Not Your Father’s PowerPoint

Ok, ok, so most of our fathers probably never touched PowerPoint.  Either way here are a couple cool links that demonstrate how to move past standard templates and boring bullets.  Although Articulate is also used, note that even if you don’t publish to Articulate it’s pretty impressive what can be created in PowerPoint. Many animations can run similarly even in the absence of Articulate.

The first link comes from e-Learning Art, an excellent site to explore. They specialize in e-learning tools.  Here is a link to one of their demos on how to build a change in emotion of a character in your presentation. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds, check it out…

PowerPoint Animation Change of Expression

The second comes from Tom Kuhlman’s Rapid eLearning Blog. He demonstrates how he built a television in PPT. He also embeds a video that you start using a remote control – which is a nice touch. What you’ll discover is that building graphical elements in PPT can be quite simple. To me, it’s like scrapbooking, taking a blank page and using shapes and colors to tell a story. It also reminds me of building blocks or sketch drawings, basically you use simple lines, shapes, and colors to build complexity.

Tom Kuhlman’s – How to Get Past A Screen Full of Bullets

I hope you enjoy checking out the demos and start experimenting in building better presentations.

Kicking PowerPoint to the Curb

In a meeting I had on Friday, we discussed with a client whether we should design a facilitation course in a way that doesn’t encourage the use of PowerPoint for the participants. One side of the discussion says that we should not encourage PowerPoint because it just puts people in a “presentation” mode rather than one of a facilitator. The other side says that’s all well and good, but let’s visit reality for a moment and recognize that we’re never going to win that battle.

I came across a facinating article in The Chronical of Higher Education highlighting a college dean who has taken computers out of the classroom and forced professors and students to view their classroom experience differently. As I read the article and watched the accompanying video, I saw several applications to the corporate world:

  • The assertion is that if you just need to do an information dump – record podcasts or other documents for the participants to complete before class. That way the live session focuses on lively debate and discussion. This is something that could very easily be implemented in a corporate environment. Many organizations have some sort of LMS, whether complex or Moodle. These tools allow for a blended approach that can be both time and cost effective. (Even a common tool like MS Sharepoint can be used to manage some of that information.)
  • They are not advocating a complete removal of technology, but rather using it in the way that makes most sense. So, the rooms are wireless if participants need to collaborate on something and professors will bring laptops to play games or show examples to the students. I would love to see more instructor-led courses in a corporate world that are focused on having students use their own laptops to find and discuss information. I wonder why I so rarely see that approach in organizations?
  • Last, the issue of resistance. Resistance has come from both professors and learners.  “Strangely enough, the people who are most resistant to this model are the students…Students have been socialized to view the educational process as essentially passive. The only way we’re going to stop that is by radically reconfiguring the classroom…” And here, I think, is the root of the problem. If we want to move from PowerPoint driven information dumps that we call “training”, then it requires a change on both the facilitator and participants’ part. Our corporate participants are not much different from college students – even if they wouldn’t admit it, many of them want to be spoon-fed the information. For an organization to successfully make the transition to truly participant-centered learning, it requires managing the resistance of both groups…which can feel almost impossible.

What do you think? Is it even worth the fight to get the PowerPoint out of the classroom and into pre and post work? Have you had any success in those efforts?

Got the PowerPoint Blahs?

To continue the graphics discussion that Jenn started on Friday, I had the great fortune to be in San Jose at DevLearn and was in a great keynote with Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin. He made a fantastic point about simple but engaging visuals. Then he talked about something that I hear about over and over in training: PowerPoint.

“PowerPoint is just a hammer. You don’t blame the hammer when the house falls down,” Roam said.

I completely agree! PowerPoint is a great tool. It can be used to create engaging training. Now, if only everyone would learn how great it is and use it to it’s full potential. But alas, we are doomed to the white slides filled with 47 bullets in Arial font. Or terrible clip art that “magically” flies in from the upper right.

Slide Rocket is a tool that’s trying to change how we use PowerPoint. It truly makes beautiful slides. And, oh, yes, it’s free! (At least for the first 250MB.) I don’t use it all the time, but I have tested creating a generic PowerPoint, importing into Slide Rocket and editing. The editing tools are a little more complex, kind of like using an Adobe product to modify photos. So far, I’ve not had any problems.

Test it out and tell me what you think. Can it erase your PowerPoint blahs?