Every math teacher dreads the question. Like they dread teaching (Trigger Warning) synthetic division. “When are we ever gonna use this stuff?” We end up having to justify the thing we love so much we chose it as a career, to a bunch of disinterested 15-year-olds.
Other teachers get the “cool” subjects with relevant topics and awesome class discussions for days, and we get to make our kids graph lines with pencil and paper. As if anyone does that for real on the job. If only they could make PowerPoints for us, like they do for their US History teacher. Life would be so sweet.
But you know what? Secretly… they hate making PowerPoints.
Or rather, they hate making an effort to make a good PowerPoint. It’s one more thing they can robotically churn out in a half-hour, read the slides off the screen when it’s time to make the presentation, then sit back and say “Gimme My Points!” I know it’s true, because I’ve heard those exact words.
What if making a PowerPoint is one more thing they’ll never do again after high school?
There is a stat floating around out there, of somewhat suspicious origin, that 30 million Power Point presentations are made every day.
If this number is true, one in every 250 or so people on the planet is clicking through a slide deck today. I’m a math teacher (and a PLTW teacher), so I get that that number is not evenly distributed. But still. If my students feel like they won’t have to do this on the job… they’re probably right. Or maybe not. Depends on the job, right?
What if it’s not about slapping together 10 slides (ctrl-c, ctrl-v, rinse, repeat), and it’s really about telling a story?
My Intro To Engineering Design students are in the midst of a project requiring them to select an invention, to research all the innovations that have been made to that product since it was invented, and to present what they have learned. I’ll be pretty honest with you. I don’t want to watch 40 horrible slide show presentation with my students standing with their back to their classmates, reading from bullet points while clicking through unreadable slides.
Call me selfish. But last time I checked my business card, it says “Teacher”. Guess that means if I want them to make an awesome presentation, I’m gonna have to teach them how to make an awesome presentation. OK, fine. Somebody’s got to. So, after they research their invention and innovations, and before they start building a slide deck, I hit them with a combo platter: Carmine Gallo and Steve Jobs. Gallo literally wrote the book on making insanely great presentations, and Jobs…. well, c’mon. You know.
So we start with Gallo’s slide deck on the Presentation Secrets Of Steve Jobs. Yes, read the book. You’re probably already using at least a couple of these tactics in your class. Then once we’ve identified best practices, we watch the master at work.
Then I give them a slide from a previous year student’s presentation and ask them to use what they’ve learned to improve the slide.
Truth be told, it’s a lot more work than ctrl-c, ctrl-v. But holy crap, have they bought in. I say: tell a story with your slides, don’t read them, tell your audience the things you learned that you think are cool. And they give me this:
I swear, it was like a contest to see who could put the coolest gif in their slides. They’re having fun. In school. On an assignment. For my class. Pinch me.
But, are they ever going to have to make a PowerPoint again after high school? Ask me again in 40 years. But I know for sure they’ll need digital communication skills. I know for sure they’ll have to tell a story, and make that story kind of interesting. Maybe they’ll be pitching a product or a business idea. Maybe they’ll be witnessing to a youth group. Maybe they’ll be podcasting about writing a novel or launching a youtube channel of DIY household repair tutorials. Maybe they’ll be telling the life story of a loved one at a wedding or a wake.
Go tell your story, people.