Update Your Lectures: Re-Thinking PowerPoint in the Classroom – Zara Rafferty

Black and white photo of a teacher in the classroom

Oh, how I loved PowerPoint as a student. When the lights at the front of the room clicked off and the PowerPoint projector clicked on, my peers and I took that as our cue to sit back, relax, and start surreptitiously texting under our desks. What was class time for, really, if not to catch up with the latest Facebook news?

Silly faculty, I thought, don’t they realize that, by posting the lecture slides, they are eliminating the need for me to listen in class? As for the few wily instructors who left blanks in the slides? Well, they eliminated the need to study for tests, as we could be fairly sure those blanks would comprise the bulk of our quiz questions.

It was only when I became an instructor that I realized how vital PowerPoint was for me. The slides helped keep me on-track, allowed me to share images or embedded videos, and ensured that I touched upon key discussion points.

But, as I gazed out at my students, not-so-covertly texting, nodding off, or staring at me with vacant eyes, I realized I was doing something wrong. I was using PowerPoint as a crutch and not as an effective communication tool. I turned to PowerPoint to organize my notes when I had not left myself enough time to plan a thoughtful, engaging lecture. I thought that by using a different font (hello, Rockwell!) and selecting a colourful PowerPoint template, I was somehow pioneering educational technology.


I had to face the sad fact that I didn’t know how to use PowerPoint effectively. I didn’t, and you probably don’t either. And that’s okay. We can fix it! Here are my top 5 resources for reinventing how you use PowerPoint in the classroom:

1. You Suck at PowerPoint: 5 Shocking Design Mistakes to Avoid
2. Re-Think Your Use of Visuals: Dance vs. PowerPoint, a Modest Proposal (from John Bohannon, who also created the Dance Your PhD project)
3. PowerPoint Inspiration: 28 Creative PowerPoint Designs
4. Active Learning with PowerPoint Tutorial
5. Try other PowerPoint-esque programs, like Prezi, Keynote, or SlideRocket

Of course, you could always get rid of PowerPoint altogether, but I suppose that’s a topic for a future post…

Happy designing!

(Image via)


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Zara Rafferty

As a CTE Faculty Liaison, Zara Rafferty helps instructors in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences integrate technology into their teaching through innovative learning activities. She also serves as guide for instructors to access other CTE resources. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Zara worked as a Knowledge Translation Specialist for the Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program and an Adjunct Lecturer for UW’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies. She earned her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Waterloo and her B.Ed from Wilfrid Laurier University.

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