My Hate/Hate Relationship with Slides

I hate PowerPoint with every fiber of my being, and other slide apps by extension (PPT receives the brunt of my rage thanks to its ubiquity). Slides represent the truncation of critical thinking into pithy bullets and ill-timed animations. Slides are a lesson prep time sink. When people discuss going back in time to change history, I’d make a trip solely to corrupt the original PowerPoint floppy disks and mind-wipe the code from the programmers’ memories.

My 25-year military career exacerbates my animosity–gods, how much time I saw wasted on building perfect decks, only for a colonel to get irritated over an extra space between words despite the otherwise action-packed content.

There is one thing I grudgingly like about slides: ease of embedding multimedia. I do like using figures, images, videos, and audio clips, and a good piece of multimedia says more than any bullet statement.

The problem is that there are only three types of slide writers. The first designs the perfect deck: lush, tactile, sensual, and brimming with effects. But they spend so much time on the deck that they practice neither the material nor the timing, resulting in them reading from the slides and botching their carefully embedded light show masterpieces. If you’re just reading from the slides, I’d rather have an email (albeit I hate email even more than slides, but that’s a story for another time).

The second is clearly a master of the material. They barely need their slides and likely could get by with no slides at all. But society demands slides, so they slap some black Calibri-font words on a white background–perhaps 8-point, full-paragraph excerpts from the source material–and end up giving a TED-worthy talk supported with decrepit slides that look like they were built the night before in a fit of caffeinated madness (and they probably were).

I also lose my mind when bullets wrap to a second line with a single word. 😐

Rarely do you get the third person who builds a New York gallery-esque deck and briefs confidently without superstitiously looking back at their deck like some sort of mythic totem. Yet, just imagine how much time they spent crafting and practicing the slides, time likely better spent on… anything besides slides.

Alas, my students howl every time I attempt teaching without slides. So I meet them less than halfway and under duress by channeling a modified “second presenter” archetype: I first deliver a stage-eating, Sam Kinison rant-worthy version of this post on the third or so day of class, then prepare (let alone reuse) sparse slides with a few key words and illustrations. This pacifies the vast majority of my students, albeit every semester I get at least two feedback notes that say, “I wish he put more on his slides.” That’ll be my grave epitaph.

Even so, I am and shall remain an ardent anti-slidist!

4 Replies to “My Hate/Hate Relationship with Slides”

  1. I was taught to teach with PowerPoint slide decks, but today I am slowly moving away from them. except as study-guides. Since this past year, I’ve been giving “Guided Reading Handouts,” which must be answered and submitted for points on the Blackboard or in class. When in class, I give them back the next meeting day.
    I use videos and other curated artifacts to teach with, and leaving behind PowerPoint slides provides more time to prep for a short lecture and then make use of the Guided Reading or some other material to guide discussion.

  2. I have a love/hate relationship with slides. I understand the frustration here depicted, but I see them as a decent “mental crutch” for myself along the way. However, I have found more recently that my undergrads actually expect slides in class AND they want them uploaded to our class website (to take notes/to study/to do prep/etc.). I don’t mind sharing my slides but I always saw it as a courtesy – and not part of classroom deal. Although, I never promised it as part of the student-professor arrangement, I had comments about that in reviews.

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