No PowerPoint

“… I don’t use PowerPoint in class because I want to be ‘out there’ in the classroom — I want the material to feel new each time I present it, even if it is material I teach all the time,” Aiken said.

An award-winning teacher at Arizona State University, on PowerPoint.

Use Powerpoint: Unlearn How to Write

An interview in the Wall Street Journal with the dean of the Wharton business school.

WSJ: You’re increasing soft skills training — presentations and writing skills. Who pushed for that?

Mr. Robertson: Certainly faculty, and probably most importantly, our business community and our recruiters are saying that [they] want students who can read and write… Maybe Powerpoint and writing in bullet style has led to deterioration of the ability to write reports.

University Diaries has long had a category called PowerPoint Pissoff.


Because PowerPoint pisses people off.

I mean, PowerPoint rules, of course; so you shouldn’t be surprised, for instance, to be commanded to use PowerPoint when you’re invited to give a conference presentation.

Matt Blaze, a security systems expert at U Penn, was surprised, and pissed off. He explains on his blog why he hates PowerPoint:

“Presentation software” like PowerPoint (and KeyNote and others of that ilk) has blurred the line between mere visual aids and the presentations themselves. I’ve grown to loathe PowerPoint, not because of particular details that don’t suit me (though it would be nice if it handled equations more cleanly), but because it gets things precisely backwards. When I give a talk, I want to be in control. But the software has other ideas.

PowerPoint isn’t content to sit in the background and project the occasional chart, graph or bullet list. It wants to organize the talk, to manage the presentation. There’s always going to be a slide up, whether you need it there or not. Want to skip over some material? OK, but only by letting the audience watch as you fast-forward awkwardly through the pre-set order. Change the order around to answer a question? Tough — should have thought of that before you started. You are not the one in charge here, and don’t you forget it.

Here are the PowerPoint slides Blaze prepared for an upcoming conference whose organizers made PowerPoint presentations mandatory for all participants.


UD thanks Ian.

Because you can’t even be interesting, let alone eccentric, and do PowerPoints at the same time.

Robert Klose on the eccentric professor.

The PowerPoint/Laptop Classroom: MorgueVille

“[W]hen you start reading your slides,” a University of South Dakota student writes to his professors in the school’s newspaper, “I’m picking my FarmVille crops.”

The student’s mainly complaining about mandatory attendance policies. He reasonably enough points out the absurdity of insisting that students attend morgue-like events — especially when everything coming from the crypt is already downloadable.

I don’t know which is more offensive: Being forced to listen to a person with a PhD read PowerPoint slides for an hour when I could have done it in 20 minutes at home or the fact that if I don’t go then I will be dropped from the course and thus robbed of a few hundred dollars.

How does a person with a PhD think reading PowerPoint slides is an effective teaching method? At least have the decency to not drop me if I don’t show up.

PowerPoint: I had not thought death had undone so many.

Powerpoint Pissoff…

… from a Stanford student:

A real teacher engages [her] students and challenges [them] to engage with course material. A real teacher pulls from students strands of potential and forces students to use their abilities in order to grow intellectually. And at Stanford? Eh, many Stanford professors don’t teach as much as they speak at you, read off of Powerpoint slides, or boast about their various accolades. Come to Stanford and you may get a few memorable intellectual experiences. But know that they are rare and that the fast-paced quarter system makes them easy to avoid.

PowerPoint Pissoff

From a student opinion piece at Sam Houston State University:

One summer, I took a class with an especially dry subject matter. Sitting through lecture after lecture taken nearly verbatim from the chapter we were just quizzed on was absolutely numbing. What are we paying professors for if all they do is put the textbook up on PowerPoint and read it to us? Ten hours a week, wasted.

PowerPoint Pissoff in Saskatchewan

A student writes in the University of Saskatchewan newspaper:

… Think about what you’re paying for each class. In Term 2 there are approximately 24 lectures per course. With the course costing approximately $600 and the text at, oh say $100, that’s nearly $30 per class. For about an hour long lecture, is it really worth the money? For 30 bucks you could go see two movies … and even get snacks for each! Even if one of the movies sucks, you’re still getting more entertainment value than a prof reading some PowerPoint slides.

