‘It hit me one day as I sat in my 8 a.m. financial accounting class. The professor was clicking through his PowerPoint rapidly (a PowerPoint he had not written), pausing for seconds on each problem, answer, problem, answer, saying, “Yes, well you can all do these at home…”, when a student raised his hand. “No, sorry,” said my professor, holding up his hand to his student. “I don’t have time for questions. I need to get through these slides.”‘

Ah, the morgue classroom. This Brandeis student is experiencing, in “four out of the five classes that I am taking this semester,” what UD calls the morgue classroom, where the professor gazes earthward and intones, while the students gaze at their laptops and drift off.

The morgue classroom is as silent as the grave – more silent each class session, since, as this student goes on to note, there’s no reason to attend.


Yes, those who attend the dying body, that drifting keening Greek chorus, become fewer and fewer, ultimately stranding the designated mourner at the front of the congregation, humiliated by her aloneness.

Of course you know – don’t you? – that most morgue classrooms feature mandatory attendance policies. How else can you keep them gathering, again and again, at the dark silent river?

Shall we gather at the river?

Give me one good reason.


You’ll flunk the course if you don’t.

UD, as you know, loathes PowerPoint.

But sometimes things happen that make her reconsider …

For instance, without PowerPoint, the slide (the “insane slide,” as an Australian newspaper calls it) specifying the advantages of bogus classes for athletes at the University of North Carolina would never have surfaced.

Let me provide some background. The slide was prepared at a moment of great sorrow among athletics counselors and team officials at UNC: Their academic mainstay, Deborah Crowder, who for years administered the school’s vast and venerable bogus curriculum, had just retired, leaving the university at a loss. (Some traditions, I guess, are difficult to hand down. Though UD does have to wonder why Crowder failed to groom a successor. Shows a lack of commitment to the school, I think.) Amid general panic, the two groups – the counselors and the athletics staff – met to keen over the fact that (as the investigative report puts it) “Crowder’s retirement would require the whole football program to adjust to a new reality of having to meet academic requirements with real academic work.”

Just in case some of the assembled mourners didn’t, uh, get what this meant, one of them prepared a slide which stated as simply and explicitly as possible what they had lost:





With PowerPoint, we have a permanent record of this poignant moment in the history of the University of North Carolina – the moment when the implications of Deborah Crowder’s absence began to sink in.


Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning …the U.N.C., Chapel Hill, chancellor said that a reason the paper class scheme thrived for so long [twenty years] was that it was hard for anyone to imagine that something so beyond the pale could happen at all.

“It was such a shock that it was hard for people to fathom,” she said.

Nice try.

“The worst is when the class consists of the professor lecturing students from a PowerPoint, word for word, that they are going to post on BlackBoard. Then they allow students to take the test on blackboard as well. What is the point of the class? I might as well be taking it online. There is no point for me to go to that class, yet the professor insists on sending around the attendance sheet, every single time.”

This Quinnipiac University student has a point. It makes no sense for professors to have strict attendance policies in classes where attendance is pointless.

But of course precisely classes in which attendance is useless tend to be those with the strictest attendance policies. After all, the entire class – not just this student – can reason their way to non-attendance of a class in which attendance is pointless. And they do; they do.

Which leaves the professor in an embarrassing position. She comes to class to turn out the lights, put her head down, and read aloud her prepared PowerPoint script. She seems to think that’s what Quinnipiac is paying her for: She is to appear twice a week, set up a PowerPoint, and read the slides out loud.

But if there are no students in the room, she not only enters, twice a week, a theater of the absurd; she also worries that word will get around that although her enrollments look fine, the reality is that no one attends any of her classes.

No one is going to be more frantic about mandatory attendance than this woman; it’s the only way she can maintain the fiction that she’s a professor and not a robotic data dumper. Of course she’ll encourage her students to use their laptops during class (she’s way tech-friendly; it’s so cutting-edge… So much better than turning on the lights and looking at people and talking to them … ), which will soften the blow for them… Give them something to do while she’s reciting the alphabet.

‘I took an art history class at Truman in which we spent endless hours flipping through PowerPoint slides of paintings while the professor read, one by one, the title of each work. We received mountains of information, but toward the end of the semester, one student sitting next to me actually pleaded under her breath, “Teach us something!”’

