To support local government redesign efforts and recognize the innovative work already underway, the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center has partnered with state associations to create the Local Government Innovation & Redesign Guide and host a yearly Local Government Innovations Awards ceremony.
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To PowerPoint or not to PowerPoint...that is the question. In this final thrust of semester's end where the majority of Humphrey students are immersed in course presentations, this question weighs on my mind. These days it seems as if PowerPoint has become inseparable from presentations, as slide-presentation technology is utilized in nearly every Humphrey Class, conference, and professional development training; it has even taken center stage on the big screen (think, An Inconvenient Truth). Moreover, it is expected and oftentimes required that students utilize PowerPoint when giving class presentations, with many students also expecting the same from professors.
Yet a sort of neo-luddite sentiment against PowerPoint is quietly growing. I was at a meeting for a class project last week when one group member raised the question of if we needed to use PowerPoint for our class presentation. At first, I bristled at this suggestion. What? No PowerPoint? As a type-A student who learns best visually, I have to admit that I kind of like PowerPoint (for the most part) when it is used in classes - all the central points laid out for you on colorful slides. Plus, when putting together a presentation, who doesn't get slightly amused when playing around with different background colors, slide formats, and all of those text animation effects with enticing names such as "Swivel" and "Boomerang."
Nevertheless, the conscious decision against the use of slide presentations is not limited to neo-luddite Humphrey students. The Nonprofit Assistance Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution that aims to build financially healthy nonprofits that foster community vitality, had at one time moved away from the use of PowerPoint in their trainings and workshops. This was mostly a response to the reality that many facilities in which they worked did not have PowerPoint capabilities.
Yet as Janet Ogden Bracket, Loan Fund Manager at NAF, added, "PowerPoint has the ability to give some presenters a leg up by providing uniform style and clarity in a presentation, but it also produces some distractions. We are slowly setting up more and more presentations with PowerPoint - but we always keep in mind - audience and length of presentation."
Indeed, most research supports Janet's point regarding the potentially beneficial use of this technology when used correctly (Bartsch & Cobern, 2003). Yet in terms of PowerPoint usage in the classroom, the overuse of this technology could prove detrimental in preparing students for the real world. By failing to engage pupils through other mediums, are we as students losing the art of active listening? Is the overuse of PowerPoint doing a disservice to students by inhibiting them from obtaining other skills needed to function in the workplace? There are many meetings, informal exchanges and other situations that are unaccompanied by PowerPoint slides; in the real world, we do not have the luxury of always seeing a person's main points on a screen behind them, making active listening and our ability to synthesize information all the more crucial. These are especially important issues given the wide-spread use of PowerPoint in high school, middle school and even elementary levels.
When it comes down to it, life does not come with a PowerPoint. And while it is important to follow proper etiquette when designing a presentation, I would argue that the frequency in which this technology is used is just as important as the manner in which it is used. (As the title Doumont's article on PowerPoint states, Slides Are Not All Evil).
So rather than dismiss PowerPoint as entirely evil, my group mate and the NAF bring up important questions that we all should be asking before designing our presentations: who is our audience and does a PowerPoint presentation provide the appropriate medium for achieving the learning objectives?