Making PowerPoint active not passive

This is a 9th entry in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning’.

A lot of people criticise PowerPoint because of the well known phenomenon of ‘Death by PowerPoint’, but it isn’t PowerPoint that is at fault but the people creating the presentations (or the people that haven’t trained and educated them) that are too blame. What is really sad is that many people know that they have produced an ineffective presentation but still use it anyway. The problem with bad PowerPoint presentations, is they tend become a very passive form of learning – the tutor puts the presentation on the screen, talks a bit (often just reading the words on the screen) in a hope that the students will absorb this information. It doesn’t help that we often have to darken the room by drawing blinds or curtains to make the presentation show up, but that just helps with the sleepy effect and the students will drift off….

So – if we don’t want to make the presentation passive then we need to make it active – in other words getting the students to do something. Over the years I have found many ideas for making presentations more active, and have shared templates with others through this blog and the PowerPoint resources section of my website

These examples include:-

Editable text boxes

The template that I use most within PowerPoint, is editable text boxes. These are really easy to use, they reduce the preparation time for the presentation significantly and make the learning more active, so a win all round situation!

I often use these at the end of a session to summarise what has been learned, or if doing a comparing activity (e.g. advantages v disadvantages of something). Basically – you add your editable text box into your presentation, the students suggest what goes in the, you type them in (or if you have a wireless keyboard, they can type them in) at the end of the session when you save your presentation all the contributions will be kept, so you can share the presentation with the students via the VLE or similar.

Countdown timers

If you set the students a task (which is a good way of making the learning active), then use a timer to keep time – this helps keep the tutor to schedule and helps focus the learners on the task and not to drift off into other distracting activities.

Score Ladders

Some people think that competition within education is a bad thing. My background is in the area of sport science, so I believe that competition (used appropriately) is a good thing. I would often split a class into teams for an activity and pitch them against each other as a way of focusing them and motivating them. Score ladders can be used to keep score within teams (up to 6) and can be used with verbal questions or any other non-technology related activity.

Top 6 activity

I once started a new topic with a simple activity to set the scene / break the ice, where the students (split into 2 teams) had to identify the top 6 something to do with that topic. The activity worked really well, and the template that I created to make this can be adapted very easily for other topics – as long as you have a list of top 6 somethings (or an ordered list).

An example activity can be found here.

And

(note to make the next link work, right click on the link and choose ‘save’ then open the file from where you have saved it- otherwise it may open in the Internet window rather than PowerPoint)

The blank template can be found here

The blank template includes instructions on how to use the resource within the notes section (often visible at the bottom of the screen)


The principle of all the above resources is that as long as a tutor has the ability to copy and paste then they can add these templates to existing or new presentations – make the learning more active and hopefully more engaging and effective.

All of the templates above are free for people working in education to use and to share (e.g. on their VLEs).

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Using Score Ladders in PowerPoint

My background is as a lecturer of sport science. Sport science students have a tendency to be energetic, lively and not always the best behaved – they also have a tendency to be competitive. I often used this competitive nature to my advantage to try and channel their energies into the desired work, rather than disruptive behaviours, and one tool that I used was score ladders which I dropped into a PowerPoint presentation – this is a simple mechanism for keeping score between 2 to 6 teams on any activity (who can solve a problem first, or answer a question quickest etc), and these ladders can be used by anyone in education – and all they need to be able to do is copy and paste. This video will show how.

The resource and others like it can be found at http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources_powerpoint.php