So it needs to be made clear from the start the context in which I am discussing the use of PowerPoint.  I am a teacher and I am talking about the use of PowerPoint by a secondary school teacher during a class.

1)    This means I am not talking about the corporate presentation which is mentioned in Seth Godin’s blog on the Really Bad PowerPoint  (but I have responded to some of his advice from the point of view of a teacher at the end of this blog).

2)    I am also not talking about getting students to use PowerPoint in my class to make presentations as pertinently denigrated by Edward Tufte in “PowerPoint is Evil” .


My context is as a tool which I regularly use in my classroom to help provide structure for my teaching and to both stimulate and support my students’ learning.

1)    Easy use

No one has ever told me that PowerPoint was anything but easy to use.  Plus it is most effective when kept simple.

2)    Planning

I use it as a visual template for my lesson which helps me consider the various stages of my lesson and the time required.  Plus it forces me to identify any additional resources – mine is a science class so this is vital.

Lesson starting slide by Neil Commons

3)    Setting the stage for the lesson

I like my students to enter my classroom, and at least initially, be presented with familiarity to help them settle and organise themselves.  PowerPoint provides me with a clear template to the start of each lesson with a title, objective and often key words.  For me having this pre-built means that my class to class transition is faster so that I can greet my students as they enter.  For my students it provides a familiar structure and a clear guide as to how to organise their work in OneNote page (we are a one-to-one laptop school).

4)    Starting activity

A starting activity is something that will stimulate an inclusive response and it is often an image, in recognition of the visual literacy of my students, and these can be very easily pasted into or developed within PowerPoint.

5)    Zoning in (the teaching bit)

I will take 10 minutes to help students zone in on an idea.  PowerPoint allows me to integrate diagrams and animations into these explanations which assist the visual learners in the class.

6)    Activity instructions

Having the instructions clearly displayed on a PowerPoint stage means there is a constant point of reference available to all the students, it is especially useful for my more active students who get involved but then forget what exactly they should be doing.   This will also include extension tasks for my gifted students.

7)    Personal Reflection

My lesson is not static for the existence of a PowerPoint. I will nearly always be making live adaptions in response to the class and as I have a saved version this acts as an ever improving starting template for the next time I teach similar content.

8)    Tailoring for the individuals

Yes I do worry about the font, font size and font colour because I need to take into consideration the short-sighted, colour blind student with reading disabilities in my class.  However, I do agree with what Don McMillan says in his sketch “Life After Death by PowerPoint”

9)    Spider writing

My board writing skills look like that of an elementary student at the best of times so having content typed out really helps me.


So those are the reasons why I continue to use PowerPoint in my classroom.  Is there another tool which helps me do all these things with such ease?


*Seth does propose 4 steps to help improve a corporate business PowerPoint, which I have paraphrased, compressed down and responded to:

1)    Use cue cards

No – I am a teacher and I really know my stuff

2)    Make slides that reinforce your words, not repeat them

Yes – good point and I continue to strive to do that

3)    Create a supporting written document

Yes – when I am using a PowerPoint I do not expect my class to be constantly taking notes. I will create notes for later reference or integrate key points into other learning instructions

4)    Create a feedback cycle

I am constantly setting formative assessment tasks, whether it’s a well-considered question or an engaging activity, which allow me to evaluate an individual student’s understanding. I also expect my students to say, “Hey Mr. Neil. I just don’t get it. Can we go over it again?”