without having one person monopolize the time leaving little to no time for others to present their work.

What interests me about this presentation format is the way that it can be used in the classroom. The structure is great for introducing material, providing a broad context or summary (see Linda Carson’s art history lesson ‘From Rembrandt to Lady Gaga in 5 minutes’) or telling a story to present information.  It works especially well with material that is highly visual.

A lot of what I learned about pecha kucha came from a discussion on the POD* listserv.  Hope Greenburg (POD listserv post 2/3/2011 ) shared the following suggestions for using pecha kucha in the classroom-

  • Do an overview highlighting major points that will be addressed later in the class
  • Provide the “big picture” of why this topic is important for this class or for the field, how it relates to what has gone before, etc.
  • Set the scene for introducing a point that may be important but not easy to get at another way,
  • Build a complex chart or graph to illustrate the process as well as the final result.  

The strict adherence to time makes it useful as a way to provide a larger number of students the opportunity for oral presentation in the classroom and it is good practice at getting to the point of a presentation.  Linda Carson (BKI), for example, had each of her students create a pecha kucha to share their reflections on what they had learned during their museum trip to Amsterdam.  The presentations were collected into one large power point and automatically advanced.  Students literally lined up around the room and came forward as the slide to their section came up.   

There are challenges associated with the format.  A lot of preparation goes into creating a pecha kucha and a lot of rehearsing is required to coordinate the timing of the slides with the narrative.  The structure doesn’t allow for interaction with the audience during the presentation, and it isn’t a good method to use to go into a concept in depth. 

But it is a good way to learn a little bit about something in a short amount of time.  And it can be entertaining to watch and participate in.  I’d be interested in knowing if anyone decides to incorporate it into their classroom and what you thought of the experience.

Resources and sources: 

Hope Greenburg – Avoiding “Powerpoint to Death”

Daniel Pink- 

Posts on POD listserv February 2011- search Pecha kucha

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Katherine Lithgow

As Senior Instructional Developer, Integrative Learning, Katherine Lithgow facilitates ePortfolio and Integrative Learning initiatives, supporting instructors across campus with the design and implementation of activities that help students integrate learning in academic, workplace, community and social environments. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Katherine taught Cytology at The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences. She received her BA from the University of Toronto, and a Master’s in Educational Technology from UBC. In what seems like another life, Katherine worked as a cytotechnologist graduating from TMI’s Cytology program.

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