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“Hypnotizing Chickens”

April 29, 2010

That’s what Thomas X. Hammes, a retired marine colonel, calls the use of PowerPoint presentations for press briefings.  The 25 minute presentation lulls the press practically to sleep and leaves just 5 minutes for questions.

Hypnotizing chickens with “dumb-dumb bullets” — another apt description from Hammes.

The “dumb-dumb bullets” refers to the bullet points which compose at least 90% of most PowerPoint presentations.  (That’s not a real statistic.  I made it up.  Call it an educated guess.)  Since the bullet points are theoretically expanded on by the person doing the actual talking, the points can be quite vague.  Unfortunately, they are often left quite vague and the audience fills in what they want to hear.  (Click the link above.  Vague bullet points are not a good thing for politics or the military.)

It’s so easy to use PowerPoint when making presentations.  However, what should serve as simply an outline of key points to organize the talk usually becomes the entire talk.  Have you ever watched someone read slides for 60 minutes?  It is mind-numbingly boring.  I’m lucky if I can remember a few points immediately after the presentation.  Now imagine students receiving new information this way every single day.

When I was in university (many, many years ago), our professors lectured using the chalkboard and maybe overhead transparencies to organize the talk and to provide visuals.  Mr. Jay didn’t even need notes to teach the Krebs cycle.  He just used the chalkboard.  We had to take notes.  Now students just follow along with a handout containing all of the slides as the instructor reads those slides.  Students actually complain if they don’t receive a handout and they complain if the professor should dare to say anything which is not on the handout.  How do they study?  I’m going to take a wild guess that many just memorize the handout.

I may just volunteer to give a talk and just walk in with a piece of chalk.  I wonder if I’m up to the task.  I think that Mr.  Jay would be proud of me.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lori Pollock permalink
    May 1, 2010 9:02 pm

    I lecture using chalk, transparencies, and an old-fashioned thing called a book. I refuse to use PP, much to the surprise and dismay of many a student (surprise because I’m otherwise young and hip-looking and assumed to be iphone-toting). I even have the audacity to make students read said book, too. But you know what? Most of them love this lecture style by the end of term (or so they write on their comment sheets, anyway!).

  2. Michele permalink*
    May 1, 2010 10:54 pm

    That’s fantastic!

    Just yesterday, I sat through forty-five minutes of someone reading their PowerPoint slides. The hypnotized chickens didn’t have any questions when she was done.

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