Slide Show Syndrome

I remember when people actually used to use slide projectors.  When I was a kid family friends would relive their recent vacations with a real slide show in their living room with the lights turned low.  It sounds nice, but invariably the slide shows would drag on longer than they should have.  It used to be a common joke, tolerating someone’s slide show.  “Hey, do you want to come over on Friday?  I’ll show you some slides from my trip to Europe.”  *GROAN*  Right?

So what made people think that turning slide shows into digital presentations filled with lengthy paragraphs of dull text and rife with stock images stolen from the internet would make quality teaching tools?  As teachers, we need to be aware of what makes for a good “show” in the classroom.  Garr Reynolds, although I think he aims more at businessmen than teachers, makes a lot of really good points on his blog about making streamlined and effective PowerPoint presentations.  He touches on one of my biggest PowerPoint/Google Presentation pet peeves: having a presenter read his entire slideshow with little to no added information.  Why are you up there, man?  How much are you getting paid to stand there when you should have just emailed your PPT file.  Garr encourages presenters to make striking slides that provide visual anchors to the content that  is being discussed during the LIVE presentation.  All the rest else can be included in a handout.  Matt Helmke reiterates this in his presentation stating that the “Handouts can set you free.”

I’ve been working with a colleague to help middle school students create monthly middle school presentations.  The topics are varied, but essentially the show ends up being a summary of what is happening in the middle school, a kind of middle school current events.  I went through a recent slide show and discovered that it could have used some serious work. ***The presentation has a lot of names and faces from the middle school.  I’m not entirely comfortable sharing that out at large.  If you’d like to take a look, send me a message and I’ll provide you with a link***

The first thing that surprised me was that many of the photographs of student events were filled with the backs of people’s heads?  Surely we can find better photographs than this. 

I’m not in danger of giving anyone’s identity away here because there are ONLY backs of heads. Where are the faces?  Is this an image that the kids are going to remember?  Why did we include this?

There are other sequences in the slideshow that are fully standalone.  They require no live presentation.  This isn’t really appropriate when gathering the entire middle school together. Is it?  We should provide our students the opportunity to get in front of a group and practice public speaking.  I’ll be reducing the text and getting the kids out in front more next time around.

My main takeaway from this reflection is that I now have the opportunity to teach students how to make quality presentations. If I can connect with them at a young age, I’ll be doing my part to attempt to put an end the endless stream of ineffective, mind-numbing slide show presentations.


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