Oh, sure, sure, but school isn’t about entertainment. It’s about learning and education. Let’s not lie to ourselves; there’s not much of that going on. So if we aren’t learning we should at least be entertained. And as fun as it is watching documentaries when the prof is too lazy to give a lecture; it’s just not worth the moolah…

Lazy Professors and PowerPoint

From a University of Texas student’s opinion piece about his junior year there:

The structure of [one] class was a bit difficult to deal with at times, as the professor often put a ridiculously large amount of information on each of his powerpoint slides, filling up each slide and making it look almost like a wall of text

Season’s Greetings from PowerPoint

A Boston University student ponders PowerPoint vs. the old ways.

What we potentially lose in our tech-laden classrooms is the explanation of slide-simplified concepts, the engagement of figuring out your professor’s handwriting and scribbling down whatever he/she just wrote, and even the need, and more importantly will, to go to class and learn. Hark! The herald angels chalked.

The essay’s an intriguing riff on boredom… UD has already encountered in her reading about universities speculation that professors and students are drawn to classroom technology because many of them have come to enjoy being bored…

Or is it, UD wonders, that the classroom session has morphed into the classroom sesshin — a Zen sitting with soft lights, muttering monks, and the white noise of heating systems? The dharma was downloaded last Wednesday, so you don’t have to listen… The hour and ten minutes devotes itself to the most radical revision of university education in our time: Empty your head.

PowerPoint Confidential

PowerPoint Confidential, a new University Diaries feature, quotes university students on their experience of PowerPoint in the classroom. Here’s a PPC from an Indian student:

I’m a student at one of the most prestigious technology institutes in my country, and yet, in my 3 years of study, I’ve never come across an interesting PowerPoint presentation. All of my professors, with only one rare exception, try to cram as much text as possible into as few slides as possible.

Here’s another, from the same comment thread:

The worst Powerpoint presentation I ever sat through was in my second year at University. It was about the theory of Fascism and lasted two hours without a break. Plus, it had over 70 slides. Each slide was packed with information and it was impossible to keep up. I have never been so bored or learnt less.

Both remarks come from a comment thread for a BBC News PowerPoint retrospective: Twenty-five years of PowerPoint. The article itself is a pithy summary of everything that’s wrong with PowerPoint: too much information, too many slides, too much text, very little eye contact. People aren’t designed to read and listen at the same time, the author notes. He concludes that the whole thing tends to create a lazy, disengaged, slide-dependent speaker.

There’ll Always Be a PowerPoint.

PowerPoint in England, from The Times:

Bertan Budak, [a student at Durham University, says]: “Lecturers are not interesting while teaching in class because they only say things rather than teaching. A lecturer spends more of lecturing time concentrating on PowerPoint presentations rather than focusing on the students.”

From the article’s comment thread:

A common tale amongst many graduates, myself included. A few weeks into the second year I realised… lectures will always be a case of reiterating bullet points on the PowerPoint presentation…

For the latter half of my uni education I, along with many of my classmates, brought in other material so we spent the time wisely, instead of listening to a balding guy repeating what was said on the screen.

Anti-PowerPoint Guy Makes National Public Radio…

… which knows an important trend when it sees one.

Freakonomics Does PowerPoint.

Freakonomics finds the correct headline:


Freakonomics also finds the correct words:

Ubiquitous in classrooms, PowerPoint makes lecturing easy, boring, and forgettable … That’s exactly why lazy students like it: if their teacher isn’t truly engaging with the material, they don’t have to either…

Many commenters on the post – students, professors, businesspeople – also find the correct words. A sample:


I’ve been out of college for a couple years, but I began seeing PP as a cop-out for true lecturing and presentation skills back in high school (when everyone was jumping on and just loving it)…


The powerpoint problem has been realized in the DOD for years, and is the butt of jokes at all ranks. It is actively despised by the poor souls who try to condense complex 30 page reports into 3-4 bullets, and those forced to sit through them.


I speak professionally on a regular occasion and I loathe PowerPoint; however, it’s just taken as commonplace at meetings. Instead of paying attention to your presentation the attendees are busy on the Blackberries while then relying on you to give them copies of the presentation.


So nice to hear I am not alone in loathing the standard Power Point presentation, wherein we must see the slides, have them read to us, and then take them home. Why not just email the lecture to us to read in our pajamas?


