[Offtopic] powerpoint counterproductive

victor rajewski askvictor at gmail.com
Mon Apr 9 22:59:19 EST 2007

Interesting article; the gist is that having both written and spoken
information presented at the same time makes it harder to process. I
wonder what the implications are for different learning styles (some
students process written things better, other verbal). Also note the
bit at the bottom which suggests students learn better from being
given a solved problem than having to solve it themselves. vik


Research points the finger at PowerPoint

If you have ever wondered why your eyes start glazing over as you read
those dot points on the screen, as the same words are being spoken,
take heart in knowing there is a scientific explanation.

It is more difficult to process information if it is coming at you in
the written and spoken form at the same time.

The Australian researchers who made the findings may have pronounced
the death of the PowerPoint presentation.

They have also challenged popular teaching methods, suggesting that
teachers should focus more on giving students the answers, instead of
asking them to solve problems on their own.

Pioneered at the University of NSW, the research shows the human brain
processes and retains more information if it is digested in either its
verbal or written form, but not both at the same time.

It also questions the wisdom of centuries-old habits, such as reading
along with Bible passages, at the same time they are being read aloud
in church. More of the passages would be understood and retained, the
researchers suggest, if heard or read separately.

The findings show there are limits on the brain's capacity to process
and retain information in short-term memory.

John Sweller, from the university's faculty of education, developed
the "cognitive load theory".

"The use of the PowerPoint presentation has been a disaster,"
Professor Sweller said. "It should be ditched."

"It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents
information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the
same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on
the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being

The findings that challenge common teaching methods suggest that
instead of asking students to solve problems on their own, teachers
helped students more if they presented already solved problems.

"Looking at an already solved problem reduces the working memory load
and allows you to learn. It means the next time you come across a
problem like that, you have a better chance at solving it," Professor
Sweller said.

The working memory was only effective in juggling two or three tasks
at the same time, retaining them for a few seconds. When too many
mental tasks were taken on some things were forgotten.

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