It’s a new age: education, training and learning by Power Point.
By now, I believe most of us have had to sit through a Power Point presentation. Some are crisp, clear, concise, and colorful with big, bold lettering and dynamic images. They tell a good story, offer an outline and identify the message. Others, the bad ones, include dense charts that are illegible from the back of the room, or slide after slide of long lists of dull bullet points. The OMG presentations are those with pages of text that the narrator reads to the audience. You really want to commit murder after those.
Google, of course, offered hundreds of sites with suggestions on how to improve a Power Point. It seems everyone uses Power Points now-a-days. Audiences cringe when they hear they will be subjected to such a presentation. Not all are bad, of course. Steve Jobs was touted as the preeminent presenter—enthusiastic, entertaining, interesting with very simple slides that support his narration. The acronym KISS comes to mind—Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Like many people, I am a visual learner. I love bright colors, beautiful pictures, and brilliant images. Since both of my parents were artistic (My father was a Commercial Artist, my mother an Art teacher), art was always around us. We cut our teeth on the Great Masters. For Christmas one year, our parents gave us a book of famous paintings of children including The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough or Edward VI by Hans Holbein. We never lacked for inspiration from art. Not surprising, then, that Bro Joe and Sister Sara have both gone into the field.
Me, not so much. Having been raised around ‘Great Art’ I thought maybe some of it should have rubbed off on me. Nope, guess not. I tried a Masters degree in Architecture at Texas Tech in Lubbock. As part of the courses, students show their work on great huge posters for all to see. Most were majestic sweeping images with dynamic colors, vibrant representations and magnificent structures. Mine? Crayon stick figures with tiny square houses with smoke coming out of the chimneys. I switched to Architectural Preservation.
When I first began teaching history back in the Dark Ages (1969), I was frustrated at not being able to share all the wonderful paintings of historical figures with my students. I wanted them to get a feeling for history by seeing Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David or the portraits of Louis XIV or Catherine the Great or the Death of Robespierre. I bought books and held them up for the students to see, but it just wasn’t the same. I tried slides but I had to photograph the paintings myself and the quality was, again, pretty pathetic.
At long last, when I began teaching at Sam Houston State University in 1992, I discovered the wonders of Power Point. Google had just gotten started and with a single click I could find images of every Old Master I had ever seen and paste them into my presentations. I was assured that as long as I wasn’t selling the images and that they were for educational purposes only, it would be all right to use them. Not so today. Now we have to attribute everything.
Over the last twenty some years, I have prepared many Power Point presentations. When struggling to keep 200 squirming Freshmen students interested, entertained and actually LEARNING, it was amazing how fast I picked up the basics of good Power Point Presentations. Simple, clear slides, solid outlines for the students to follow, fly-ins used sparingly but effectively, and lots and lots of magnificent images from good old Google, unattributed, of course.
Since I spent hundreds of hours preparing them, often staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning and camping out at the office, it seemed to me that I should share my Power Points for other teachers to use. It seems a shame to waste all that effort. The problem is that the narration to go with them is all in my head, and all of the images are unattributed. Could other history teachers use the images as a launching point for their own lectures? I’m not sure, but I think perhaps I will post them on my web page.
If I get sued and thrown in jail, come bail me out, would you?