I quoted this in a post a long time ago, and its source – Truman State University’s newspaper – no longer has it online.

I’ve always been moved – angered – by what that student found it necessary to plead. Her Teach us something! haunts me. It’s so easy to put away the PowerPoints and the laptops and smartphones and the rest of the other barrier technologies and just turn the lights back on and look at people and talk to them. Assuming you have something to say beyond a verbal data dump. The PowerPointed plus laptopped classroom is what UD has long called, on this blog, The Morgue Classroom, where everyone ‘s dead – instructor and students.

We can expect more outbursts like this one in our secondary schools and colleges – more Teach Us Somethings – as teachers and professors continue their dance with death in the classroom. The outburst has gone way viral; Jeff Bliss’s statement (“They need to learn face to face.”) is getting national and international attention.

It’s icing on the cake that this happened in Texas, one of our most ignorant states. What are they up to in Texas high schools that’s making the news? A one million dollar football scoreboard.


(UD thanks JND and UD‘s sister.).

Anticipatory PowerPoint Syndrome

As I look at the many faces in front of me as the school year begins, I see not only worry [about] enduring yet another PowerPoint presentation, but I also see eyes hungry for the dazzle of exploring and conquering new topics.

An American professor in Turkey notes the characteristic fear and misery on the faces of first-day-of-the-semester students as they anticipate PowerPoint use.

“[T]he students must read case studies with titles such as ‘When Good People Do Bad Things at Work,’ and sit through ethics PowerPoint presentations that have nearly doubled in length since last fall.”

Hapless, high-security, high-tech, humongously overcrowded University of Central Florida keeps piling on. Its response to manifold cheating scandals (UD will quote herself here: A zillion students attend UCF – lots of them take online courses, where the cheating (and dropout) rates are sky-high; lots of them take massively over-populated classroom courses, complete with PowerPoint, clickers, laptops, dimmed lights, high absenteeism, security cameras, and total pointlessness. When you experience university as a series of variously degrading, intrusive, and stupid experiences, you don’t respect your school, and you don’t feel inclined to act toward it with much integrity, since it doesn’t seem to be acting all that well in regard to you. ) is to flay students with doubleplusgood PowerPoints. This is so the answer to your problems, UCF!

Anti PowerPoint Party…

… making big strides and getting big attention.

Next up: US of A.

How Not to Hide Behind PowerPoint

In the course of a funny and perceptive essay about the fear of public speaking, Sam Harris touches on the scourge of PowerPoint.

Most speakers have learned that PowerPoint should be restricted to interesting images and other graphical aids, with a minimum of text. A few seasoned academics are holding out, however, and still oppress their audiences with walls of words, often in random fonts and terrible colors, so that they can turn their backs at regular intervals and consult a full set of notes… Imagine Martin Luther King, Jr., using PowerPoint, and the price will be clear: To truly connect with an audience, you want their attention on you. To change slides every thirty seconds is to be rendered nearly invisible by the apparatus.

On public speaking – I loved in particular this bit:

Pathological self-consciousness in front of a crowd is more than ordinary anxiety: it lies closer to the core of the self. It seems, in fact, to be the self — the very feeling we call “I” — but magnified grotesquely. There are few instances in life when the sense of being someone becomes so onerous…

For one who is terrified of public speaking, standing in front of a crowd exploits the cramp of self …Yes, that is the problem with being me. Ow… The feeling that we call “I” — the ghost that wears your face like a mask at this moment — seems to suddenly gather mass and become the site of a psychological implosion.

Another PowerPoint testimonial.

Julie Bindel, The Guardian.

On leaving academia seven years ago I vowed that I would never use PowerPoint again. I still speak at conferences, though, and have been known to rant at organisers when asked in advance for my PPT presentation. I inform them that I will be turning up with a set of index cards on which I have jotted down key points, but will not be boring my audience to tears with fiddly slides consisting of flying text, fussy fonts or photo montages.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in having a real discussion about ideas as opposed to force-feeding an increasingly sleepy crowd with numerous graphs and bullet points projected on to the nearest wall. Sometimes I wonder why we even bother showing up to hear a colleague elucidate on their thesis, when we are helpfully posted an advance printout of the presentation. As the speaker is building to a crucial statistic, delegates have long finished and are doing the crossword instead.

