Vol. 16, Issue No. 2
Designing Slide Presentations for Innovative Learning
Gone are the days when the only tool in a teacher’s arsenal is chalk or a whiteboard marker. Gone too are the days of relying on Manila paper and cartolina for pre-made lecture materials. Now, teachers carry around laptops or even tablets, and traditional handwritten lecture materials have been replaced by slide presentations.
Over the years of their growing popularity, slide presentations, whether made through Microsoft PowerPoint, Prezi, Keynote, Google Slides, or any other program, have garnered their fair share of advocates and detractors. Some educators believe that slide presentations augment lectures and discussions to great effect. Others, however, think that most of these presentations end up being subpar, rendering class lectures redundant and tedious.
In the sea of praise and critique surrounding slide presentations, one common sentiment rises to the surface: slide presentations are only valuable when they are crafted with pedagogy in mind. In fact, several studies have suggested that the key element that makes presentation tools pedagogically effective is their ability to provide variety, engaging multiple senses and thereby increasing and maintaining student interest in the lecture.
Teachers then need to take steps to refine their slide presentations to fulfill these objectives. Here are some best practices curated from educators and students alike.
1. Create slide presentations and handouts separately.
It is common practice for teachers to design their slide presentations in such a way that they are also handouts that they can distribute after the class. But though convenient, it is not advisable to use slides as handouts due to the two materials serving different functions.
Slide presentations augment class discussions through visual content, while handouts give a summary of the discussion, often used as review material by students. Instead of creating slides to be made into a handout and ending up with text-heavy presentations, develop the slides so they complement and emphasize the points in the handout. This minimizes teachers’ tendency to put too many text in the presentation. It also encourages their creativity by forcing them to express their ideas visually instead of using words.
The point of using slide presentations for class lectures is to enrich discussions with visual content in order to increase student participation and attention in class.
2. Favor images and graphic organizers over blocks of text.
Long before the emergence of slide presentation software, visual aids have been effective tools for memory retention. When lectures are coupled with relevant imagery, student comprehension of the subject matter increases.
Think of slide presentations as enhanced visual aids. Instead of simply flashing dates, names, and places to remember in social studies classes, show students images from the historical period being discussed. Instead of long bulleted lists, use graphs and diagrams.
Text-heavy slides during lectures could only lead to problems when they cause cognitive overload for students. A wordy presentation also tempts educators to read from the slides during discussions, which is a big no-no when it comes to promoting student-centered learning. The infinite customization possibilities that the digital medium provides helps teachers maximize the visual learning capabilities of their students and elevate classroom interactions using slide presentations.
3. Pay attention to fonts and text styles.
Even with how minimal the text on the slide presentation ends up being, it is still important to format them in a way that would make them more memorable for students.
Ensure that the text on the slides would be legible from anywhere in the classroom. The text color should contrast with the background color or image so that the text would still be readable even with lighting differences in the classroom. As a rule, font sizes should not be smaller than 24pt. And as for the font type, the simpler it is the better. The likes of Helvetica, Arial, Verdana, Palatino Linotype, and Book Antiqua are among the most recommendable for presentation use.
Arrange the text to show a clear hierarchy of ideas. Headers and titles should be either in bold or in a bigger font to separate them from the text in the body. These simple tricks would make it easier for students to digest the information being presented to them.
Avoid distracting and unnecessary animation.
4. Ease up on the animation.
Animations, like everything else on the slides, must be purposeful. They are great for highlighting or isolating certain information, such as making bullet points appear one by one, or making a word pulse for emphasis. But when used too much too often, they become distracting. In addition, teachers must avoid flashy slide transitions and exciting animations that might only make students’ heads spin.
5. Include interactive elements to keep students engaged.
Slide presentations are best used for interactive media content that would not be possible to deliver through more traditional methods. Show videos of experiments for science classes, or short TED Talks that augment lessons. Use slide presentations to create fun classroom games and quizzes. The more interactive the presentations are, the more they encourage student-centered learning.
The point of using slide presentations for class lectures is to enrich discussions with visual content in order to increase student participation and attention in class. Keep in mind that they are called visual aids for a reason. At the end of the day, slide presentations should support lectures, not replace them.
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