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Friday, April 8, 2011

Power pointless


I hope this isn’t pointless and powerless.
“I hate powerpoint,” a colleague said recently in a national meeting, while a speaker fumbled for some techie to make “Powerpoint” work on the computer screen.
In the meantime, the audience figited, lost interest, and most of all, lost the point.
Powerpoint is a computer program that is supposed to help speakers, to help education by superorganizing presentations with cute graphics, point by point slides on a big screen everyone can see.
But most of the time it does far more harm than anything else. First of all, most people who use it have no idea of readability factors breaking every typographic rule, and slides are cluttered with stupid graphics and colors and gimmicks sliding across the screen that look terrific but can’t be read. Secondly, the speakers feel compelled to read, word for word, everything on the screen, which is as exciting as a English teacher reading out of a textbook. Then, most times, the program won’t adapt to the new computer, and techies take over, trying to make it work, since nobody bothered to test it ahead of time. Then if it does come up, it probably has obscure computer codes showing and little boxes for the cursor to click. Then it may be off center or poorly lighted. And  in the dark room, students go to sleep or text away, bored out of their skulls. Technology doesn’t make a teacher…that’s the point.
The audience meanwhile, suffers. We’re experts at this in academia, but this ineptitude and insult to education and communication is also invading churches, chambers of commerce and schools.
We are at the mercy of the technocrats. Neil Postman in Technopoly says techies are the priests who can run the machine but have no expertise in the message, in the content. But since it’s the fad to use it, the teacher is shackled. I’ve seen a witty, and very good speaker—a vice-president at UCO speaking to the entire faculty--reduced to slavery to the system and incomprehensibility because the Powerpoint didn’t work right, and then couldn’t be read since the equivalent of the entire Constitution was on screen in 6-point type.
Technology the tool controls us, rather than the other way around.
Powerpoint is used to stifle greatness and impose structure. It is needed by poor teachers, but they can’t use it, and it brings great teachers down to their level.
How would it work in the “real” world? If these were major advertising agencies vying for a multimillion-dollar account, Powerpoint would lose the sale. Nothing matches good posters and visuals controlled by a prepared speaker with passion.
That’s what power point does—rob a speaker of passion.
One shudders to think what Powerpoint would have done to Socrates, or Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount, or the Declaration of Independence, or Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, FDR’s radio chats, or Churchill’s “blood sweat and tears,” Ike with the troops on D-Day, Bastogne’s “Nuts,” or Ghandi, or Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” or Art Linkletter or Robin Williams’ humor. Or Billy Graham’s sermons.
“”Blessed are the….”and Jesus pauses and waits for the techie to change the slide…and the wrong one comes up…”Pharisees who strain at a gnat.” Can you see this? We might all be speaking German if Churchill had to wait for Powerpoint to work before he could put the English to sleep with another boring presentation.
Today, we live in a world of no oratory or passion and Powerpoint will make sure that continues, a crutch of mediocrity.
At a meeting in India, one speaker  got laughs when he said, “Here’s my Powerpoint.  I have a point, and you have the power.”
The US military in the Mideast is crippled by Powerpoint, and the story made the front page of the NY Times this past year. Two power points a day paralyzes the officers and us. No wonder we’re not winning.
Nor teaching.
What we have is a comedy of the pointless and a powerless fad.
I don’t want to be pointy-headed and point fingers with these pointed remarks however.
So, wait till I get this on a power point presentation, and you can go to sleep.
What’s the point?
Is it pointless?
Is it powerless?
Get the point?


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