Slate reran a column today that their tech writer did a couple of months ago that includes some great suggestions about how and when to use, and not to use, Power Point (or Keynote–it’s not Microsoft specific). I am tempted to send it to many people–it’s amazing how bad some power points are. Like the author, flying text and animated graphics make me particularly crazy.
If you’ve got the time, I really encourage following the links in that article to see some pretty cool and effective uses of power point. As one of the comments points out, I’m not sure how well the Lessig method would work in a classroom setting, but it’s still pretty impressive. I also read an article a few weeks ago–don’t remember where–about a presenter who basically keeps all his slides in one huge presentation, over 2000 if I recall correctly. That way, if people asked questions about something that wasn’t covered in that particular presentation, he could jump to the slide that did cover it (did you know you can navigate between slides directly, within a slide show, by typing the slide number? Me neither.)
Also worth noting are the couple of comments to the article from students who find powerpoint extremely helpful. They underline the author’s point that it’s not the software that’s the problem.
Finally, if you aren’t familiar with the work of Ed Tufte, you should check out at least his first book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which I think is pretty genius. He’s a bit of a zealot (and that maybe an understatement), and the subsequent books haven’t been as great as the first, but his basic ideas are powerful, I think. (For those reading on campus, at least his first 3 books are in Hilbert library.)