PowerPoint Memorial at the University of Miami


PowerPoint / CounterPowerPoint

UD‘s friend Philip alerts her to the emergence of a Swiss political party whose platform is simply the effort to eliminate psychologically crushing, time and money wasting, PowerPoint use as much as possible around the world.

Turns out “anyone in the world can become a member of a Swiss party.” Who knew?

Here’s where you can join (the page features Horror Slides of the Month).

Many university students are brutalized by PowerPoint on a daily basis.

PowerPoint-abusing professors tend to be described by students as boring lazy tyrants.

Other abusers may not be tyrannical so much as cowardly. They may be people who have allowed themselves to be intimidated into hauling PowerPoint into class by the tech weenies in administration.

Join the Anti PowerPoint Party. Be the change.

Emotional, demanding — and No PowerPoint.

Just ten Canadian professors each year win the 3M National Teaching Award. Excerpts from a profile of one of them.

Ryerson University history professor Arne Kislenko … doesn’t use PowerPoint or any other technology. While he makes ample time for students outside the classroom, when lecturing he sees no problem with asserting his expertise over his students. In class, apart from presenting the occasional map, he rarely departs from straightforward lecturing. “Too many bells and whistles takes away from the orator, and I think the professor is the real conduit of knowledge,” he says.

… Kislenko’s lectures are full of emotion—injected with humour, irony, outrage and sadness, depending on the historical period he is discussing…

A business executive talks about PowerPoint.

Over time, I identified a single factor that makes the biggest difference between a great meeting and a poor one: PowerPoint. The best meetings don’t go near it.

PowerPoint presentations inevitably end up as monologues. They focus on answers, and everyone faces the screen. But meetings should be conversations. They should focus on questions, not answers, and people should face each other. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve found that even the hum of the projector discourages dialogue.

But hundreds of thousands of American university professors keep using it.

PowerPoint and the Geneva Convention

… With the advent of the computer and PowerPoint, we got lazy. Instead of using the slides to present visual images of what we were talking about, we used them more as notes we could share. In short, we increasingly read the bullets off the slides and forced the audience, who likely could read much faster than we could talk, to read along with us.

Most PowerPoint-assisted talks are deadly dull — particularly if they’re given by speakers who have done them so many times they seem to have forgotten what the words actually mean, and even their minds seem to wonder as they parrot back what they read on the screen.

Instead of making talks more compelling, interesting or exciting, PowerPoint often turns them into torture. I’m quite sure some of the talks I’ve seen over the years using PowerPoint would be banned by the Geneva Convention.


More PowerPoint Pissoff: From a lawyer under pressure to use PowerPoint to train police recruits and officers.

[T]here is little to no research to show that PowerPoint aids learning, retention or application of information.

… [T]ext on a PowerPoint slide competes with and distracts from what you’re saying. But, you say, if I’m simply reading the text aloud, there’s no competition. Maybe not, but if all you’re going to do is read your PowerPoint slides aloud, save everyone time and just email the presentation to your learners.

PowerPoint Pissoff…

… for those new to this blog, is one of UD‘s much-used Categories.


Because PowerPoint really pisses students off.

Reading directly from a plain, white PowerPoint presentation [is likely] to induce a coma lasting approximately two hours and 40 minutes.

… The other day I sat through another painfully long lecture. I spent the entire class period reading the textbook instead of copying down notes from the PowerPoint, and by the end of class I had enjoyed myself and understood more of the material than I had in the past five weeks. I left the class quietly seething under my breath and shooting my professor plainly dirty looks because there I was, wasting a beautiful afternoon in a class that wasn’t worth more than its $92 textbook.

Jessica Lynch, University of Colorado

Here’s another one, from Amanda Joinson at the University of Massachusetts:

The classes where the professor is standing in the front of a cavernous lecture hall on a podium accompanied by a poorly executed PowerPoint presentation are perhaps the worst. I swear that ten minutes into the class the audience has been lost, and the professor’s voice turns into that “Blah, blah” that echoes in the background of Charlie Brown cartoons.

These classes often come with the monotone professor who mumbles while looking down at the podium the entire time, while reading from notes that probably have not changed for years.

Both writers use the same Charlie Brown blah, blah or (in the case of Lynch, Charlie Brown wah, wah), meme.

Next Page »

Latest UD posts at IHE