Teach how to make concise but informative presentations

Author(s): Minna Lakkala

Affiliation(s): University of Helsinki

Date of publication: March 22, 2015

The Educational Problem

In addition to writing long essays or reports, students need to learn to present knowledge and get their message through in a concise but informative way. Students need models and examples about how to make good presentation, and they need opportunities to practice such skills. Making typical slide presentations (e.g. multiple PowerPoint slides with bullet points) is a convention that is not always the most useful.

The Solution

Therefore, provide students a concrete, alternative model for creating presentations with slide tools (such as PowerPoint) as well as explicit assignments to apply the model in making their own presentations. Give concrete performance criteria that forces students to concentrate on critical features in making concise but informative presentations. Assign students also to give the presentations to each other and comment on each others’ presentations in a safe and supportive atmosphere.

One useful model for making slide presentation is the idea of “Slidedocs” (see http://www.duarte.com/slidedocs/), which are presentations made by a slide application (e.g. PowerPoint) so that each slide introduces one clear point with a combination of visualizations and readable text (no bullet points). The layout of the slides is designed so that the presentation can be used both in screen and in print form. The teacher could restrict the number of slides (e.g. max 5), which forces students to practice focusing on central aspects of the topic. After making the presentations, students can be organized in small groups, where each presentation is read and discussed by turns.

The Context

The solution is suitable for any educational situation where the goal is to learn to produce knowledge in concise but informative form and to give oral presentations about an open topic. Younger students in lower school levels can make shorter presentations from easier topics, older students can make longer presentations from more challenging topics, but the way of working can be the same. The solution could be used in any educational situation where students manage the basic usage of the slide tool and there are computers available for the students’ work. Enough time should be allocated in making and giving the presentations.

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