…PowerPoint and similar software programs have a single purpose. They fill that need very, very well. If what you need is something that aligns with that need, then you should definitely use them.

That purpose is persuasion.

They are, fundamentally, sales tools. They very effectively show (just) your side of the story, in a slick, shiny, carefully constructed, but artificial, environment that makes whatever you say appear to be neater and more logically progressive than it really is.

“Persuasion” is not “informing people”. It is not “educating people.” It is the opposite of “getting people to think about options, alternatives, and flaws in your line of argument.”

If your actual need is different, then you should NOT use them. Sure: with sufficient effort, you can use the software to do something else — say, by turning off all the PowerPoint-y features and using it as a means of displaying text that you would otherwise write on a chalkboard. Or displaying your name and contact information in the background while you just talk. I hear you can import movies into software and use it instead of a regular DVD player, too.

But if you’re not selling anything, you should instead choose tools that are better suited to your actual need, like “paragraphs on paper” or “hands-on demonstration” or whatever best communicates your ideas and information….


I teach at the university level. Many professors use Power Point. I never have. Why?

The best way to engage a class — whether there are 10 or 300 students is to talk as though you’re talking to one person. Improvise each lecture to some degree, even if you’ve covered the material many times before; give example of subject matter as they occur to you…

Power Point is more like reading a lecture: b o r i n g ! Engage your audience by having a conversation with “one” person — even if there are hundreds in the venue.


Just graduated from college and I hated almost every class that used powerpoint. Made every class boring and hard to pay attention.


Don’t use it for math. I had a math class that did this and learned 0.


I have presented using PP and I find it is better to plan a dynamic presentation, engage your audience, and then hand out the notes at the end. You are guaranteed more interaction and questions if you give them the notes on the presentation at the end.

Why not engage more, encourage people to pay attention and ask educated questions. Include them in the learning process!


[PP] presenters essentially treat the audience as illiterates and read the content of their slides OR they do not read the slides, expecting the audience to read them while they talk about something else. Too often, presenters (me included) prepare slides with so much content that neither they nor their audience can possibly read them because it is very difficult to dumb down complex points to Twitter format.

AND it is far too easy to essentially lecture to one’s slides and not to the audience, thereby missing critically important data about listeners’ reactions. I also agree with others who point out that when listeners know that they will receive copies of the slides, they feel free to use the time to prepare shopping lists, think through their schedules, and other tasks that are far removed from the topics at hand. What should be a tool that facilitates learning seems more often than not to impede it in my experience.


Powerpoint is truly where education goes to die. Such lazy, lazy professors. All they do now is stand there and read off their powerpoint slides, which they probably just recycle semester after semester. What is even the point in going to class? You can just download the powerpoint slides, which some professors make available now, perhaps in a tacit admission of, “yeah, I’m useless and I know it.” Lots of professors hate undergrads and really only care about getting on with their research, and this is an expression of it.

If you are a professor and you rely on your powerpoint slides, you FAIL. They should be used SPARINGLY and OCCASIONALLY, and really should only be necessary for presenting multimedia things that you’d have no way of introducing otherwise. Maybe in a few places they could be used to outline some basic diagrams or bulletpoints. You should NOT be just standing there and reading off your slides.

And is it just me or were those slides a one-way ticket to slumberland? Something about the lights off, monotonous slides, and lazy professor just put me right to sleep.


The last one’s my favorite.

PowerPoint: It Ain’t Pretty.

And your students know it.

Excerpts from “Your Professor’s PowerPoint Presentation,” in  College Humor.

The same slide show I’ve been

using for five years.

My entire job is to click a

button a few times and read

slides written by my TA.

Copied these points directly from the book.

You won’t believe how much they pay me to provide this effort-free method of teaching….

UD thanks Jason, a reader, for sending her this.


UPDATE: Anger at lazy professors overusing PowerPoint has become part of campus life. Opening sentences from an editorial at the Stevens Institute of Technology:

As students, we can sometimes feel discouraged that our concerns are not being addressed. Whether we want to see better food in Pierce, more parking spaces on campus, or fewer PowerPoint presentations in class, it is easy to feel that we have no recourse in these matters…

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