Death by PowerPoint v. life with Google Docs

Ever assigned a Powerpoint presentation?  If, like me, you immediately cringe, then you probably have.  Despite the obvious pros of individual creation of a visually-based technological experiential learning task, there are too many cons:


  1. Some kids are horrible at using Powerpoint, and some are better than you are.  The divide is enough to keep you away altogether.
  2. Different versions of the program virtually assure you will have someone who cannot show their presentation because of some sort of compatibility issue.  For instance, our laptop carts cannot do .pptx, but many kids have that at home.  I understand there are converters, but it is impractical to set this up on presentation day.
  3. Cool transitions, themes, and graphics, 93%, crafting accurate information into readable slides, 7%.  Students prioritize flash over substance.
  4. Flash drive hell.  My USB port on my presentation computer has seen a lot of action.  It is now semi-functional, and I expect it to crap out any day.
  5. Did anyone forget their presentation?  Oh, 13 of you did?  Great, we will reschedule the entire week for you.
  6. Students reading paragraphs of text from poorly designed slides is so delightful.


Truth is, the creation of student Powerpoints, even for a patient teacher, requires copious amounts of computer lab time, plus a great deal of presentation time.  Next time, try this:

Photo and graphic slide shows on Google Docs.  They can work on them at home or at school, they are all shared with you, so you can queue them up one after another, and most of the above issues are solved.  I ask my students to use a simple background, and use only pictures, graphics, or visual design they find on the internet.  They must cite and tag each photo with a hyperlink leading directly to the original.  They may use no more words than what may logically caption a photo or title a chart.  The images become the visual accompaniment for the presentation, and they must rely on their own knowledge for the speaking portion.  The pictures help remind them what they are speaking about, and they can use cue cards to help them along.  Since there are no fancy transitions or complicated bells and whistles, any student can master it in 10 minutes or so, and will need to focus on the arrangement of content in a logical fashion, not on triviality.  I have used this for book reviews, topics from the Elizabethan era, and biographies.  If you are really ambitious, these could be put in a folder shared by all, so they could be referred back to later, for visual connect to go with notes, etc.


4 thoughts on “Death by PowerPoint v. life with Google Docs

  1. I have to go chase down my tech director, now we’ve become a Google Apps school, and can see what can be done about having student google accounts. Or do you have kids create their own google accounts at home?

  2. Interesting… I just read your post after having the first round of my students’ Google Presentations done this afternoon! We did “visual essays” for our Japan culture study. Groups of three worked on the presentations, exactly as you described them, with only images, no words at all, and a “bibliography” with links to the original images. I even had the students search all their photos on first to see if they could find the original source. They shared their Presentation with me as well as their collaborative notes, which I can check the revision history of to see how much each person actually worked on it! The presentations were great!

  3. Thank you for your blog. I am a pre-service elementary teacher and the topics we are learning about in our computers and technology class link closely with your blog post topics. I appreciate your perspective on the use of google docs vs. such programs as PowerPoint. My understanding of google docs is increasing and this helped me to see another wonderful advantage.

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