Friday, December 4, 2009

Edward Tufte on PowerPoint in schools

The core ideas of teaching — explanation, reasoning, finding things out, questioning, content, evidence, credible authority not patronizing authoritarianism — are contrary to the cognitive style of PowerPoint. And the ethical values of teachers differ from those engaged in marketing.

Especially disturbing is the introduction of PowerPoint into schools. Instead of writing a report using sentences, children learn how to decorate client pitches and infomercials, which is better than encouraging children to smoke. Student PP exercises (as seen in teachers’ guides and in student work posted on the internet) typically show 5 to 20 words and a piece of clip art on each slide in a presentation consisting of 3 to 6 slides — a total of perhaps 80 words (20 seconds of silent reading) for a week of work. Rather than being trained as mini-bureaucrats in the pitch culture, students would be better off if schools closed down on PP days and everyone went to The Exploratorium. Or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something.

Edward Tufte, Beautiful Evidence (Chesire, CT: Graphics Press, 2006), 161.
This passage is revised from Tufte’s The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (2003).

Related reading
Edward Tufte’s website

comments: 4

JuliaR said...

Amen! I loathe Powerpoint presentations in school. And in office type meetings. And anywhere where learning is the objective. I suppose they are okay for just presenting material.

normann said...

Add that impostor Arial and its cheesy lack of kerning in PowerPoint and you have a real witches' brew. Last weekend I had to suffer two such ugly presentations.

JuliaR said...

I had to look up the word "kerning", thanks! I had never heard it before. Now the struggle will be to use it in a sentence a few times so I can remember it.

I recently ran into the word "anabasis" for the second time in my life and had to look it up again. But this time, I can remember what it means because I have connected it with anadromous fish like salmon. Once, I worked for an MP who was on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (I called it the Fish Committee) so I learned a lot about fish. Of course, my struggle will be to NOT say "an-a-BA-sis", not that there's a lot of opportunity to say that word out loud!

Michael Leddy said...

What I most dislike about being a PowerPoint audience (which I am only rarely) is the obedience the medium seems to encourage, the expectation that I am to stare at a screen, when I would rather pay attention in ways of my choosing.

Julia, thanks for anadramous, new to me.