Using Powerpoint to Organize Homework

PowerPoint replacing the 5×7 note card

Teachers with the benefit of a classroom computer and a projector and screen can obviously save hours of rewriting concepts on a blackboard and bring life to the materials that they want to share with their students. Using creativity in the preparation of PowerPoint presentations will pique the interest of most students in this technological age. However, the use of PowerPoint should not be limited only to the teacher and the preparation of class. Students can take advantage of the excellent organizational tools that PowerPoint offers and practice in order to prepare themselves for their ongoing educational challenges.

PowerPoint is an organizational and presentational program. It is meant not only to present graphic and word references for the passive listeners, it is also a useful tool in learning to make such presentations. Through the generation of key ideas, the repetition of such ideas with examples and the logical conclusions to be made from the presentation, students learn to organize their thoughts and perform and comprehend better in their school work.

A useful example of this type of activity would be an assignment to speak for several minutes on a particular subject. The subject should first be brainstormed to develop the key ideas that the student wishes to communicate. Speaking on the subject of dress codes in the school, some basic ideas might include:

* Dress codes are useful in avoiding grouping of students based on “fashion mores”.

* Dress codes help parents to simplify the purchase and care of school clothing.

* Dress codes often reflect the morals of the community in which the school is located.

These three themes would occupy an introductory slide.

Each theme is then copied and pasted into a new slide as a headline. Following this headline, students will need to brainstorm a few points that are related to the headline. In the example offered, the headline concerning “fashion mores” might generate the following sub-themes:

* Economic differences and prejudices are reduced when students are expected to dress in a certain fashion.

* Students will begin to replace values based on clothing with those based on character.

* This type of dress code is common in the work world and having such in schools helps to prepare students for the “real world”.

The presentation is now comprised of four major slides: the introduction and three thematic slides based on the ideas presented in the introduction. This information should be gone over to make sure it follows a logical sequence. Rating the themes in terms of importance to the speaker is one guideline for making sure the ideas are in a useful order. In other topics a time line might be more useful. In any case, the ideas might not have come in the “right” order during a brainstorming session and the organization of these themes is an important task in knowing the subject that is to be spoken about. Other areas that can be checked include grammar, word choice and parallel structure. All these can be easily seen with this type of organization.

PowerPoint also offers note-taking that is not seen in the presentation. Students should be encouraged to note words they would use, sentences, questions they might ask or need to answer concerning their presentation. While practicing the presentation, having timed the slides so that they automatically move forward, these notes will help the student to build confidence in what is being communicated. Repeated practice sessions will also bring new ideas to the forefront and students should note those ideas as well. Perhaps not all ideas will be used but it is better to have too much information available than not to have enough.

Finally, conclusions should be made. This is a separate slide with a simple statement that sums up what the student has been speaking about. The conclusion can be gleaned mostly from the notes that have been taken in the development of the PowerPoint slide show. It can include that series of questions and provide answers. It should leave the listener with a feeling that they have understood the talk and perhaps even stimulate the listener to either ask questions or investigate further.

This is not so different from some of us “older” folks using 5×7 note cards in preparing for research papers and Speech class presentations. Those cards were convenient at that time, could be organized easily, could hold information bits that helped remind the speaker where to go, what to say. Note cards can be replaced by the PowerPoint presentation, as an organizational tool, a practice aid and a visual support that will add to the confidence and quality of the work presented.