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I blog on Brain-Based Learning, Metacognition, EdTech, and Social-Emotional Learning. I am the author of the Crush School Series of Books, which help students understand how their brains process information and learn. I also wrote The Power of Three: How to Simplify Your Life to Amplify Your Personal and Professional Success, but be warned that it's meant for adults who want to thrive and are comfortable with four letter words.

Are We Programming Our Students?

 Are We Programming Our Students?

I talked to a student the other day. He’s a high school senior. The conversation was about making a video I assigned as a classroom project. The students were to research and record a video on the learning strategy and his group chose active note taking.

So they proceeded to create a paper slide video which was cool. What wasn’t cool was the fact they put like a paragraph of text on each slide. And they used zero images.

So I asked him: Would you enjoy watching a video like that?

No, he said.

Then why make something like that?

Because that’s what teachers expect.

And I had to agree with him. This is what we usually want.

Let’s talk PowerPoint. We ask students to make presentations and put this or that information on them, usually a lot, but if you think about it, that is the worst way to make a PowerPoint.

So they proceed to put a crap ton of text and a few images on each slide. Then they read the text they wrote during the actual presentation or use flashcards to aid them while presenting. The images are there but misused.

You see, most of us teachers teach them to do it exactly the way we do it. When we lecture using PowerPoint we either put a crap ton of text on each slide and proceed to read it to students or even worse: We put a crap ton of words on each slide and paraphrase those words or say something in support of them. This causes what I call Brain Pain. Brain pain is cognitive overload we lead to when students don’t know what to focus on. Should they listen or should they read?

What’s worse, we program students to create the exact same ineffective mind-numbing pieces of garbage they see us create. I am guilty of doing this many times.

Think about it. PowerPoint is a visual medium. But we pretend like it’s a book or an essay we have to read to our students. We teach them to be boring and unimaginative. But there's a better way. And we need to model it to our students.

PowerPoint isn’t the only way we program such lack of creativity, but it’s a big one. Check out this post for 3 easy tips to improve your presentations. It contains a free lesson to help you teach students how to use PowerPoint the right way.

And in December, I will lead 2 workshops on creativity at the annual TIES conference in Minneapolis, so if you’re in the area I’d love to meet you. 

Whether I see you or not, thanks for reading and remember that you have the power to change lives. Use it often.


Thanks for reading! If you found my article useful you might want to sign up for my newsletter below. I send it out on Wednesday and Sunday mornings. If you are looking for a new book that can help you add to your teaching arsenal and help teens learn check out my books on Amazon. Every paperback is $11.97 or below and every Kindle $2.99 until Sunday 12/3. You can take a look here.