“With little information per slide, many many slides are needed. Audiences endure a relentless sequentiality, one damn slide after another.” (Edward Tufte, Beautiful Evidence, Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 2006, pg 158.)
“How much would you say you know about the Treaty of Versailles?” … “[the teacher] is giving a lecture on it right now and I don’t really get it :/ ” I am quoting in verbatim a set of text messages I received from my sister a few weeks ago, and after further questioning about how her teacher was lecturing she told me that he was just talking over a set of slides. This experience is a poignant representation of the fallibility of PowerPoints, as students like my sister who don’t love history were getting absolutely nothing out of being spoon-fed information in a boring and unengaging slideshow. In the end, students may not even grasp the point of enduring a 45 minute lecture. It is essential that future teachers make use of alternative content acquisition methods, such as using projects or digital materials to distill information in a less restrictive medium.
“The English language becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts… if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” (George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, Essay, Penguin; London, 1946.)
Edward Tufte makes use of this Orwell quote when referring to the mind-numbing process of listening to a PowerPoint presentation, with slides projecting large, summative, surface-level text similar to that of the text found on INGSOC’s screens in Orwell’s own 1984. The gigantic, foreboding messages of “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH” seem to perfectly fit into the mold of a traditional PowerPoint presentation. While I often scoff at the all-too frequent alarmist declarations of “this is literally 1984” expunged by conservative grifters (many of which have likely never even read the novel, considering their inability to identify the utter irony of their political positions); Tufte makes an interesting comparison between 1984 and the PowerPoints ability to dilute and corrupt language, creating a toxic environment for an audience to engage in critical thought.
“Several students who self-reported with attention deficit disorders also found the work easier, as they had a greater leeway in the development of their project. They remarked that, for once, their creativity did not have to be restrained. Others found the ability to break their work on the project into parts, jumping between sections as they pleased while developing the content, was easier and more in line with the ways in which they thought and learned.” (Julie de Chantal, Digital Storytelling: A Beneficial Tool for Large Survey Courses in History, The History Teacher 54, no.4 (August 2021): pg 725)
de Chantal makes a great case for the restructuring of survey history courses, as her switch to a more project-oriented structure proved to get students considerably more engaged than a traditional lecture/notes style would have. In addition to this, all students are provided more options in how they approach their work for the course, allowing them to work without restraint and in a manner more efficient to their learning.